While people mostly pay attention to the big and powerful cars that manufacturers push into the market, many forget about the other classes and that they too have some great competition happening. One of these is dubbed the Subcompact class and part of that is the Mini Hatchback brigade. It’s rather hotly contested right now and is also in the limelight thanks the controversial offering from Datsun. While that car was given a low retail price, it has a now well-known compromise on safety as a result. But for just a few grand more, Suzuki’s latest offering, the Celerio, is set to be the class leader in every respect, including safety.
The Suzuki Celerio is billed as an extra large small car, which oddly enough, it is. It’s a replacement to the popular, outgoing Alto, and it does what a replacement model should do, it gets better in every way possible. Some trickery has taken place with the shape and lines of the car; it looks bigger than it is. Some rearranging of the interior means there is also more room inside the small car, so much so that when you’re at the wheel, you forget that you’re in a car that could almost do a U-turn in a single lane. Not that I’ve ever had a problem myself, but the car offers loads of headroom thanks to being 1.53m tall, something the subcompacts / mini hatchbacks often battle to offer. Luggage space is also better than expected, delivering best-in-class interior space. With the Suzuki Celerio measuring just 3.6m in length and 1.6m wide, it makes it the perfect choice for nipping through city traffic or squeezing into tight parking spaces and offers a surprisingly good drive while doing this.
The Suzuki Celerio was developed for world markets, and is already a top seller in India, reflecting Suzuki’s unrivalled expertise as a producer of compact cars and SUVs with a concept that combines the user-friendly dimensions and wieldy road manners of a small hatchback with a surprisingly spacious interior.
While the size is one talking point, what really impressed me was the interior. Yes, hard plastics are found all over, but this is the age of plastic and you can’t get away from it. It’s done right though and while you know it’s about budget, it doesn’t come across as cheap. Looking at the clocks and infotainment system you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in a car much higher up in the food chain. There’s Bluetooth as standard, steering controls for the radio and there’s aircon, power steering and most importantly, dual airbags across the range. The Suzuki Celerio competes in the so-called A-segment for these superminis and the newcomer’s design team pushed the boundaries of the sector to create what it calls an A Plus model.
The drive was better than expected. I had the manual model, which is pretty nippy as advertised. The Suzuki Celerio is powered by Suzuki’s K10B, a 1000cc, 3-cylinder engine rated at 50kW at 6 000r/min with a torque peak of 90Nm at a rather low 3 500r/min. Suzuki claims that, depending on the model, the combined cycle fuel consumption figure of the Celerio can be as low as 4,6 litres/100km, which translates into an impressive range of more than 750km from a single 35 litre tank.
The Celerio is the first Suzuki to be fitted with their new automated manual gearbox (AMT), which allows clutchless operation of a manual gearbox without the energy losses usually associated with conventional torque converter-based automatic transmissions. Everyone at the launch was eager to give this a go, myself included, but there were just too many people and not enough AMTs. During the presentation the fact and details about the AMT were given, and it’s a pretty ingenious setup. It makes use of an electro-hydraulic actuator to change gears without the need for a clutch pedal and it offers fully auto and manual shift modes. There’s also a ‘creep’ function that allows smooth operation in stop-start city traffic. Benefits of the system include reduced weight, greater fuel efficiency, affordability and a fun driving experience. It also ensures that the Celerio becomes the most fuel-efficient automatic transmission car in South Africa.
Suzuki's Automated Manual Gearbox explained.
As mentioned, there are dual airbags offered as standard across the range, the safety is further increased with ABS (also across the range), inertia reel seatbelts, childproof door locks and a high-mounted third brake light. The new body construction also benefits safety through a construction technology Suzuki calls Total Effective Control Technology (TECT). Carefully designed crumple zones allow controlled, optimised crumple zones to safely dissipate collision energy without affecting the passenger safety cell. I’d feel comfortable letting loved ones travel in this car.
“The new Celerio follows in the successful footsteps of our popular Alto mini hatchback, but offers significant advantages as far as space, practicality, style and overall refinement are concerned,” says Yukio Sato, managing director of Suzuki Auto South Africa. “It proves that ultra-compact, highly efficient passenger cars can also offer their occupants space, style and comfort, simply by applying intelligent design and packaging. As such, the Celerio is a further expression of Suzuki’s proven track record in designing and developing exceptional small cars.”
The Suzuki Celerio is available in a choice three models, all powered by the same engine, but offering two transmission options and two specification levels: GA and GL. The lower spec is the GA version is available with the five-speed manual transmission only, while the GL can also be ordered with the new automated manual transmission. There are minor differences inside and out, but if you’re in the market for a new small car, the GL makes more sense.
The entry level Suzuki Celerio comes in at just R109 900 while the top-spec version is R138 900. 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.
The launch rocked, the Suzuki SA team is such an awesome bunch of people to chill with. The Southern Sun Elangani hotel was base camp, and I'm not sure about the rest, but my view was awesome. After the drive in the Suzuki Celerio, we had a bit of time to chill at the hotel before some pre-dinner drinks, dinner and a brilliant night in humid Durban. I napped, because I'm old now. During dinner the entertainment came from the comedy due Goliath & Goliath, it's the first time I've seen these guys and definitely not the last. If you get the chance, check them out, I'm pretty sure everyone there felt the same, well, except for Tim. These guys will be involved with Suzuki's marketing for the Celerio, I can't wait to see what it involves. Funny, brilliant entertainers and great guys too.
The marketing for the Suzuki Celerio is all about something small being XL, and that's how the quite night in ended up too - XL!
Thanks to Suzuki SA and everyone else involved with the launch!
The last ones standing, on a roof, up high...