Suzuki Alto History: Nine Generations Of A Practical & Efficient Hatchback

It is a small, practical efficient, and durable hatchback. The Suzuki Alto enabled millions of people around the world to own a car as its affordable price tag made it extremely easy to buy one. First introduced in 1979, the hatchback derives its name from the musical term ‘Alto’.

Over 16 million units of the Suzuki Alto have been produced so far and its affordability is keeping sales going at a strong pace. In this edition of the DubiCars Car Spotlight, we take a closer look at the Suzuki Alto, its history, and its generations.

Origins Of The Suzuki Alto

Japanese car manufacturer Suzuki has since the very beginning placed an emphasis on small, durable, reliable, and efficient cars. It started with the Suzulight series of Kei cars that debuted in 1955. This led to the introduction of the Suzuki Fronte compact sedan in 1962. Several versions of the Fronte were produced between 1962 and 1979. 

Suzuki Fronte Alto

However, it was the Suzuki Fronte 800 that eventually led to the introduction of the Suzuki Alto. The story of one of the most successful hatchbacks in history was rooted in the Suzuki Fronte 800.

First Generation | 1979 – 1984

The Suzuki Alto made its debut in 1979, entering the market as a 3-door cargo version of the Suzuki Fronte. It was a compact cargo hatchback designed to navigate the crowded streets of urban Japan. When it was introduced, the Alto became a sensation because of its extraordinarily low price tag of ¥470,000 which translated to around $1,900.

1st Gen Suzuki Alto

Engine options included a 539cc two-stroke inline-3, a 543cc inline-3, and a 796cc inline-3, all paired with a 4-speed manual. Some markets also received a 2-speed automatic gearbox. With its small size and efficient engine, the first-generation Alto quickly gained popularity as an economical transportation solution for city dwellers.

Second Generation | 1984 – 2019

In 1984, Suzuki introduced the second generation of the Alto. This iteration featured a more refined exterior design and improvements in engine performance and fuel efficiency. This generation turned out to be one of the most successful hatchbacks in Asia. 

2nd Gen Suzuki Alto

Suzuki experimented with high-performance versions of this generation, producing turbocharged and even all-wheel drive versions. However, not many of them were sold. Power came from the same engine options as the previous generation, but they were more refined. Production in Japan ended in 1988. 

However, buyers in a few other emerging markets loved the car so much, that it remained in production for 35 years! It was sold in China as the Changan Happy Prince and remained in production till 2007. The Indian market knew this generation as the Maruti Suzuki 800 and it was produced until 2014. It was produced in Pakistan as the Suzuki Mehran until 2019!

Third Generation | 1988 – 2001

With the third generation, launched in 1988, Suzuki continued to refine the Alto, focusing on enhancing comfort and driving dynamics. This iteration featured updated styling cues and a more spacious interior, making it a practical choice for small families and urban commuters alike. 

3rd Gen Suzuki Alto

Suzuki discontinued the Fronte in 1989 and all versions of the car were renamed as variants of the Suzuki Alto. This generation’s styling was inspired by the larger and more premium Suzuki Cultus. The larger 796cc engine from the previous generation was discontinued, giving way to a more efficient 657cc inline-3 engine

Production in Japan ended in 1994, but it was rebadged as the Daewoo Tico for Europe and South Korea and remained in production until 2001.

Fourth Generation | 1994 – 1998

In 1994, Suzuki unveiled the fourth generation of the Alto, marking another milestone in the car’s evolution. This iteration featured a design language similar to the previous generation and had significant advancements in technology. However, it was only produced in Japan as other markets were still quite happy with the second generation. 

4th Gen Suzuki Alto

With the introduction of fuel injection systems and improved aerodynamics, the fourth-generation Alto delivered better performance and fuel efficiency compared to its predecessors. The age-old 547cc inline-3 was discontinued in favour of the comparatively newer 657cc inline-3 engine.

Fifth Generation | 1998 – 2014

The fifth generation, launched in 1998, brought further refinement and innovation to the Alto lineup. This iteration featured a sleeker exterior design and a range of new features, including power steering and air conditioning, which were previously considered luxury options in this segment. 

