Brian Joss –
Sometimes less is more. One of those cars which proves the point is the Suzuki Celerio 1 litre GL. There is quite a lot to like about this car which is great for city driving. If you’re looking for something in the budget category the Celerio, even if it sounds like a vegetable, at less than R130 00, fits the bill. It does offer a lot of bang for the buck, although don’t expect too much in the way of high tech gadgetry like a fully-fledged infotainment centre or a turbocharged engine. The three-cylinder petrol engine which is mated to a five speed manual transmission is perky enough. and I didn’t really miss the turbocharger. It holds its own in the city traffic but on the highways it’s another story. You have to stir the pot a lot, especially up minor gradients to keep up to the 120 km speed limit, and on my test route which included some of the more hilly areas of the Peninsula, some of the climbs proved a challenge for the Celerio with only one passenger.
The previous week I was driving Citroën’s Airscape Feel which was powered by a 1 200 cc motor. They say comparisons are odious so it’s not quite fair to compare the two as the Celerio’s competitors are the Chevrolet Spark 1.2 (R132 100) that puts out 60kW/108N.m and Hyundai’s i10 (R129 900) which delivers 50kW/90 N.m (the same as the Celerio).
The interior of the Airscape Feel is funky while the Celerio’s is much more utilitarian and the boot space is bigger at 230 litres with the seats up.
The Celerio replaces the Altos and in the GL model, the test car, you get remote central locking, height adjustable steering, electric mirrors and windows, and a stereo system with USB/Aux/Bluetooth as well as steering wheel controls.
Suzuki is well known as a maker of compact cars and the Celerio is no slouch in this department. Although it is small: measuring just 3.8 metres long , 1.6 metres wide and 1.53 metres in height, it is quite roomy inside with lots of headroom and leg space at the rear even for tallish people.
Storage spaces include a glovebox, a deep driver’s side binnacle, a storage tray at the base of the centre stack and of course, the cup holders, at the front and at the rear.
The build quality is good and there were no rattles or irritating squeaks and the finishes were of a good quality. The cabin too was quiet although the engine sounded a bit rough. The seats were comfortable, if a bit hard. The instrument cluster has a large speedometer, and a multi-information display that includes a digital clock which took me a while to spot, hidden at the bottom right near the petrol gauge, a fuel consumption readout and a range indicator, features not always associated with compacts.
The Celerio has finger-light electric power steering which makes driving in city traffic a breeze, and with its small turning circle of 9.4 metres, sneaking into a parking bay, hardly raises a sweat.
Suzuki’s claimed fuel consumption of 4.7 l/100km was a bit on the optimistic side. I recorded figures of just over 5 litres/ 100km in a town and country cycle. Still it’s frugal enough and if you drive with a light foot you could get 850 kilometres out of the 35-litre tank. It is also quite green with CO2 emissions of 110g/km. The ride was soft but that’s largely thanks to the 165/70R14 high profile tyres which easily sailed over some of the rougher roads on my test route.
Even though the Celerio is not all that striking I liked the look: a prominent chrome grille with broad, horizontal bars is the main feature, while bold headlights give it that extra pizzazz. The Celerio features Suzuki’s CICO (Curve in, Curve Out) design, that helps to give it a streamlined look. The rear has a large tailgate, making access to the boot easy.
My only gripe with these compacts, read small, is that drivers of big SUVs, trucks and taxis tend not to see you, and sometimes it can be downright scary watching through your rear view mirror these denizens of the road come roaring up behind you, or turn in front of you without signalling. A construction truck did just that when he was tailgating a minibus taxi which stopped suddenly and without warning on a busy main road to pick up passengers. Luckily the Celerio’s brakes proved their worth, otherwise I would probably be writing this from a hospital bed.
Safety features include crumple zones, dual front airbags, ABS brakes, childproof rear door locks and on the GL an integrated immobiliser system. What I liked about the Celerio: the price, styling, frugal fuel consumption, quality interior and quite a lengthy list of features and it’s a practical and sensible car. With a price tag of R126 900 it is excellent value for money. If you’re in the market for a runabout the Celerio GL touches all bases. The Suzuki Celerio is covered by a three-year/100 000 km warranty and the GL comes with a two-year/ 30 000 km service plan.