There are no frills in the Suzuki Alto at all, apart from the three desirables that have become today’s near-essentials: remote central locking, manual air-con and electric front windows. The latter set-up lacks a driver-operable switch for the passenger door.
Other obvious cost-saving is revealed by the absence of reach adjustment for the steering wheel, the lack of lids for any of the storage areas, a thin boot floor made of hardboard and only approximately located by Velcro strips, a flimsy rear shelf which falls off its hinges every time you raise it, and a non-dippable interior mirror.
All the door and dashboard surfaces are hard, as you would expect, but there’s panache in the utilitarianism, with light and dark greys breaking up what would otherwise be arid expanses of grained polypropylene. The wavy fascia has a big binnacle directly in front of the driver containing a large speedometer with an LCD display beneath it including a coarsely calibrated fuel gauge; the top SZ4 model gets a tacho in a separate dash-top pod but the SZ3 demands that you estimate engine speed by ear. A deep, downwardly angled slot deputises for a regular glovebox on the dashboard’s left side.
Rear-seat space is surprisingly generous, helped by the Alto’s tall build; three adults would be a squeeze, but two will have room to breathe. There’s not much space for their luggage, though; the boot has a high floor and not much depth, and the opening is restricted by the intrusive rear quarters.
The rear seat backrest folds down in one piece in the SZ3, a 50:50 split appearing only in the SZ4. Tailgate opening is via a release lever by the driver’s seat; if you want to open the boot from outside you’ll need the key, which is a mild irritation that we’ll put up with if it saves a few quid. The properly designed-in stereo sounds better than you might expect, and its basic graphics suit the Alto’s aura well.