Despite my complaint that "Buying a car should not be so hard" I went ahead and bought a Suzuki Alto from National Capital Motors. The the GoGet Share Car scheme offers these cars for short term hire, but does not yet have any in Canberra.
The best features of the car, apart from the very low price, are the very small turning circle, the high (for a small car) driving position and the high safety levels (with 6 air-bags and complement of electronic safety aids).
The poorest features of the car are the lack of a lid for the glove box and the silly tachometer stuck on the dashboard. Apart from the tacho, the dashboard and instruments are well laid out. There are a minimum of switches and those there are are well marked.
The car is equipped well and mostly sensibly. I purchased the up market Alto GLX model, for the added electronic stability control. Unfortunately as a result I was also required to have mag wheels, fog lights and a tachometer, in the package. The mag wheels look silly on such a small low performance car and prevent the spare wheel being used easily (it is a full size spare tyre, but on a steel wheel). The tachometer serves no useful purpose and looks silly tacked on top of the dashboard. The fog lams are inconspicuous, but serve no useful purpose.
The Alto is smaller than my previous Daihatsu Sirion but has more room for the front passengers, trading back seat and luggage space. This is a reasonable compromise. But I could fit a folding bicycle in the Sirion, but can't in the Alto.
The vehicle seems very solid and well put together. The driving position is higher than many much larger cars, giving a good view of the road.
There are some curious omissions: there is no lid on the glove box allowing the contents to be visible from outside the car. This may be a security feature, as those in high crime areas have to leave their glove box open to show there is nothing worth breaking into the car to steal. Similarly there is no enclosed storage in the dashboard for coins.
ps: The lack of storage in the Alto may have advantages for fuel economy. When I emptied the Daihatsu I had 16 kg of material in the car, which would have increased fuel consumption:
Water: 4 kg
Street directory, torch, several pairs of glasses: 1 kg
Fire extinguisher, first aid kit, tow rope: 4 kg
Picnic rug, waterproof coat: 2 kg
Survival kit: 4 kg
Rubbish: 1 kg
Total: 16 kg
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