It’s small, light and tautly damped, so the Suzuki Alto should feel very nimble. And so it proves, helped by quick and accurate steering which hides its electric assistance well – possibly because there isn’t much assisting to do once on the move. Electric systems can sometimes feel over-light at low speeds while resisting quick movements, but the Alto’s arrangement manages to avoid this unnatural response.
Taut suspension can compromise a front-wheel-drive car’s traction out of a corner, but it’s not a problem in the Alto, thanks partly to the engine’s modest torque. There’s plenty of grip, little body roll and just enough adjustability on the throttle to bring some interaction to the dynamic mix. You can have fun in this car, flicking through corners or urban gaps, and there’s something reassuring about the predictable responses that come with this simple rear suspension design.
So where does this leave the ride comfort? Around town it copes pretty well with sunken drains and speed bumps, but higher speeds on poor roads can bring on a vertical agitation. This feels worse in the back than in the front, but at least the motion is checked as soon as the bump has passed. More ability to ‘breathe’ over poor roads, in the way of past small French cars, would be welcome but it’s an acceptable price to pay given the Alto’s amusing handling. You’ll certainly derive more pleasure from driving the Alto than you would from the slightly bigger (and more inert) Splash.
The SZ4 gets an ESP system, but with its decent grip and benign balance the SZ3 manages fine without it; you don’t miss a traction control system, either. Braking is firm, progressive and confident, and the stopping distances that we recorded were reassuringly short.