By Wayne Gorrett
Update @ 01.07.2015 : Suzuki UK today announced the availability of the new, entry grade SZ2 model – £6,999.
Almost KO’d before it climbed into the ring, Suzuki’s new lightweight arrives fighting fit and punching well above it class.
🙂 Gutsy 1.0-litre 3-pot shows willing, low running costs, good standard kit level, sharp pricing, spacious interior, comfortable throughout, surprisingly good to drive, pre-launch brake-fail recall resolved quickly.
😦 Built to a budget, some inferior cabin materials, brake-fail recall prior to launch.
A note on the recent brake-fail recall – On February 2nd, UK pre-sales of the Celerio were temporarily suspended ahead of its March 1st public launch after two consecutive Celerio models suffered brake pedal mechanism failure during an 80 mph braking test by Autocar researchers. In right-hand-drive models intended for Australia, New Zealand and UK markets, the trio of pedals is designed to snap off during heavy impact to help avoid damage to the driver’s feet. Unfortunately, the breakaway was unable to withstand very heavy pedal pressure during testing by Autocar. At that time there were 36 pre-sold Celerio cars, the deliveries of which were immediately suspended. In the 20 days to February 22nd, engineers from Suzuki Japan had identified the fault, re-engineered the pedal assembly and rushed it to the UK where all 36 Celerio’s – plus those in the Press fleet, were upgraded with the modified brake pedal assembly, in time for the first scheduled public deliveries on March 1st. In essence, the fault was caught early and the recall was managed swiftly and in a professional manner, keeping the trade, public and media informed and updated at every remedial stage.
➤ What is it?
This is the all-new Celerio ‘world car’ from the Japanese auto maker Suzuki. Built in Thailand and India for multiple international markets, the Thai-built Celerio bound for the UK replaces two Suzuki models – the pensionable Alto and the affable Splash – leaving Suzuki UK with just one A-segment city car.
Just as well it’s rather good, then.
Without putting an unnecessary Clarksonesque spin on it, the Celerio is no real looker and compared to many of its rivals can appear quite ordinary. Barring perhaps, the dipped beak and de rigueur twin side creases, there’s precious little else that stands out.
Nonetheless, it’s a smart four-door city hatch, honestly priced with absolutely no pretensions – and we like that a lot. While most of my scribbling peers would disagree, there’s considerably more to motoring life than red Italian sports cars.
Evident is Suzuki’s decision to offer more metal for the money with the Celerio. The new model is notably larger in all external dimensions than the Alto it partly replaces. The wheelbase is also longer at 2.42m, up from 2.36m on the Alto.
➤ The Interior
The Celerio enjoys a very good level of standard equipment for such an inexpensive car, plus it offers more interior space than you would expect, courtesy of those increased dimensions over the now-defunct Alto.
The Celerio is available only in a five-door body style, which means access to the rear furniture is good and once inside, there’s plenty of leg and hat room for four adults courtesy of that extra wheelbase. Children will be at home too, thanks to Isofix child seat mounts and a full three-point seatbelt in the middle.
However, you’ll be awarded no extra marks for noticing where costs have been trimmed, with cheap HVAC switchgear, scratchy plastic door coverings and dashboard materials that my visiting teenage niece from Johannesburg described as ‘eewww’. (Mind you, she had just alighted from a lengthy spell in a Maserati Quattroporte.)
The questionable durability of the Celerio’s interior materials is quite out of kilter with recent Suzuki offerings (SX4 S-Cross and the imminent Vitara) and is very much the aforementioned ‘world car’, but built to a Thai baht budget.
To be fair, it’s unlikely that buyers of the Celerio will notice anything untoward. For those that do and are able to look past the tactile flaws, there is plenty to like on this quite affable car.
The boot has a capacity of 254 litres, which is a tad more than you get in rival cars like the Hyundai i10 and the VAG triplets of Up, Citigo and Mii, and is altogether a good, practical space.
If we had a gripe about the Celerio’s interior space, it would be for the silly-thin storage slits in the front doors which are barely enough to slot a diet KitKat into – and will never be seen again if you do. Fortunately, there’s a large gripe-negating glove box and several small cubbies and storage trays both in front and between the front seats.
