Suzuki Alto Works 1988

Sold and Exported

The First Generation Suzuki Alto Works is an Absolute Delight.

I am not kidding about this car. It’s real. I know it’s real because I’ve driven a number of them and loved every second behind the wheel. To me it’s like someone warped forward it time and brought back a little private rocket of a car from a world where Luke Skywalker’s land speeder really exists.

For me, the first generation Alto Works has that special zing! that I can’t define but that I know when I see it (and drive it).

The first Suzuki Alto Works that I drove here in Japan came to me as a courtesy car. Again, I’m not kidding. I left my Jimny at a good repair shop in Gotemba, Shizuoka Prefecture, where I was living at the time, for a repair or service (I no longer remember what it was) and when the mechanic gave me the keys to the Alto Works he warned me to take it easy because “this car is really fast, O.K.?”

And it was! It was what I call the third generation of Alto Works; one of the ones that came out in 1989

with the excellent 660cc Suzuki F6A turbo intercooled three cylinder motor (in my case, the SOHC version).

You can read the story of my meeting with that Alto Works and my falling in love with Japanese Kei sports cars here on our Japan Car Direct Blog.

Now this clean blue Suzuki Alto Works that we are looking at here is the first generation.

It has the F5B engine, the 550cc version of the F6A, also turbo charged and inter cooled, and with dual overhead cams and four valves per cylinder.

The redline is a stratospheric 9,500rpm in the RS-R model (which this one is) and, with the car weighing only about 650kg (just 1400lbs!!), the 64ps (about 62hp) official listed and legal max horse power output and the 7.8kg/m (a bit over 56lb-ft) of torque are more than enough to get the machine going in, how shall I say? “a most spirited manner.”

What Is It Like to Drive a First Generation Suzuki Alto Works?

Basically, this little rocket rocks.

That’s what I found when I test drove these first generation machines. First off, the car is light, and you feel it, especially as you corner: response is sharp and spot on (no power steering, of course). But the little first gen Alto Works I drove did not at all feel fragile, or weak, nor was it full of rattles and squeaks; the typical downsides of many light, small cars. Partly this is due to basic good build quality and partly due to the three door hatchback body, which lends itself to both lightness and rigidity.

The little 550cc engine, although “peaky” on paper if you look only at the output specs (max power at 7,500 rpm and max torque at 4,000rpm), had a surprisingly good, well balanced power curve; pedal down, and she moves, Mate! Five speeds with well chosen ratios and no complaints from me. This is a quick little machine for sure. 

So, driving the first gen Suzuki Alto Works, I was clearly pleased with the performance and handling and the exterior looks. But you know what grabbed me from the outset? The interior. Just sitting in the car at the beginning of our test drives put a smile on my face. Was it the racy steering wheel, the look-at-me instruments, and the boxy straight lines of the dashboard face?

Was it the retro cool and hard comfort of the seats and cockpit?

I don’t know, but I somehow felt, just sitting there, that I was in the cockpit of an old F-104 Starfighter. (Yes, I’ve been in one….but only on the ground, Thank God!)

Indeed, indeed, I was delighted to drive the first generation Suzuki Alto Works and I think that, if you are looking for a quality, affordable, Japanese exotic that is fun, and actually a practical car (it’s a useful four seat hatchback, Guys, amazing!) for self import direct from Japan, I do strongly recommend a Suzuki Alto Works; of any generation. The first four types are all available for easy import to the USA and Australia now as they are 25 years old. They have been available to our other main Japanese used car import customers (in the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Germany, the UAE and Ireland) for some time now; and we’ve exported many of these terrifically fun machines there over the years. (To find out the used car import rules for the countries I’ve just mentioned, just click on the country name to go to the correct info page on our Japan Car Direct website.)

I’m such a fan of the whole Japanese Kei sports car world! (Do check out our JCD Blog posts on Japanese Kei Sports Cars Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.)

Joyful Motoring Can Still Be Yours in a Kei Sports Car

These cars still have the joy of motoring in them, whether it’s a Suzuki Alto Works like the one we are looking at, or like this one we recently exported from Japan;

whether it’s a Daihatsu Mira Gino,

a Suzuki Cappuccino,

a Honda Beat,

or any of the other lovely Kei sports vehicles available here in Japan. Indeed, like all the Alto Works class of cars that I have driven, and like my own super loved Mitsubishi Minica Dangan ZZ,

a second hand Kei Sports Car from Japan is a motoring delight. (And a note to my Canadian friends: These light front wheel drive hatchbacks, and even better, the all wheel drive versions, are very good on snowy roads.…personal experience.)

Hey! Click here and check out this first gen Alto Works available now in Japan (time of writing, spring, 2024).

And to get your own Japanese Kei Sports Car just contact us here at Japan Car Direct and we’ll bring you together with pure motoring delight.