Road tests / 18 April 2019, 3:56pm / PRITESH RUTHUN
Johannesburg - We love testing compact cars here at DRIVE360, and the smaller and quirkier they are, the better.
So, when Suzuki Auto SA offered us a recently upgraded Celerio to spend a few days with, we jumped at the opportunity.
The Celerio is Suzuki’s smallest entry in our market and it was given a slight nip and tuck late last year, to bring it more in line with other offerings from Korea and Japan.
Hit 'n miss looks
Suzuki’s marketing blurb says there is no mistaking this Celerio from its predecessor, thanks to a new front bumper that features a sleeker lower air intake and more ‘aggressive’ overall design. With the new look bumper, designers created a distinct separate section for the front fog lights, which stretches all the way to the front lights and integrates neatly with the Celerio’s shoulder-line, which now flows from the doors on to the front fender and the bumper.
At the back, the fresh design is rounded off with the addition of a wide rear garnish strip that aligns with the shoulder line on the vehicle and which visually widens the Celerio’s stance on the road. As before, the GL specification level is distinguishable from the outside by colour-coded mirrors and door handles and by the addition of chrome accents in the front grille.
Overall, it’s a smart upgrade from the pre-facelift cars, but it’s not as smart-looking as other cars in the segment. There’s no arguing that the car’s starting to show its overall age, particularly through its boxy execution compared to the new Swift hatchback that Suzuki also sells here.
A handful of colleagues said the car looked ‘old already’ while some said the ‘styling doesn’t matter’, alluding to the Celerio as a budget vehicle, which should aim to provide hassle-free mobility instead of trying to provide catwalk styling.
Inside the Celerio, Suzuki has opted to focus on practicality and space, which is a good thing if you transport tall adults to work and back as part of a lift club, for instance.
Designers have retained the layout of the front console and central instrument cluster in an effort to contain costs, but have added a two-tone design to the dashboard, with a lighter coloured bottom section that livens things up inside somewhat. The two-tone theme is mirrored in the new cloth upholstery, which has a lighter patterned section in the seat-inlays. The cloth was selected for its durability and ease of cleaning.
The Celerio GL we had on test came suitably equipped with power steering, air conditioning with a pollen filter, vanity mirrors in both sun visors, a security cover and shopping bag hook in the luggage area, and a 12V accessory socket as standard. It also came with anti-lock brakes, two front airbags, seat belts for five occupants, a high-mounted additional stop lamp, an immobiliser and childproof rear door locks (that come in very handy if you plan on using a small car like this to transport the kids to school or play group).
GL models also come with a Bluetooth-enabled audio system with phone integration and USB jack, front and rear electric windows, remote central locking, tilt adjustment for the multi-functional steering wheel and electrically adjustable wing mirrors.
On the instrument cluster, Suzuki has added a rev counter and outside temperature gauge too.
Designers also added cloth inserts in the doors, a 60/40 split-foldable rear bench seat and an anti-dazzle rear-view mirror.
Punchy at heart
The Celerio is fitted with Suzuki’s K10B 1.0-litre, three-cylinder engine, which offers 55kW at 6000rpm and 90Nm of torque at a peak of 3500rpm. The engine has won gold and silver awards in the British Green Apple Environmental Awards for its frugal nature, which is partly thanks to a multi-point fuel injection system as well as the Celerio’s low kerb weight of only 835kg.
While altitude certainly robs the engine of much needed grunt, there’s a free-revving nature to it, and an off-beat three cylinder thrum that rocks the cabin a sporty way. It’s not sporty to drive at all, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t feel underpowered due to its low weight.
Some sort of counter-balancer mechanism, however, should be developed to accomodate for that off-beat three-pot firing order because there were just too many moments in the mornings, when the car was cold, when it would develop a strange ‘pendulum’ effect before finding a groove. Odd feeling, but you get used to it after a few days.
Suzuki claim 4.7l/100km when it comes to sipping unleaded, however on test we managed to achieve 6l/100km. You could probably achieve a claimed 750km on a tank if you baby the throttle and hold up traffic, but it’s still a respectably frugal car for the daily grind.
It was great fun driving the little Celerio around for a few days as you can quickly get used to how easy it is to park and how simple and ‘no-frills’ it actually is in the digitalised world of today.
Inside the car, there’s nothing spectacular going on in design terms, but it is functional as heck, and you can’t fault it for that.
The biggest challenge for me, though, is that Suzuki Swift I mentioned earlier. Priced at R160 900, the Swift (albeit a GA spec model) is only R4000 more expensive than a GL specification Celerio.
If it were my bucks, I’d save up a few more months and spend the cash of the four-cylinder, larger hatch in the Suzuki range.
For what it is, the Celerio is a great car, but it’s a bit too pricey compared to its own brothers and sisters in the showroom.