T W E N T Y C A R O F T H E Y E A R S I X T E E N
IF COTY included a ‘Surprise of the Year’ award, the Suzuki Celerio would have been a clear winner – that’s if you take into account the comments written in all eight judges’ books.
Prior to the event, there was months of debate as to whether Australia’s cheapest car was worthy of inclusion. But Suzuki’s sub-B-segment hatchback quickly proved that its presence enrichened the COTY experience While the Celerio’s upright styling is more Eastern Bloc than west-end cool, its form is all about space efficiency. It can fit the tallest, lankiest and burliest of driver or rear passenger, as well as seat three adults across its back at a stretch, and two in surprising comfort.
At 254 litres, Celerio’s boot is four litres larger than a Mazda 2’s and, with the seats folded down, there’s more than 1000 litres of usable space.
Interior quality is pretty good, too, with consistent surfaces and textures for this class, and no obvious rough edges or evidence of cost-cutting. Even the biggest pot-holes and corrugations at Lang Lang failed to reveal any rattles, squeaks or ill-fitting trim.
That level of build quality comes with a dazzling array of standard equipment. The Celerio is far removed from the ‘stripper’ base cars of yesteryear.
Standard for $13K (driveaway) are power windows, central locking and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as front, side, and curtain airbags. There’s even a pair of ISOFIX child-seat mountings, as well as two tethers. And while the Celerio misses out on a five-star ANCAP rating because it doesn’t have daytime-running lights, in reality, if you turn the lights on, you have a five-star car!
The Celerio’s inimitable charm extends to the thrummy 50kW 998cc triple under its stubby nose.
The three-cylinder donk felt smoothly tractable right to 6300rpm, and the five-speed manual’s direct and lightweight gearshift made it a genuine play-thing for the judges. Even in the CVT version, the driveline proves effective and obedient, backed by fuel consumption numbers in the high-fours.
But the best part of the Celerio’s functional proficiency is its chassis. While you’d expect a degree of bodyroll from a car this affordable, the Celerio’s handling is as balanced and predictable as its electric steering is responsive and accurate.
Its ability to handle bumps on the sharp-edged test track delivers a ride above its class – certainly much better than its short wheelbase would suggest – and its ESC calibration is really impressive, if judicious when things started to get ugly. Even Celerio’s wet-surface braking earned respectable praise.
What the Celerio doesn’t do is raise the global sub-B benchmark like Volkswagen’s Up did in 2012.
Apple-style slickness and classless design appeal is something the Suzuki lacks.
Innovation-free it may be, and in need of improvement to its seat comfort, there has never been a car as convincing or well-specced as the Suzuki Celerio for what amounts to chicken feed in today’s money.
Type 5-door hatchback, 5 seats Boot capacity 254 litres Weight 830 – 860kg
Layout front engine (east-west), FWD Engines 998cc 3cyl (50kW/90Nm) Transmissions 5-speed manual; CVT automatic
130 wheelsmag.com.au Tyres 165/65R14 ADR81 fuel con csumption 4.7 – 4.8L/100km CO2 emissions 108 – 112g/km Collision mitigation .
Crash rating 4-star (ANCAP) Prices $12,990 – $13,990* *Driveaway
Celerio proves Suzuki can ace packaging, but its new Ignis – shown in production form at the 2015 Tokyo show – shows it has design spunk, too. Inspired by the 1970s SC100 ‘Whizzkid’, the Ignis’s short overhangs, kicked-up window line, ribbed rear quarters, squircle headlights and clamshell bonnet give it a bold character. It shares Celerio’s platform, but is meant to be a less pragmatic, more premium alternative. On sale here in 2016.