Build quality appears to be very good and from a drivability point of view, everything falls easily to hand and the raised driving position is good.
➤ Safety & Security
The Suzuki Celerio achieved three out of five stars when tested by Euro NCAP – the industry standard crash test organisation. You can read the full test report here. With the majority of rivals in this segment achieving the full five stars, three sounds poor and begs the question of why.
Euro NCAP tested the European-market model, not the UK model. The UK version of the Celerio comes standard with side window air curtains, but on the European Celerio, they languish on the options list and were not fitted on the vehicle provided to Euro NCAP for testing.
Suzuki UK claims that the UK-market version would likely get four out of five stars, which IS better but still one star short of most of its rivals.
➤ Trims and Prices
Suzuki has kept the trim grades very simple across the four-model range Celerio – there’s just the SZ3 and SZ4.
Standard on both trim grades are six airbags (driver, passenger, side and curtain), ESP, air conditioning, driver seat height adjustment, alloy wheels, DAB radio, CD player, Bluetooth and USB connectivity. So you’re left wanting for precious little else.
The entry-grade SZ3 manual is very well priced at £7,999. Should you wish to invest a further £1,000 for the SZ4 manual, there’s polished alloy wheels, body coloured door mirrors, chrome front grille, front fog lamps, electric door mirrors, rear electric windows and four speakers – quite a lot for just £1,000. The full model line-up and prices:
➤ Celerio 1.0 SZ3 (K10B) 5-speed manual (CO2 99g/km) – £7,999.
➤ Celerio 1.0 SZ4 (K10B) 5-speed manual (CO2 99g/km) – £8,999.
➤ Celerio 1.0 SZ4 (K10B) AGS 5-speed ‘automated manual’ (CO2 99g/km) – £9,799.
➤ Celerio 1.0 SZ3 (K10C) Dualjet 5-speed manual (CO2 84g/km) – £8,499.00.
All models are now available.
➤ Engines and Transmissions
Choosing an engine for your Celerio is equally as easy, but may be governed by the choice of transmission. Two three-cylinder, 1.0-litre petrol engines are available and both are Euro 6 emissions standard compliant.
Transmission choice includes a five-speed manual gearbox or Suzuki’s newly-developed five-speed ‘auto gear shift’ (AGS).
The first engine (coded K10B) is carried over from the departed Suzuki Alto and Suzuki Splash models. It offers 68 ps (67 bhp) at 6,000 rpm and 90 Nm (66 lb/ft) at 3,500. It is available on the SZ3 and SZ4 5-speed manual models and the SZ4 AGS automatic.
A second power unit, the a newly-developed DualJet engine (coded K10C) features a dual-injection system which offers greater efficiencies over the K10B and also features auto stop/start, aiding the achievement of class-leading emissions of just 84 g/km CO2. Its power output of 68 ps at 6,000 rpm is identical to the K10B, but offers slightly more torque at 93 Nm (68 lb/ft). The K10C DualJet is only available in SZ3 trim, paired with the manual five-speed gearbox.
Suzuki’s newly developed five-speed ‘auto gear shift’ (AGS) automatic has an intelligent shift control actuator. It offers the ‘effortless’ driving of an automatic, but without the side-effects of a conventional torque converter auto’box, such as reduced fuel efficiency or increase in CO2 emissions. Technical specs show that the AGS offers identical fuel economy as the manual at 65.7 mpg on a the combined cycle, with its CO2 emissions also matched at 99 g/km.
The AGS transmission offers a low speed ‘creep facility’, which allows the car to move forward in gear – without the accelerator being used – by gently lifting your foot off the brake pedal. It is especially useful in slow city traffic or for parking. It eliminates the use of the accelerator and the risky ‘power rush’ that can occur when using an automatic at parking speeds. The AGS will be well suited for the elderly or Motability market, to which it is targeted.
➤ On the Road
A plus for the new Suzuki Celerio is the way it drives – especially in manual form. Suzuki’s are well known as ‘easy drivers’ and the Celerio is no exception. The pedals require very little effort and thanks to the raised seats and thin(ish) A-pillars, it’s an easy car to see out of.
