What’s Hot: Slick manual (and nice CVT option), revvy engine, lots of equipment:at the price
What’s Not: Some build quality issues, engine lacks torque.
X-FACTOR: Pint-sized but serious value for money, the Celerio shows that sub-light hatches don’t have to suck.
Vehicle Style: five-door sub-light hatchback
Price: $12,990 drive-away
Engine/trans: 50kW/90Nm 1.0 petrol 3cyl | 5spd manual
Fuel Economy claimed: 4.7 l/100km | tested: 6.2 l/100km
Some cars have cool names. Dynamic names - like "Mustang", or "Charger". Even "Falcon".
The Suzuki Celerio does not. Celerio is the latin name for a moth, an insect whose prime instinct is to headbutt lightglobes.
But unfortunate name aside, the Suzuki Celerio is actually quite a good little rig for something that costs $12,990, drive-away. It certainly shames its predecessor, the thoroughly unremarkable Alto.
After a few days behind the wheel of the base model Celerio manual, we found it gave a lot and wanted for little. Of the sub-light offerings currently on the market, it’s easily the best to get.
Quality: Don’t expect much, and you won’t be disappointed. Hard plastics rule this roost, and build quality - though generally good - isn’t amazing either.
We found a rattly kick panel on the driver’s side, and the doors and hatch make a tinny clunk when closing.
Comfort: It’s a narrow car, but two adults can sit up front without too much elbow-rubbing.
The gear lever position is another matter - given the proximity of the passenger’s legs, be prepared for some occasional awkward hand-knee interaction.
The steering column adjusts for tilt but not reach, saved by the upright seating position that doesn’t put you too far away from the wheel.
Seatbelt height is also adjustable to help accommodate taller drivers, and the driver’s seat base can ratchet-up for shorter drivers.
The seat cushions aren’t the most supportive (especially the firm n’ flat ones in the back), but that’s not exactly out of the ordinary in this segment. Same with the rear legroom, which isn’t massive.
And, should you be cruel enough to wish to squeeze in a fifth passenger, you just can’t. There are only enough seatbelts for four occupants.
Equipment: It’s definitely a step up on the old Alto.
Despite its bargain-basement price, the Celerio comes with front and rear power windows, power-adjustable wing mirrors and Bluetooth telephony and audio streaming as standard
There’s also a USB audio/charging port and a single-disc AM/FM/CD headunit with four speakers (two more than what’s standard at this end of the light car segment)
Cruise control isn’t available though, and though there’s a trip computer in the dash it only measures fuel economy in the confusing km/l metric, rather than the accepted standard of l/100km.
Storage: Seats-up, there’s a modest 254 litre area for groceries and the like, or a small suitcase.
A full-size bike can be squeezed in if you drop the rear seats (which creates a 726 litre load area, or 1053 litres if you stack everything to the roof), but like most light hatchbacks the Celerio is not a natural load-lugger.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: With the Celerio’s 1.0 litre three-cylinder engine making just 50kW at 6000rpm and a meagre 90Nm at 3500rpm, this car needs revs to get moving in a meaningful manner.
Approaching a slight incline? Downshift. Got a proper hill ahead of you? Downshift twice. The lack of torque means you have to keep active with the gearshift when the the Celerio has to start working against gravity.
The optional CVT automatic does a better job of keeping the engine on the boil, but, for driving fun, the five-speed manual is the pick.
Overtaking needs a bit of planning (and a good straight road), but, both manual and CVT auto can keep up with the traffic without breaking a sweat.
Sure, it could use another gear to help overcome the torque deficiency, but there’s a certain kind of joy rowing through that shifter with the three-pot stretching its lungs under the bonnet.
You need to work it hard, but the process is strangely enjoyable.
Refinement: Sound deadening adds weight, and weight is the enemy of torque-less engines. Ergo, the Celerio has no more sound deadening than a cereal box.
It’s noisy in true cheapo buzzbox fashion, however the three-cylinder thrum of the engine is actually quite nice to listen to.
Ride and Handling: Skinny tyres don’t translate into scintillating cornering performance, but such activities are not part of the Celerio’s job description.
Rather, comfort is the order of the day and it serves that purpose very well.
The dampers are valved to provide excellent compliance without resulting in too much body movement, and the Celerio feels remarkably composed on the road as a result.
The steering is light and fast, with a 9.4 metre turning circle gifting the Celerio with good close-quarters manoeuvrability.
Braking: The local launch of the Celerio was delayed after the UK media experienced brake failures in a couple of cars, but that’s been rectified. With only 830kg to stop, the Celerio comes to a halt quickly and easily.
ANCAP rating: 4/5 Stars - this model scored 32.49 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Front, front-side and full-length curtain airbags are standard, along with stability control, ABS, EBD, brake assist and three-point seatbetls
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: 3 years, 100,000km
Service costs: Scheduled maintenance costs are capped for five years, with all minor services costing $199 and each major service (which occurs every 24 months or 40,000km) costing $289.
Service intervals are set for every 6 months or 10,000km.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Mitsubishi Mirage ES ($11,490) - Mitsubishi is able to match the Celerio’s $12,990 drive-away pricing with its Mirage ES, and with similar spec levels and more power and torque it’s definitely a sharp deal.
However, it’s a bit drab at the wheel and not much fun to drive. The Celerio won’t get you from A to B any faster than the Mitsubishi, but you’ll enjoy yourself more (see Mirage reviews)
Nissan Micra ST ($13,790) - The Micra boasts similar outputs to the Mirage but costs a fair whack more. You get a more spacious cabin for your money though, and build quality of the Indian-built Micra is actually quite respectable.
It drives fine too, roughly on par with the Celerio but with a bit more softness to the suspension. Unfortunately with no power rear windows or USB port, the Micra misses out on some key spec. (see Micra reviews)
Holden Barina Spark CD ($12,890) - The most powerful of this bunch, but also the heaviest. Not exactly fun to drive in manual form either.
With 14-inch alloys, fog lamps, USB and Bluetooth as standard, the Spark has a healthy equipment list. Lifetime capped-price servicing is also a great deal-sweetener. (see Barina Spark reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
It just so happens that despite being one of the cheapest offerings in its segment, the Celerio is one of - if not the - best. And it gets high marks accordingly.
And it’s not just the night-and-day difference between it and the old Alto that makes us think so.
The Celerio is a genuinely good urban runabout that isn’t awful to drive, packs a lot of features into its price, and has a nice dollop of cheeky charm.