Originally the Suzuki Alto was a ‘kei’ car, narrow and powered by a sub-660cc engine so you could have one in Tokyo without your own parking space. That was 30 years and seven Alto generations ago. A 796cc version was sold in the UK from 1981, with a two-speed auto option from 1983, and it also became the first Maruti, India’s best-selling car. UK Alto sales stopped in 2002, but restarted with the sixth generation a year later. That model was dropped in 2006.

Suzuki also has a fit-for-purpose sub-supermini called the Splash (also sold as part of a dual venture with Vauxhall as the Agila), which can be had with a highly frugal 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine. So to have a second car in the range, powered by the same engine, seems merely to be filling another tiny niche with another tiny car. Odder still, this is the biggest Alto yet, making the gap between it and the Splash even narrower.

So what’s the point? The Alto is cheaper to buy, and cheaper to build because it comes from the factory of Suzuki’s Indian associate Maruti (of which Suzuki owns 54.2 per cent). So it’s a profitable product. Also, being a little smaller and lighter than the Splash, the Alto returns a very tempting CO2 figure.

Once again, Suzuki has chosen to partner with someone else for a supermini project, this time the Alto’s sister-under-the-skin is the Nissan Pixo, which retails for considerably less cash than the Suzuki, but comes with an even more miserly standard of equipment.

The Alto is a proper five-door A-segment car in the mould of the C1/107/Aygo. It’s clearly built down to a price although, unlike the Pixo, there are two trim levels: SX3 and SX4.

Top 5 Superminis

  • Ford Fiesta
    Fiestas sold in Europe are ostensibly the same as those sold in America and Asia

    Ford Fiesta

    1
  • Mini Cooper
    Its various improvements make the new Mini more desirable and practical than ever before

    Mini Cooper

    2
  • Renault Clio
    Distinctive styling details are taken from the showstopping Renault Dezir concept car

    Renault Clio

    3
  • Volkswagen Polo
    The Polo is a polished, mature-feeling, spacious supermini

    Volkswagen Polo

    4
  • The Honda Jazz is an expensive small car, especially the hybrid version

    Honda Jazz

    5

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Car review
    27 February 2015
    The second pure Mercedes-AMG model is a triumph of engineering and design, and should have rivals from Porsche and Audi worried
  • First Drive
    27 February 2015
    Dual motors and a power hike give Tesla's electric family car supercar acceleration - and the rest of the package is as strong as ever
  • Car review
    26 February 2015
    Flagship performance C-Class is more than ever a true rival for BMW's M3, and impresses with both its breadth of ability and its practicality
  • First Drive
    26 February 2015
    The new Renault Megane GT 220 is essentially a toned-down version of the hallowed Renaultsport 275, but does it have the required DNA?
  • First Drive
    20 February 2015
    Remember Mercedes' 6x6 monster off-roader? Well, this is the 4x4 version, and we've driven it.