I attended the launch for this car in January and gave you my initial impressions here. I said it there and I'll say it again, in the competitive sub-compact class, this Mini hatchback from Suzuki is great. As far as bang for buck goes, it's hard to beat, not only on paper but on the roads too. At the Durban launch the small capacity 3-banger did a sufficient job of carting a pair of us around. Suzuki’s K10B motor is tiny, it produces just 50kW (at 6 000rpm) and torque measuring in at 90Nm (from 3 500rpm). These numbers are pretty deceiving though as I found at the launch. I was keen to see how that changed up at the Reef, and yeah, it manages to perform the same. The car's light weight combined with some clever gear ratios see it sticking with traffic in any situations. Sure, sometimes high revs need to be used, but as the specs suggest, 6000rpm is the sweet spot to get the most out of the car - well at leat 5 grand on the tacho. Also, a 3-cylinder setup makes for a pretty unique engine noise, there's a rasp to it like you'd find in an air-cooled flat four from an old Porsche, a pretty cool bonus feature that doesn't cost a cent. I'd love to hear this little motor with a pulse-tuned branch manifold and free-flow exhaust on it. Sure, performance won't increase too much but purely for the smile factor it will be worth it.
Now a car in this class is never intended to be fast, performance figures are never really part of the equation, unless you start talking about fuel consumption. For the Celerio, Suzuki claim it could use as low as 4,6 litres/100km, which translates into an impressive range of around 750km on a single 35 litre tank. Usually figures like this are too good to be true, but that's not the case with the Celerio. At one point I thought the freaking thing was manufacturing it's own fuel.
I decided to attend the StreetRod Nationals and wanted to take the little Suzuki Celerio. As I started up the car at my house in Randburg, the on board computer estimated my remaining range to be at 132km. With the destination being just over 60km away I decided to live life on the edge and try and get there without adding more to the tank. I've had onboard computers tell me I have 50km left when they've run out of petrol so this was a gamble of note for me. The highway was busy but flowing ok, and I kept the Celerio in the middle and fast lanes sticking the speedo at 120 for the most part. I had a few gear down, foot flat moments to get past cars that were dawdling along in the wrong lanes but mostly it was a great drive. As I pulled in to the parking at Wonderboom Airport I clicked the trip meter back on to the display screen, fully expecting it to tell me that I have at most 5km left to go before I need to push. Nope, far from it. The range was back up to 150km... I even drove back home without adding fuel and the feedback was that whole trip used 4.7-litres/100km. With my heavy foot and at altitude, I think that's spot on with, if not better than Suzuki's claims. In an odd turnabout, the auto variant is claimed to use even less fuel and is the most fuel efficient auto in SA... It makes sense that the motors perform so well considering just how long the brand has been making small capacity engines for their motorcycles - these guys know what's what.
Most people I know hate budget cars, they always bitch and moan about the build quality and the lack of power and about them being cheap. These are usually owners of premium cars and they're only using the budget cars when forced to on business trips. While I love the bigger stuff, I always have fun driving budget cars because I make sure not to compare it with the bigger, more expensive stuff, I take it for what it is and luckily I have driven many of the new cars that are on the lower end of the pricing scale so I can compare them properly.
The Celerio was fun to drive around. It's nippy, sounds cool (as explained above) and handles ok. I didn't chuck it round like a red-headed step child of course, but did give it a bit of a wringing in a few bends. It's not going to win you any races (well, except for that one Korean budget car I embarrassed that rhymes with High & Dry Eyeten) but it will get you to your appointment with time to spare. My only problem with the car is the wheels, I've said it in almost every review I've done on the smaller cars - the minimum wheel size should be 15-inches with rubber measuring in at 195. These little wheels did their job on the Celerio though, it's just my paranoid mind prefers wider wheels with a bigger contact patch on terra firma.
The Suzuki Celerio starts at just R109 900 while the top-spec version is R138 900. That's some good going and will easily fall into the budgets of people wanting a good, new car but without breaking the bank. With cars in that price range you usually find a few things missing on the feature list, but the Celerio has features you'd expect to find on a bigger car. It has dual airbags, and ABS sorting out the safety side of things, but on the convenience side there's a height and reach adjustable steering wheel, steering controls for the radio and also for the Bluetooth hands free system. Wait, what? Bluetooth? Yeah, Bluetooth, and it works for the phone (which paired effortlessly) and also for streaming music. There's also auxiliary connections for USB and a 3.5mm jack if streaming will kill your smart phone battery.
There's plastic all over and the seats are pretty comfortable cloth-covered affairs in the old school 'tombstone' design. Yeah, a morbid sounding name and to be honest I'm not sure where it comes from exactly but it refers to one-piece seat uprights where the head rest and the back rest are joined like the Porsches of the late 70s. I half expect MK1 VW fans trying to source Celerio seats for their project cars - they'd look great in some black leather.
Some may feel that there's too much plastic going on and refer to things as 'plasticy' when complaining. I'll never understand this, not while we're pretty much in a plastic age. Sure, the quality of plastics changes from car to car but the Celerio is good, the quality feels better than the Polo I had the other day. The marketing for the Celerio includes the phrase: "The XL small car" and it is just that. The Celerio replaces the Alto which was much smaller in comparison. From the outside the Celerio has a taller roof and some clever lines in the bodywork that help trick the eye into seeing a bigger car, but from the inside it's also bigger than it looks. Four adults can fit inside with ease, there's no compromise on headroom or legroom.
In this price range the Suzuki Celerio will no doubt see interest from the budget conscious and students wanting a cheap but new, reliable car and may just end up being their first foray into the world of driving for many. If I had kids who needed transport and I was going to be the one forking out the cash, the Celerio would be at the top of the list right now. It's safe, affordable and has all the features a new driver will want. During my test week I had quite a few people asking about the car's ins and outs and I referred no fewer than six people to dealerships because they were interested in buying one. I think it;s high time I set up a commission structure for myself! One guy wanted to buy two for his company, one wanted a replacement for a rather long in the tooth Korean hatch (me mum-in-law) and the rest wanted something new but affordable and reliable. This hasn't happened with any other test cars I've had.
Suzukis are pretty bulletproof so the only time they're likely to see the inside of a dealership is when it's time to service the car. The Suzuki Celerio range is covered by a three-year/100 000km warranty, and a two-year/30 000km service plan is included in the GL model’s retail price. Services are at 15 000km intervals.
For more info, head on over to www.suzukiauto.co.za