The Suzuki Alto brings again Japanese nostalgia from the Nineteen Eighties and Nineteen Nineties with its little boxy physique and tiny wheels, a attribute of any Kei automotive produced throughout its time. Kei automobiles don’t get a lot credit score within the JDM automotive scene, however the Suzuki Alto is among the many finest Kei automobiles, particularly for those who get a Works variant or any variant with a turbocharged engine, such because the Juna and the Chinese language Chang‘an.

Positive, the Suzuki Alto doesn’t have a beefy engine or one you could tune and mod to excessive horsepower figures, nevertheless it makes the proper day by day pushed automotive if you need one thing enjoyable to drive, low-cost and dependable. In comparison with its rivals, such because the Mazda Autozam AZ-1 and Honda Beat, it’s essentially the most reasonably priced and among the many few Kei automobiles with AWD. It additionally makes the best first JDM automotive for anybody quick on funds who desires a slice of the JDM automotive tradition. 

Kei automobiles have been initially designed to make transportation in cities simpler and low-cost for crowded cities in Japan, bringing the Suzuki alto into manufacturing in 1979. Early manufacturing mannequin years have a 540cc engine because of being produced through the 540cc engine period, and Suzuki Regularly elevated engine dimension as Kei automotive laws modified over time. 

On condition that little is understood concerning the Suzuki Alto, this information outlines the professionals and cons and attainable mechanical points, amongst different need-to-know elements.

Professionals and Cons


Low cost 

Not like most turbocharged Kei automobiles in its class, such because the Suzuki Cappuccino and Honda Beat, costs for the Suzuki Alto begin at just below $5,000 and hardly go over $10,000. As compared, Honda Beat costs common round $11,000. Some would possibly say the convertible roof justifies the value distinction, however from a efficiency, practicality, and efficiency perspective, the Suzuki Alto is a greater buy. 

Most JDM automotive consumers are primarily interested by automobiles with handbook transmissions and turbocharged engines. However in case you are nonetheless interested by a base mannequin Suzuki Alto, costs begin at roughly $1,000 to barely over $6,000, relying on the mannequin yr.

Fast and Enjoyable To Drive

The Suzuki Alto might need a small engine, however pedal enjoyable is assured with a handbook transmission and turbocharged engine. The throttle response is spectacular because of its light-weight chassis and high-revving engine that revives to 8500 RPM! 

Japanese Kei automotive laws state that Kei automotive engines shouldn’t produce greater than 64 horsepower. Suzuki adhered to laws, however from proprietor boards, it’s attainable to exploit somewhat extra from the engine by growing the scale of the exhaust valves and consumption ports. A bigger aftermarket turbo may additionally assist enhance the facility however rebuilding the manufacturing unit turbo may additionally work in case you are quick on money. 

Dealing with shouldn’t be that nice, however it may be improved by decreasing or upgrading the suspension and brakes, particularly on the rear wheels, since most Suzuki Altos include rear drum brakes. Upgrading the entrance discs and calipers would possibly maintain however not for lengthy earlier than they warmth up. There’s no feeling that beats the acceleration of a tiny automotive on a straight, and you may additionally embarrass some sports activities automotive homeowners in a 660cc Kei automotive. 

Economical To Run and Keep 

Upkeep prices have by no means been low as they’re in Kei automobiles. Most would possibly take into account the 9-gallon (35-litres) gasoline tank within the Suzuki Alto too tiny. Nonetheless, it’s greater than sufficient to quench the engine for monitor weekends, as common gasoline consumption is estimated at 45 to 70 mpg, relying on the mannequin yr. Suzuki Altos with turbocharged engines eat greater than NA engines however nonetheless have a greater gasoline consumption than a Mazda Miata. 

Oil modifications ought to price practically nothing, and the one main upkeep points it is best to fear about when proudly owning a Suzuki Alto are brakes and coolant. Insurance coverage must also be low-cost because it’s most likely decrease than a Mazda Miata which most homeowners pay round $1,300 per yr. 

Straightforward To Work On

In case you love engaged on automobiles otherwise you’ve at all times had a dream of engaged on automobiles, the Suzuki Alto is the proper automotive to kickstart your passion. There’s nothing too mechanically or structurally sophisticated, and even lifting it doesn’t require any particular gear because it’s lighter than just a few baggage of cement. 

It’s enjoyable when you are able to do oil and coolant modifications in your parking zone, and also you don’t should schedule a storage name when one thing goes flawed. After all, you’ll want some mechanical abilities, however Kei automobiles, just like the Suzuki Alto, are unsophisticated, and you’ll be taught whereas engaged on them or from web tutorials. 


