Forget the style, check out the space and the spec, says Suzuki…
Richard Aucock | January 2015
Suzuki is the master of the small car. Yes, it’s a title it has awarded itself, but it has the figures to back it up: in India, for example, 4 in 10 of all new cars sold are Suzukis, most of them diminutive in nature. And in Japan, where the micro-sized Kei car dominates, Suzuki last year grabbed the number 1 sales spot.
So a new small car from Suzuki is a big deal, particularly when it’s a city car-sized five-door to replace not one but two models in the range. When it arrives in dealers from February 2015, the new Celerio five-door will supersede both the Alto and the Splash in Suzuki’s line-up – and while the latter is largely ignored, the former has been a bit of a big deal in recent years.
Because Suzuki dealers are happily selling them at £5,995 on the road, base-spec SZ Altos have been flying out of the showrooms – 11,000 poverty spec models were sold last year alone, making the ageing city car Suzuki’s most popular model.
That’s all well and good, argues the firm, but there’s not much profit in £5,995 motors, and buyers didn’t get a lot for their money either. The brand’s decided to move upmarket with the Celerio; it won’t be deserting the value sector, but it will be focusing on just that – value – rather than purely price.
So the entry-level Celerio five-door is thus badged SZ3, costs from £7,995 and includes niceties such as alloy wheels, Bluetooth, DAB radio, sub-100g/km CO2 engine and even air con. There are five seats to go with those five doors too, adds Suzuki: you still have to pay extra even for that in some rivals…
For those dealers used to selling on sticker price, £2,000 extra is a big jump. But Suzuki argues the car is worth it – this is an all-new design that, while hardly cutting-edge in style, has been exceedingly well thought out with laser-like focus on delivering what its target market desires. GTI handling not being one of them…
What’s the 2015 Suzuki Celerio like to drive?
That’s not to say the Celerio is a bad car to drive. Far from it. But dynamic thrills are not the top of its agenda. As such, the suspension is on the soft side, steering is light and easy, handling faithful and safe.
The new platform, almost half of which is made from high-strength, high tensile steel, feels confidently rigid and composed, even over rough roads, and an impressively supple and quiet ride deals well with rough country roads. It’s occasionally a bit firm in town but there’s sufficient integrity to ensure it is not often truly flustered.
Unusually, generally light steering is perhaps a touch heavy at parking speeds, but there is a corresponding plus here: an exceptional turning circle. OK, it’s a bit low-geared, but wind on the lock and you’ll find three-point turns become one-shot turns in the road. Great visibility and well-defined extremities ensure you can push this ability yet further – it’s very city-friendly.
The 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine is generally a sweet thing, with a throbby hum that, unlike in the old Alto, rarely becomes intrusively raucous. The gearing is very tall, which helps – you can do 90mph in third – and this means the engine usually fades into the background. While it’s no ball of fire, there’s sufficient on-throttle torque to drag most drivers around town without too much gearchanging, although the pickup from 3,500rpm is obvious.
Stretch it beyond 6,000rpm and it’s pleasingly growly and surprisingly eager – one of the benefits of a scant 835kg kerbweight. The five-speed gearbox is slick and ultra-fast, despite a bit of clutch judder as you feed it in; brakes are good and inspire lots of confidence.
Does the Suzuki Celerio show small car mastery?
Suzuki’s approach with the Celerio has been to stick closely to traditional small car ideals: creating maximum space and practicality within the smallest footprint possible. As such, on one level, it’s hard to criticise.
Interior room really is impressive, with an adult-sized driving position, good controls layout and generously-sized seats. Access is easy too as the door openings are large – and the same applies in the rear too, where the doors open nearly 90 degrees.
Space in the back is even more surprising, because adults can sit behind adults without asking one or the other to compromise. Foot room and headroom are particularly impressive.
Then there’s the big (for a city car) 254-litre boot. That’s twice the size of the old Alto, and 50 per cent bigger than the larger Swift: this will be one of the most impressive advances for those trading up from the old Alto.
So, on a practical level, it’s very clever indeed. But, these days, is it enough? Because Volkswagen also makes a very clever city car with the Up, and this offers something the Celerio can’t – premium-feel quality. The Up has moved the game on in terms of what buyers can expect in terms of city car refinement, fit and finish, appearance and image.
Sit in a Celerio and you’ll face a well-assembled dash made from hard, shiny plastics. Do the same in an Up and it’s like you’ve been upgraded. Question is, are buyers in this price-sensitive sector prepared to pay the extra for this, or does the cost-controlled ingenuity of the Celerio make more sense?
Verdict: 2015 Suzuki Celerio
The Suzuki Celerio is, you sense, a city car that Mini creator Sir Alec Issogonis might admire. It’s not stylish, not overly luxurious and does not particularly nod to fashion.
It is, however, extremely room, well engineered and shows some clever cost-controlled solutions to giving small car buyers the maximum for their money. It’s an approach that deserves praise – although we do wonder if the expectations of buyers in 2015 may still prefer extra style and substance that the Volkswagen Up and its ilk deliver…
Rivals: 2015 Suzuki Celerio
- Hyundai i10
- Kia Picanto
- Volkswagen Up
- Skoda Citigo
- Dacia Sandero
Specification: 2015 Suzuki Celerio
Engine 1.0-litre three-cylinder
Gearbox five-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Price from £7,995
Torque 66lb ft
0-62mph 13.5 seconds
Top speed 96mph