CC Capsule: 1990 Suzuki Alto (CN21) Works RS/X – Miniature Hot Hatch

A few weeks ago, we looked at the Autozam Carol – another kei car from the very early 660cc period. A very prim and proper little thing, totally stock, with cute rounded styling and loads of feminine appeal – and a great success for Mazda. Today, we look at the obverse: the most hairy-chested, cubic and heavily modded Suzuki Alto Works you’ve ever laid eyes on, assuming you’ve ever seen on one of these pocket rockets before.

The Autozam reference is not totally innocent: the Carol and the Alto are completely identical under the skin. Mazda had quit the kei car game back in the ‘70s, so when they decided to re-join the fray, they partnered up with one of the best in the business, Suzuki. The third-gen Alto, launched in 1988, witnessed the transition to the 660cc era, which occurred in early 1990.

Even back in the 550cc days, the Suzuki was available with anything from the docile SOHC 6-valve carbureted to the super-hot turbocharged DOHC 12-valve 3-cyl.; in 1990, the same engine became available with 110 extra cubic centimeters (from 547 to 657cc).

Curiously, the power output remained the same, at least nominally, at 64hp. Which also happens to be the exact legal limit for kei cars. Make of that what you will. The turbo engine was mated to either a FWD drivetrain (RS/X) or and AWD one (RS/R).

This particular Alto Works has had a roll cage fitted, the rear seats taken out and so on. Some pretty serious racing mods for a car that definitely has racing cred – even if it’s only powered by 660cc. The 5-speed manual is likely stock though, as it’s the only transmission Suzuki offered for this version and it is said to be perfectly suited to the car. Why reinvent the gears?

The Watanabe alloys, the spoilers and the car’s general condition do make it seem like it’s still being actively raced nowadays. The AWD version is perhaps more competent than this one on paper, but this one is lighter and has a slight edge on a straight line, in theory at least.

In late 1991, the Alto Works got a few improvements, such as rear disc brakes, a more user-friendly door handle and a revamped dash, all of which probably made it a better car. Still, it was interesting to find this very early 660cc example, pretty much ready for the track, lost in the concrete jungle of north Tokyo. It’s not exactly Suzuka Circuit, but whatever Works.