Poor Trip Consolation 

Tiny automobiles aren’t nice in terms of driving consolation. Driving a Suzuki Alto means avoiding roads with unfastened chippings and going extraordinarily slowly over velocity bumps for those who don’t need to be lifted off your seat, because of the sturdy suspension that doesn’t take up even the lightest of bumps. 

You’ll should get used to physique panels rattling and squeaking like in some other Kei automotive, as most have been economically constructed to avoid wasting on manufacturing prices. Thus, the general construct high quality isn’t that nice. Additionally, as a result of Suzuki Alto’s tiny wheels, lack of traction and physique roll is inevitable, particularly when cornering. The one resolution to get used to an uncomfortable experience within the Suzuki Alto is to get used to it, like when driving a go-kart for the primary time. 


Impracticality is an obstacle for those who personal any Kei automotive, together with the Suzuki Alto. Tall drivers could have consolation points on account of insufficient knee clearance and headroom, and the footwell isn’t even accommodating for the entrance seat passenger. Two-door variants barely have sufficient trunk area with the rear seat up, and becoming something over a big college bag within the trunk is unfeasible. 

Early Fashions Are Dangerous To Drive

If security is a priority when shopping for a automotive, newer mannequin years or one other JDM automotive is a greater buy contemplating that early mannequin years don’t have airbags and ABS, amongst different security options. It is because producers didn’t design Kei automobiles to be pushed quick, nor did they’ve to satisfy security laws like at the moment. Additionally, they needed to maintain manufacturing prices low; thus, there have been no chassis or different structural reinforcements. 

Widespread Points

Suzuki Alto


One of many issues it is best to look out for when shopping for any JDM automotive is rust. Primarily as a result of most JDM automobile producers don’t apply thick coats of paint, and there aren’t any salts on Japanese roads, eliminating the necessity for a rust-protective layer of paint. 

Additionally, producers attempt to reduce manufacturing prices when producing Kei automobiles, and one of many measures put in place is lowering the quantity of paint utilized to the automobile. Widespread rust spots on the Suzuki Alto embody beneath the automotive, engine bay, and ground panels. For that reason, some elements of the automobile are uncovered to substances that trigger corrosion. 

Automated Transmission Failure

Gear slippage is widespread in Suzuki Altos with an automated transmission, particularly in turbocharged variants. The primary resolution is altering the transmission fluid and changing the clutch. Kei automobiles are consistently on the transfer as they’re a number of the most pushed autos in Japan, and most homeowners not often preserve them in line with schedule. Nevertheless, slippage would possibly persist even after altering the transmission fluid. 

If so, it is best to begin searching for a substitute or rebuilding the transmission with new internals. Changing to a handbook transmission is feasible and can last more than an automated. Fortunately the Suzuki Alto shares elements with the Suzuki Cappuccino, which has enough aftermarket help in america. You may also match elements from Kei automobiles, such because the Honda Beat or Mazda Autozam AZ-1. 

Overheating Engine 

The Suzuki Alto isn’t the kind of automotive you get up on the weekend and determine to take lengthy street journeys with. Primarily due to engine overheating as a result of small radiator and the underpowered engine, which is able to solely final for round 150 miles earlier than it stalls. A much bigger radiator might repair the difficulty, however there’s no area for that because the engine bay in a Suzuki Alto is comparatively tiny. 

Common Costs

Suzuki Alto costs fluctuate between $2,000 and $10,000 relying on the mannequin yr and engine variant. You may even discover one for lower than $1,500. RS Works and different turbocharged variants promote for extra, whereas variants with a naturally aspirated engine are a number of the least expensive JDM automobiles.

Suzuki Alto For Sale

View Suzuki Alto Ads for sale

What To Look For When Shopping for A Suzuki Alto

Aside from rust, test the situation of the suspension on a Suzuki Alto, particularly the entrance suspension, because the axle and management arms weaken on account of outdated age. Additionally, examine the radiator for damages and test if there are any leaks within the engine bay, particularly on the hose clamps, which could weaken on account of rust. 

Comparable Alternate options

Fashions and Specs

1979-1984 Suzuki Alto (SS30, SS40)

1979-1984 Suzuki Alto (SS30, SS40)

Suzuki launched the Alto in early 1979 as a two-door hatchback constructed from the Fronte sedan with two Kei engine choices, a 540cc, and a 790cc engine, for international markets. On the time of manufacturing, only a few producers used automated transmissions on financial system automobiles. Thus, Suzuki used a 4-speed handbook transmission however later launched a 2-speed automated transmission in 1980. 

The Suzuki Alto outsold each automotive in its class primarily on account of its affordability, as Suzuki priced it at $1,900 when new. They couldn’t meet the market demand in Japan and different markets corresponding to New Zealand, the place a 4-door hatchback model of the Alto had been launched in 1980. This led to the institution of Suzuki Factories in several nations, corresponding to Pakistan, to extend manufacturing, however Suzuki needed to discontinue the first-gen Alto on account of emission laws. 

