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Suzuki Celerio review

Does not offer the appeal of some of its rivals, but if head rules over heart then the Celerio is a serious contender

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What is it?
The Suzuki Celerio is a new small car which replaces two models in the Suzuki range

Key features
Best in class space, efficiency

Our view
Does not offer the appeal of some of its rivals, but if head rules over heart then the Suzuki Celerio is a serious contender.

Suzuki claims very firmly that it “knows small cars”. The brand sells 2.8 million of them across the world each year, remarkably almost a third of that total in India alone where it has 40% of the entire car market. Suzuki also tops Japan’s ‘K’ car market for small fuel-efficient vehicles.

In the UK that sales figure has so far been a rather more modest 17,500 per annum, split across two vehicles, 3,500 for the Splash and 14,000 for the long-lasting and very successful Alto. And between them they accounted for almost half of Suzuki’s record UK volume and 13 per cent growth in 2014.

Now however, both are in the past, replaced by one new city car, the Celerio. This is a model that Suzuki believes will sell on three pillars – best-in-class space, best-in-class efficiency and standard equipment levels rivals cannot match.

The Celerio looks larger than the average city car, which is misleading as its length of 3,600mm is around the same as rivals such as the Hyundai i10, but with a slightly longer wheelbase of 2,425mm. It certainly outstretches competitors on height, 1,540mm compared to say the i10’s 1,500, and while this gives the Suzuki a more boxy appearance, it does translate into lots of interior space.

Slip inside – this is a full five-door car, with wide-opening rear doors – and you certainly feel you are in something much bigger particularly in the back, where an adult can be comfortably if a little cosily accommodated in the central fifth seat. Boot space of 254 litres is also more than its direct competitors and can extend to 726 litres with the split-folding rear seats down.

The cockpit layout is sensible, the driver’s seat height adjustable on all versions. Surfaces are hard plastic but solid, which with chunky switchgear gives an impression of durability. Thanks to the tall roofline front-seat occupants sit quite upright which for the driver gives an excellent outside view.

At launch all Celerios are fitted with a three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol engine of 67bhp, offering combined cycle fuel economy of 65.7mpg while the 99g/km CO2 emissions places the car amongst its rivals just inside free road tax territory.

This engine is adequate, especially around the Celerio’s natural urban environment. It feels a little underpowered out on the open road, though the 0-62mph time of 13.5 seconds is faster than its rivals by almost a second.

Such times are returned with the five-speed manual gearbox – from April 2015 Suzuki will also offer its ‘AGS’ (Auto Gear Shift) transmission which while significantly slower to 62mph (16.4 sec in auto mode, 15.2 in manual) promises automatic convenience without efficiency losses. Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions match its manual sibling. It also has a ‘creep’ function enabling the car to inch forward at 5mph in queueing traffic without using the accelerator, simply taking one’s foot off the brake.

Also launched in April will be the more interesting engine, a 1.0-litre version of Suzuki’s ‘dualjet’ unit already tested by The Car Expert in 1.2-litre form in the Swift. This uses two injectors per cylinder which improves the fuel mix and therefore efficiency.

While having the same 67bhp as the launch engine, the dualjet’s torque figure rises slightly, cutting half a second off the 0-62mph time, but crucially its official combined cycle fuel economy stretches past 78mpg and CO2 emissions plummet to 84g/km, which no rivals can match. Suzuki proudly dubs the dual jet Celerio; “the most efficient car you can buy for under £10,000”.

On the road the Celerio is easy to drive, particularly on urban streets where the light steering and tight turning circle of 9.4 metres come into their own. At higher speeds on open roads it is merely adequate – on twisting country roads one gets more satisfaction from the confidence-inducing steering of the likes of the Skoda Citigo. However, the Suzuki’s stability is impressive, even at motorway speed limits.

Suzuki does not expect from the Celerio anything like the volumes it enjoyed with the Alto and Splash – annual sales are predicted at 6,000 a year. The main reason for the previous higher figures was the bargain basement starting price of the Alto, £5,995, which was worth 11,000 sales a year.

The Suzuki Celerio is not bargain basement – prices start from £7,999, which is still £250-£400 cheaper than its predicted direct rivals. Suzuki sees the competition coming from the likes of Hyundai’s i10, the Kia Picanto and Skoda Citigo, and is happy to leave the perceived style-driven younger driver market to the Fiat 500 and the trio of city cars from Citroën, Peugeot and Toyota.

As well as the price and its extra space, the Suzuki will score on a host of standard equipment its rivals don’t have – alloy wheels, air conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity, even DAB digital radio.

All of this comes on the cheaper SZ3 versions which Suzuki expects almost three quarters of buyers to choose. The SZ4, £1,000 more expensive, adds only smarter alloy wheels, body coloured and chrome detailing, electric mirrors, front foglamps, two extra audio speakers, rear electric windows and a pocket on the back of the front seat.

The Suzuki Celerio does not offer the instant ‘cute’ appeal of some of its rivals in the city car class. But if head rules over heart, this car’s practicality makes it a very serious contender indeed.

Suzuki Celerio – key specifications

Model tested: Suzuki Celerio 1.0 SZ4
On Sale: February 2015
Range price: £7,999-£8,999 (at launch)
Insurance group: TBC
Engines: Petrol 1.0 (x2)
Power (bhp): 67/67
Torque (lb/ft): 66/69
0-62mph (sec): 13.5/13.0
Top speed (mph): 96/96
Fuel economy (combined, mpg): 65.7/78.4
CO2 emissions (g/km): 99/84
Key rivals: Hyundai i10, Kia Picanto, Skoda Citigo
Test Date: January 2015
* All performance figures with manual gearbox

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Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.