Suzuki Celerio 1.0 GL
Beggars can’t be choosers. When shopping for a new car way down near the bottommost rungs of South Africa’s budget hatch selection, buyers can’t expect to be treated to much frippery.
Spend less than R130 000 and you’re going to get basic transportation with relatively petite dimensions. Fact.
Suzuki does at least try to battle that conception, though, and with its latest, most entry-level model it’s done a good job to offer some substance for the money. Though it costs just a smidge more than the Alto it replaces, the new Celerio also comes with more metal, more space, and at least a few more fripperies.
The Celerio in its most basic GA trim comes in at just R109 900, and for that you get one of the biggest cars in its price bracket. It’s 100mm longer and 70mm taller than the Alto, but it’s also just plain bigger to the eye. The visible dimension swelling is most apparent in the headroom area, and the boot, with a maximum seats-down capacity of 707 litres (235 seats up) that’s positively massive compared to its predecessor and pretty much everything else in the micro-hatch category.
At 2.4 metres the Celerio’s wheelbase is also quite long (longer in fact than the next Suzuki in the range - the Splash), which makes for a spacious cabin with decent seating space and legroom. I was able to transport three adults and a kiddie seat with no thrombosis-induced groans from passengers.
In all fairness the Celerio in GA-spec is a pretty stripped-down car with hard plastic door panels, roll-up windows and no radio; although standard fare does include air-conditioning, two airbags, ABS brakes and a simple trip computer. But, throw another 15 grand at it and higher GL spec will get you niceties such as remote central locking, height (but not reach) adjustable steering, electric mirrors and windows, and a stereo system with USB/Aux/Bluetooth inputs as well as steering wheel controls. Add another R11 000 and the Celerio GL comes with a basic five-speed automatic gearbox.
We tested the higher GL model with a five-speed manual, and although I had just spent the previous week with a R2-million BMW supercar I wasn’t really left wanting for any creature comforts. I did, however, notice some very minor cost-saving omissions in places, such as steel wheels with hubcaps, and a boot parcel shelf with no pull strings to lift it when the tailgate is opened.
The seat padding can also be a little disagreeable on longer trips, although I must applaud Suzuki SA for demanding a dark black and grey interior – other Indian-sourced models come with unpleasant beige from headliner to floormat.
OFFBEAT REV RANGE
All Celerios come with the same one-litre three-cylinder petrol engine as the Alto, but re-worked slightly to make a new total of 55kW and 90Nm.
It performs pretty much as expected from such a small, naturally-aspirated unit with reasonable pulling power in inner-city environments. It chugs willingly around town with a slightly rough (let’s rather call it offbeat) rev range, but it’s truthfully a little underpowered for highway fast lanes. I found myself downshifting to fourth to maintain 120km/h on the N1’s most meagre uphills.
Suzuki claims an average fuel consumption of 4.7 litres per 100km, but during our test, which included frequent aircon use, the little hatch returned a still respectable 5.7. We find it strange though, that the Celerio’s trip computer measures consumption in an outdated km per litre format.
Budget hatchbacks can sometimes feel cheap and nasty, but the Celerio’s level of refinement ranks up there with more expensive cars in the B-segment range. The cabin seems well insulated from outside noise and, apart from that three-cylinder thrum, it’s a fairly quiet place. The dashboard and switchgear also feel of decent quality, and there were no squeaks or rattles to speak of.
Tyre size is a rather bulbous 165/70R14, but their high profile does create a softly cushioned ride. Sporty the Celerio is not, but it does handle some of SA’s more demanding road surfaces with ease. Ground clearance is also set at a higher-than-average 165mm, meaning beginner drivers could, in theory, trundle over a few kerbs here and there without scraping sills or undercarriage.
In the budget-car price-versus-size stakes Suzuki’s spacious newcomer makes quite the case for itself. With its good quality interior and a well-stocked features list, the Celerio becomes a standout contender in its super competitive segment. I’d say the base GA model’s probably a bit too skimpy, although its price tag is indeed an attractive one. Rather spend the extra money and get the R124 900 GL instead. It’s a fantastic all-round package that puts some of its ageing entry-level rivals to shame.
South African Celerios are not affected by recent reports of brake failure from other markets, says Suzuki SA.
Our models are built in India, and it’s only Thai-built units which are being investigated for the issue. We tested the Celerio’s braking system in exactly the same way as the overseas publications which experienced the faults, and experienced no problems.
Suzuki Celerio 1.0 GL
Engine: 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol
Gearbox: Five-speed manual
Power: 50kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 90Nm @ 3500rpm
Consumption (claimed): 4.7 litres per 100km
Price: R124 900
Warranty: Three-year/100 000km
Service intervals: 15 000km or 12 months
Chevrolet Spark 1.2 L (60kW/108Nm) - R129 500
Hyundai i10 1.1 Motion (50kW/99Nm) - R127 900
Peugeot 107 1.0 Urban (50kW/93Nm) - R125 000
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