Suzuki launched its redesigned Alto minicar in Japan this week, claiming a 60kg weight reduction and improved fuel efficiency for this eighth generation model, classed as a 'minicar' in Japan.

Built in Kosai, the new car is on what the automaker calls "a newly-developed platform for the first time" and, due to improvements to its I3 powertrain, achieves official test cycle fuel consumption of 37.0km/litre, claimed to be the lowest among non-hybrid petrol vehicles in Japan.

New standard or optional safety technology includes range-wide stability control and radar brake support and some models also have a linked collision mitigation braking system. The engines have stop/start. Transmissions are five-speed manual, CVT automatic or automakted manual and, as usual with Japanese domestic market model lines, both two- and four-wheel drive are offered.

Suzuki said it reduced weight by adopting the new platform which offers a major improvement in rigidity and quietness, collision performance and driving performance. Rigidity was improved by reducing the number of body parts, smoothing platform parts to reduce the need for reinforcement parts and reducing steel sheet thickness at cross-section joins.

Updated R06A engine

The R06A I3 was first launched in 2011 with the third-generation MR Wagon and has since been used in various Suzukis, including the previous Alto, Wagon R, and Carry commercial vehicle.

The 658cc unit (kei cars are limited to 660cc for tax reasons) has four valves per cylinder and dual overhead camshafts with variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust valves of the normally aspirated version (a Suzuki first) and on the intake valves of the turbocharged models.

The engine was first used in the Alto in 2012 and, for the new model, has a raised compression ratio and, for some versions, exhaust gas recirculation plus redesigned intake and exhaust systems.

The cylinder head integrated with the exhaust manifold and simplified catalyser case are further weight reduction measures.

Various changes have been made to the CVT automatic transmission to improve efficiency and, for the first time on a minivehicle in Japan, Suzuki has introduced a variant equipped with a European-style automated manual gearbox (called Auto Gear Shift or AGS) with electro-hydraulic actuator, which automatically operates clutch and gearshift, and five ratios.

Other changes combined weight reduction and high rigidity by making the suspension frame into a flat structure, and making it a part of the body frame, lengthened front and rear suspension strokes, added front and rear stabiliser bars on some models and adopted a new torsion beam rear layout on 2WD models.

The Alto [the name first used on a three-door commercial variant of the five-door Fronte passenger version in Japan] was launched in Japan in May 1979 as a 'utility minicar' that was easy to drive, cheap to run and cheap to buy and maintain. It became popular mainly among female customers and pioneered a new market for minicars. That first generation vehicle lived on in India - as the Maruti 800 - until 2010 and its second generation Alto-based successor was axed only in February this year. In Japan alone, Suzuki has sold 4.83m units.

"It is a model that represents Japanese minicars," the automaker said.

Suzuki has not detailed export plans but just-auto expects the new Alto to be sold mainly in Japan and south east Asia. Previous generation Altos (aka A-Star and the OEM Nissan Pixo) have been built in India for export to numerous markets including Europe but, according to our Production Life Database (PLDB) it will now be replaced in some markets by the Celerio, based on the Palette platform, planned for build in India and Thailand, with Europe supplied by the Rayong plant.