1984-1988 Suzuki Alto (CA, CB, CC)

1984-1988 Suzuki Alto (CA, CB, CC)

Manufacturing of the second-gen Suzuki Alto started in 1984 with the identical 6-valve 540cc 3-cylinder engine used within the first generations. Nevertheless, Suzuki launched a turbocharged variant of the identical engine in 1985 used within the Suzuki Alto Juna, the primary turbocharged Suzuki Alto. DOHC 540cc cylinder engines have been later launched in 1985. All variants besides the Alto Works RS-R have a 4-speed handbook 0r 3/4-speed automated transmission, whereas the RS-R has a 5-speed handbook transmission. 

1988-1994 Suzuki Alto (CM, CM11)

1988-1994 Suzuki Alto (CM, CM11)

In 1988 Suzuki discontinued the Fronte platform and constructed the Alto on a brand new narrower platform lowering the Alto’s widths for improved metropolis maneuverability. Engine choices stay much like those used within the second era, however the 4-speed automated transmission was discontinued. You get the third-gen Alto with a 4/5-speed handbook or 3-speed automated transmission. 

It was not lengthy earlier than Suzuki discontinued the 540cc engines as Kei automotive laws have been revised in 1990, permitting producers to extend engine displacement. Suzuki was among the many first producers to supply 660cc 3-cylinder engines, they usually first made SOHC variants, then D0HC naturally aspirated and turbocharged variants. 

1994-1998 Suzuki Alto (HA11)

1994-1998 Suzuki Alto (HA11)

The fourth era Suzuki Alto was launched in 1994 with 660 engines, amongst which 3-turbocharged engines with completely different energy outputs. There’s no important distinction between the third-gen and fourth-gen Alto besides that the fourth-gen doesn’t have a rear sliding door because it was changed with an bizarre door, nevertheless it nonetheless doesn’t have a rear passenger door on the motive force’s aspect. 

Suzuki retained the 4-speed and 5-speed handbook transmission, discontinued the 3-speed automated, and changed it with a 4-speed automated transmission. New options launched within the fourth-gen Alto embody a radio cassette participant, energy steering, keyless entry, and elective powered home windows and locks. Turbocharged variants additionally bought bigger sportier wheels and twin rear spoilers. 

1998-2004 Suzuki Alto (HA12)

1998-2004 Suzuki Alto (HA12)

1998 noticed the fifth-gen Suzuki Alto launched with a rounder physique and stylish design in comparison with its predecessors. It nonetheless had the identical 660cc naturally aspirated and turbocharged engines and transmission choices utilized in its predecessor. Nevertheless, Suzuki shifted from conventional automated to 3-speed and 4-speed CVT transmissions. Different variations between the fifth-gen Alto and its predecessors embody mono headlights, which home the flip indicators, and smaller fog lights.  

After 2004 Suzuki took all of the enjoyable out of the Suzuki Alto and was now not the little turbocharged Kei automotive, everybody beloved. Just one engine was supplied for the sixth era on account of Suzuki’s efforts to enhance effectivity and cut back emissions. Newer eco-friendly engines have been used within the Alto till 2014 when the primary turbocharged 660cc engine returned within the Suzuki Alto RS after ten years of absence. Nevertheless, it was short-lived, as Suzuki discontinued it in 2021. 

Suzuki Alto


How a lot is a Suzuki Alto?

A Suzuki Alto will price you between $1,000 and $6,000, with turbocharged fashions having a better price ticket.

Does the Suzuki Alto have a turbocharged engine?

Some variants of the Suzuki Alto have a 540cc or 660cc turbocharged engine, relying on the yr of manufacture.

Which engine is in a Suzuki Alto?

Being a Kei automotive, you get the Suzuki Alto with completely different engines various from 540cc to 1000cc motors, however most fashions imported from Japan have a 540cc or 660cc engine. Different bigger engines have been primarily utilized in export items or these produced in international markets.

Does the Suzuki Alto have a spare wheel?

Sure, in a Suzuki Alto, you’ll discover the spare wheel beneath the ground mat within the trunk and the mandatory instruments required for a tire change. 

Is a Suzuki Alto quick?

The Suzuki Alto’s most velocity is restricted to 87mph, whereas newer mannequin years and turbocharged variants can do a most of 97mph. Nevertheless, it’s dangerous driving one at such speeds as a result of instability brought on by its tiny physique. 

Does the Suzuki Alto have ABS?

Early mannequin years produced earlier than 1998 don’t have any form of security options, together with airbags and ABS, which Suzuki first put in within the fifth-gen Suzuki Alto. 

Easy methods to import a Suzuki Alto

Christopher Weydert
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