Sounding for all the world like a lesser-known root vegetable or someone with a gluten intolerance, the Celerio is, in fact, Suzuki’s new global city car.
It’s been wheeled into the end of the market that was previously inhabited only by cars constructed from left-over bits of old Renaults, often wearing a badge no-one was really sure how to pronounce.
But then VW launched the unnecessarily punctuated up!, turning the bargain basement end of the automotive spectrum into a respectable place to hang out.
With the EU’s insistence that a car maker’s CO2 emissions should be measured across its entire range, even Aston Martin couldn’t resist slapping a new conk and a bit of quilted leather onto a humble Toyota.
The thing is, Suzuki have been building small cars long before it became fashionable, and the Celerio is the company’s attempt to appeal not just to emerging markets (such as India, where a version of the car is also made) but also canny cost-conscious buyers across the globe.
Let’s get some numbers on the table first: the Suzuki Celerio starts at just £6,999 for the entry-level SZ2 model, while the more usefully-specced SZ3 model costs just a thousand pounds more and includes ABS, electric front windows, air conditioning, DAB digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity, and alloy wheels.
Both the VW Up and the Hyundai i10 will need a near-£3,000 rummage in their respective options lists to match it spec for spec, however.
For an extra £1,000, an SZ4 model adds electric rear windows, front fog lights, electric door mirrors, an extra pair of speakers, body-colour door mirrors and an extra splash of chrome.
It might not be the most desperately handsome of automotive creations, but its relatively boxy proportions give it two clear wins: first, it’s easy to squirt your way through gaps in city traffic, and second, it lends the interior a pleasingly airy feel.
Cabin storage is good – the glovebox is large enough to accommodate more than just gloves, there’s space for spare change, a pair of cup-holders, and a convenient spot to stow your phone, next to the charging and USB ports.
Tall drivers will find their knees somewhat interfered with by both the centre console and the door-mounted window switches, and it’s a shame the steering wheel adjusts only for height, not reach.
However, there’s gallons of headroom for even the most ardent stove-pipe wearer, and that’s a theme that continues in the back, too.
Suzuki rather ambitiously offers the rear occupants three seat belts, and thoughtfully the company’s engineers have created slots to stow the seat-belts out the way to make folding the seat backs easier.
Boot space is 254 litres – marginally more than the Hyundai and VW – although its total of 726 litres with the seats folded is less than either the i10 or Up. All three, however, suffer from the same problem of the folded seats leaving a rather inconsiderate lump in the load area.
Power comes from a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine with a modest 68PS. As standard, it’s mated to a five-speed manual transmission, although an automated version (dubbed AGS) is also available.
Its on-paper figures aren’t likely to set the world on fire: 0-62mph in 13.5 seconds, and a 96 mph top speed. You’d expect these numbers to translate into decidedly leisurely on-road performance. But numbers – as we all know – rarely tell the whole story.
Parking manoeuvres and pulling away from the line need a healthy dose of revs to keep things spinning – a more determined anti-stall function in the ECU would really help here – but once on the move, it’s remarkable just how far 68PS will take you.
Being short of a cylinder isn’t considered a hindrance in Suzuki circles, and once you’ve coaxed the Celerio further up its rev range you’ll soon discover why. There are all sorts of engineering reasons – reduced internal friction, for instance – why three can be better four, but while small four-cylinder units often become coarse and thrashy at their top end, Suzuki’s triple breaks out into an off-beat thrum that quickly becomes endearing.
That’s not to say its willingness to rev is an indication of where you’ll need to spend most of your time. In fact, for a small capacity unit, it’s surprisingly forgiving, and if you want to trickle along in fifth gear at 30mph, it’s happy to oblige.
This easy-going nature is matched by the light gearshift action, too, the lever slotting easily and cleanly into each of its five ratios.
Light, too, is the steering, and although we’d have liked fewer turns lock-to-lock, it does boast an impressively tight turning circle. We did notice an occasional tendency to wander within its lane on the motorway if your concentration wavered, but the fact the little Suzuki felt comfortable doing battle with M25 traffic without embarrassing itself or rupturing its passengers’ eardrums is to be applauded.
The Celerio impresses further with its ride: while its little 14-inch wheels can crash into potholes, its body always feels well secured from what’s going on beneath. Charge into a corner and the Celerio rewards with taught body control and a plucky resistance to understeer, the limits of adhesion arriving only in a friendly and gradual manner.
The fact the Celerio has been given such a companionable set of road manners is just a bonus, because most prospective purchasers will be thinking with their wallet.
Here, the little Suzuki doesn’t disappoint. Its CO2 emissions of 99 g/km allow it to steer clear of road tax (at least for now), and there’s a new Dualjet engine arriving shortly that drops this figure to 84 g/km.
By comparison, the Volkswagen doesn’t drop below the crucial 100 g/km barrier unless you opt for the BlueMotion model, bumping the price up to £10,660 in the process, while the Hyundai demands selection of the £10,020 Blue Drive model to achieve the same Band A VED rating.
The forthcoming Dualjet unit is also more economical, with a combined cycle figure of 78.4 mpg that not just beats the 65.7 mpg of our test car, but also somewhat embarrasses the competition.
Curiously, the average MPG display in the Celerio’s trip computer doesn’t show figures over 60*. While that figure might be wishful thinking in most cars, we had little trouble achieving it – and presumably beyond – during our time with it.
So, while the little Suzuki might sound like it’s named after a wet salad, there’s nothing limp about the way it drives.
*Suzuki tell us that a software update is now available to address this.
|Entry-level Price||£6,999||Price as tested||£9,414|
|Engine||3-cyl petrol, 998cc||Transmission||5-speed manual|
|Power||68PS @ 6,000rpm||Torque||90Nm @ 3,500rpm|
|0-62||13.5 secs||Top speed||96 mph|
|Economy||65.7 mpg||CO2||99 g/km|
|Dimensions||3600 x 1600 x 1540 (LWH)||Kerb Weight||835 kg|