What is it?
Pocket-size cars are all the rage, with 218,000 ‘A segment’ models sold in the UK in 2014 compared to 105,000 back in 2006. With the Kia Picanto, Hyundai i10, VW Up! and Skoda Citigo firmly in its sights, Suzuki is hoping the new Celerio will be an effective cat among the city car pigeons and may even tempt would-be Fiat 500, Citroen C1, Peugeot 108 and Toyota Aygo buyers away, too.
The Celerio replaces Alto and Splash, and to find out if it’s any good, Suzuki invited me to the UK launch where they even had their expert designers and engineers from Japan on hand to explain the nitty gritty.
On the outside
Compared to the wacky styling of the alternatives from Italy and France that bring a bit of theatre to the mix, the Suzuki Celerio plays it safe and sticks to a fairly plain design more like that of a Hyundai i10 or Kia Picanto. In my eyes it’s actually rather cute but just doesn’t stand out that much in the crowd. On the launch, I drove a Celerio in SZ4 trim with body coloured wing mirrors, a chrome grille and black/polished alloy wheels, which set it apart from the equally feature-packed SZ3 model.
Don’t judge a car by its cover
Its shape means that it has a lovely high-up seating position so you can get into and see out of it really well. Its flat butt makes it a doddle to reverse and judge how close you are to obstacles, the windows are all nice and large, providing plenty of light and a decent view outside, and I couldn’t get over how big the Celerio felt inside. The tight turning circle is another thing that’ll make this little Suzuki a great choice for new, young drivers when it comes to manoeuvrability.
Everything but the kitchen sink
Hands up, the interior’s not as plush as a Volkswagen Up!, Skoda Citigo or even a Hyundai i10, but I found it a much nicer place to be than a Citroen C1, even though it’s not as funky. Some bits were a bit plasticy but most of the things you actually touch inside the Celerio felt nice and built to last. Buying a Celerio will be easy enough to do in your sleep, as there isn’t a long options list to fret over, with ESP, alloy wheels, air conditioning, a CD radio, multi-function display with tyre monitor, six airbags, a USB connection, DAB digital radio and Bluetooth all included as standard. Read that list out to yourself and yup, you’ll be out of breath! Priced at £7,999 for the SZ3 trim and £8,999 for the SZ4, the Celerio is cheaper than most of its rivals for the amount of kit you get.
How it drives
With a 1-litre engine, a 0-62mph time of 13.5 seconds and a top speed of 96mph, it was never going to be a rocket but the Celerio will spend most of its time around town or on A roads, where it really was quite enjoyable to drive, apart from the wind and tyre noise at 70mph and the sound of the engine thrashing away when I floored it. Driving uphill and keeping up with motorway traffic meant changing up and down the gears a lot so it’s a good job the 5-speed manual gearbox was so pleasant to use.
Bearing in mind the price and the Celerio’s main target market, I didn’t expect it to handle like a pint-size sports car but it was actually still surprisingly good fun. Chucking it round sharp corners at speeds more like a hare than a tortoise, it felt safe, quite agile and was backed up by decent brakes. The five years of hard work put in by the Japanese engineers have paid off.
Other Celerio facts
The Celerio’s boot is the largest in the class, but only by two litres, and it’s a green car with CO2 emissions of only 99g/km, which means there’s no annual road tax to pay, so more money in your back pocket. The standard 1-litre I drove at the launch will be joined in April by a 1-litre Dualjet, which puts out only 84g/km and does upto 74mpg. I also grabbed a short stint behind the wheel of an AGS version, which works like an automatic. It was a slightly clunky unless driven really gently and will be mainly suited to less confident drivers or people who live in big cities, but the good thing is that its emissions and fuel consumption are the same as the manual Celerio.
The boring but important numbers
Suzuki says the standard 1-litre Celerio will do upto 65.7mpg and this seems believable as I averaged 57.7mpg and didn’t drive it that gently over the 80-mile test route. The 3-year warranty isn’t as long as Hyundai’s 5 years or Kia’s 7, but experts predict that the little Suzuki will hold its value really well when you come to sell it on in the future.
The Celerio does what it says on the tin and I admire it for that. In visual terms it may not excite/upset as much as its more daringly-styled rivals but on the flipside the safe shape means it’s really roomy inside and easy to park. The interior may not be quite upto German standards as far as ultimate quality but its standard spec’ list is as long as your arm. The lovingly tweaked chassis lets the Celerio hold its head high when it comes to handling and with impressively low emissions and a bargain price tag, it all begins to make a lot of sense. Any questions, grab us for a chat on Facebook or Twitter, or post a comment.