Fire up the Quat…sorry, start it up and the engine produces that typical chunky note and beat familiar with small capacity, three-pot engines. It’s a happy, enthusiastic sort of noise and it fits the Celerio’s character well. With well-engineered gearing and only an 830kg kerb weight to pull along, the Celerio is surprisingly zippy. It has no problem keeping up on light traffic urban roads, or blending in on the motorway.
Ride comfort is remarkably good, with the Celerio’s MacPherson front, torsion beam rear suspension offering decent compliance. The front end settles quickly after hitting bumps such as speed bumps or potholes at low speeds, while the rear is a little more exaggerated. It is well controlled at higher speeds, too, and while it can’t match some rivals for cornering control, it feels solid on the road.
It gallantly pulled two grown-ups and accompanying canine children to the top of the steepest climb on the 144-mile WWA test route across the South Downs National Park, developing torque-stagger and having to drop to third gear only on the toughest section. A positive gearshift and easy clutch action helps in such situations. It feels really good around town too, where the electric-assist rack and pinion steering, its handy turning circle and excellent outward vision makes this urban star shine brightly.
But it’s not without its foibles. If your everyday driving takes you out on to the open road, then be prepared for the tyre and engine noise intruding into the cabin, the less than sure-footed feel that the small footprint and low curb weight delivers and for some kickback through the steering wheel on crusty corners. It’s not bad though and in no way impedes driver confidence – it’s just a bit odd at times, like the numb and overly-stiff steering which has nearly no compulsion to self-centre.
But you soon get used to it and – while it’s not remotely intended to be ‘sporty’, it’s surprisingly fun to drive with a dollop of enthusiasm.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the AGS transmission, available for an £800 premium. During a mercifully-brief spell in the prototype AGS at the Celerio’s late-January media launch, it’s jerky and lurching nature and unpredictable changes mean that unless there is some medical reason for the automatic, the manual is a calmer and more neck-friendly option.
Along with the K10C DualJet which wasn’t available in January, we have an opportunity to re-assess the production AGS model at next week’s UK-spec Vitara media launch.
On the face of it there’s much to like about Suzuki’s newcomer. It may be ordinary to look at, but delve a little deeper and the appeal quickly becomes apparent. We would recommend the Celerio in SZ3 trim as it has everything most drivers need and for value-sensitive buyers, there’s lots of space and equipment for relatively little cash. It’s comfortable, easy to drive and an undemanding – if uninspiring – way to confidently drive from A to B and back via C or Z.
Sure, it’s not quite an A-segment knockout, but it packs a strong value-driven punch and you’d do well to include it on your fight card.
➤ Fast facts – Suzuki Celerio
➤ Model tested: SZ4 with 1.0-litre, three-cylinder K10B engine and 5-speed manual gearbox.
➤ Price: £8,999 (£9,414 as driven, includes ‘Ablaze’ red metallic paint at £415).
➤ Power: 67 bhp @ 6,000rpm.
➤ Torque: 90Nm @ 3,500rpm.
➤ EU emission compliance: Euro 6.
➤ CO2: 99 g/km.
➤ 0-62 mph: 13.4s.
➤ Top speed: 96 mph.
➤ Weights: Kerb 835 kg. Gross vehicle 1,260 kg.
➤ Luggage Space: Rear seats up 254 litres. Rear seats folded 726 litres. Rear seat split 60/40.
➤ VED Band: A, zero tax.
➤ Insurance Group: Manual transmission 7E. AGS automatic t.b.a.
➤ Tyres: 165 / 65R14
➤ Fuel tank: 35 litres (7.7 gallons).
➤ MPG: 65.7 (official combined). Over 321 mixed miles we recorded an average of 58.3 mpg, peaking at 64.1 mpg*.
➤ Theoretical range: Official: 506 miles. Tested 449 miles. Variance: -12.7%.
* All test vehicles are driven in a ‘normal’ driving style, with two adults and two canine children aboard. No deliberate attempt at frugality is made unless the test is specifically fuel economy-related.