Very small cars like the Suzuki Alto should look cheeky and fun without descending too far into cartoonishness. The Alto was styled in Japan but its designers researched the look in Paris and Milan, and it meets the brief. It has an open, talkative-looking mouth below a pair of big eyes containing round headlights with indicators above. A rising waistline flows into a high chopped-off tail, and strongly swaged wheelarches frame wheels which, at 14in diameter, are small by today’s standards.
As is the whole car; at 3500mm long it’s a hefty half a metre shorter than a typical modern supermini, and it’s usefully narrow for optimum urban threadability. Even better is its weight, which at 890kg (as tested) is the sort of minimal mass that every small car should have.
The big round headlights give the face character, even though they’re set in long teardrop enclosures to make the nose seem shorter. The front grille just needs a chrome frame and four rings to be a dead-ringer for Audi. But the big ‘S’ badge gives the game away.
The paintwork has a lustrous metallic finish outside, but it fades to a nondescript matt under the bonnet because it’s cheaper.
At the back the rear loading lip is unusually high, as is the boot floor behind it. It doesn’t help the load space, which is tiny. Thick rear quarters improve rear impact protection, but they make the rear window smaller than it looks and encroach on boot opening.
All Altos have five doors, but the rear doors have hinge-out windows like a three-door car’s, they don’t wind down.