5th Gen Suzuki Alto

The fifth-generation Alto continued to attract buyers with its blend of affordability and practicality. Engine options included 657cc & 796cc inline-3 engines. For the first time, inline-4 engine options were available too. This included 996cc, 998cc, and 1,061cc engines. Production in Japan ended in 2005 while Pakistan continued producing it until 2012 and Indian production went on till 2014.

Suzuki Alto 800

In 2012, Indian auto giant Maruti Suzuki launched the Alto 800, a new hatchback based on the fifth-generation Suzuki Alto. This new hatchback was powered by a 796cc inline-3 engine as standard. The Alto K10 was powered by the larger 998cc K10B inline-4 engine. While production of the Suzuki Alto 800 ceased in 2023, several units are still in stock in Dubai & Sharjah’s car markets.

Sixth Generation | 2004 – 2009

With the sixth generation, introduced in 2004, Suzuki aimed to modernize the Alto while retaining its core values of efficiency and affordability. With this iteration, Suzuki went for a tall-boy stance in order to free up more space inside the cabin

6th Gen Suzuki Alto

It also featured improved safety features, including ABS brakes and airbags. The sixth-generation Suzuki Alto was produced only in Japan and catered to the Kei car segment. It was powered by a 658cc inline-3 engine. 

Seventh Generation | 2009 – 2014

The seventh generation of the Suzuki Alto marked a significant departure from its predecessors. Launched in 2009, this iteration featured a complete redesign, with a focus on maximizing interior space and improving overall comfort. It was wider than previous generations and it also featured a more curvaceous design. 

7th Gen Suzuki Alto

Engine options in Japan included the 658cc inline-3 and 998cc inline-3 while transmission duties were handled by either a 5-speed manual gearbox or a 4-speed automatic. International markets only received the 998cc unit. It was also known as the Nissan Pixo and Suzuki Celerio in select markets.

Eighth Generation | 2014 – Present

With the eighth generation unveiled in 2014, Suzuki continued to innovate and adapt to changing market trends. This iteration featured a more dynamic and expressive design language, aimed at attracting younger buyers. 

8th Gen Suzuki Alto

The eighth-generation Alto also saw improvements in connectivity and infotainment features, catering to the evolving needs of tech-savvy consumers. After the experiments with turbocharging during the production of the second generation, Suzuki got back to turbocharging with the 8th generation. 

The same 658cc inline-3 engine was available in both NA and turbo guises. Based on Suzuki’s HEARTECT platform, the 8th gen Suzuki Alto was produced in Japan until 2021, while production in Pakistan only began in 2019 and continues until the present day.

Ninth Generation | 2021 – Present

The ninth-generation Suzuki Alto was introduced in 2021. With a design language that closely resembles the previous generation, the new Suzuki Alto is only produced in Japan. This iteration features enhanced safety features, including driver-assistance systems, such as lane-keeping assist and automatic emergency braking. 

9th Gen Suzuki Alto

The ninth-generation Alto also offered improved fuel efficiency and reduced emissions, aligning with growing concerns about environmental impact. The turbocharged engine from the previous is no longer available. Instead, Suzuki has equipped it with a mild-hybrid version of the same 658cc inline-3. It is also the very first Suzuki Alto generation without a manual gearbox option.

The Suzuki Alto isn’t a common sight on UAE’s roads as it might just be a bit too basic for buyers in the market. However, a significant number can be found in the car markets of Dubai and Sharjah. The Suzuki Alto 800 which is based on the fifth generation Suzuki Alto’s platform is the most commonly found model of the hatchback in the UAE. In some cases, it is powered by a 1.0-litre engine.

Suzuki Alto Prices In UAE

If affordability and practicality are your primary requirements for a car, the Suzuki Alto should be at the top of your list. Prices for the Suzuki Alto start at around AED 19,899 and go up to AED 23,800.

Find new Suzuki Alto for sale in the UAE & used Suzuki Alto for sale in the UAE.

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