It’s not only the most affordable model of its kind but also the cleanest, the most economical and the most spacious. As a result, this might just be the car that gives its Japanese manufacturer an important foothold in a segment that’s traditionally been dominated by the European brands. There are funkier alternatives, no question. But are there fundamentally better ones?
The Celerio is fun to drive thanks to firm but supple suspension and willing, thrumy 1. 0-litre three cylinder petrol engine. This unit comes in either standard guise or in more frugal Dualjet form. Either way, there’s 68PS on offer, enough for this normally aspirated powerplant to get you to 62mph in 14. 0s on the way to 96mph. Go for the standard 1. 0-litre model and town-bound folk can choose the option of AGS automatic transmission. Out on the open road, the steering’s not especially feelsome, but its lightness is a boon in town where it makes parking easy and facilitates a tight 9. 4m turning circle.
Suzuki’s citycars have always been sensible and this Celerio replaced two of the most practical models in the company’s back catalogue, the affordable Alto and the slightly smarter Splash. It combines the virtues of those designs too, with the boxy, budget convenience of the Alto and the smart modern look of the Splash.
The ‘luggage space’ part of this car’s buying equation is explained by a simple but very effective piece of design at the back. This has nothing to do with anything you can see – like for example the chunky bumper and the V-shape made by the tapering tailgate – and everything to do with the stuff you can’t – namely the torsion beam suspension housed beneath the floor.
It’s been configured with what Suzuki calls ‘flattened ends’ that create the very low base for the cargo area. As a result, you get a near-class-leadingly practical 254-litres of space in here.
And ‘practical’ is a word that springs readily to mind on taking a seat at the front. Those graduating on from a spartan little Suzuki Alto might find it to be an upgrade but just about everyone else will see little but strong durability in the firm, utilitarian plastics. To be fair, a few efforts have been made to brighten things a little, with silver trim framing the centre console and the airvents.
Taking a seat in the rear can sometimes be a bit of a contorted process in a citycar but is aided by wide-opening doors you can pull out as far as 90-degrees.
Once inside, the rear bench is pretty much as spacious as you’d expect to find in a supermini from the next class up. Importantly too, it offers three sets of belts in a class where nearly every other rival provides only two.
You won’t be expecting a 1. 0-litre three cylinder petrol-powered citycar like this Celerio to cost you very much to run, especially given that this model weighs in at under 850kgs, whichever guise you choose. Sure enough, it’s very efficient indeed. Even if you don’t go for the clean and frugal ‘Dualjet’ version we’d recommend, you’ll still get less than 100g/km CO2 and more than 65mpg on the combined cycle, efficiency benchmarks that most citycar rivals still shamefully fail to hit. To be specific, a standard 1. 0 model like the Celerio ‘SZ4’ variant manages 65. 7mg on the combined cycle and 99g/km of CO2. Order this car with AGS automatic transmission and those returns aren’t affected at all.
It’s the Dualjet version of this car that really delivers though when it comes to low running costs. This version of the three cylinder 1. 0-litre gets a higher compression ratio, a dual injection system, various low friction technologies and a whole range of technical tweaks, plus, most importantly, an ‘EAS’ Engine Auto Start Stop system that cuts the engine when you don’t need it, stuck in traffic or waiting at the lights. As a result, the Celerio’s fuel and CO2 returns really are class-leading – 78. 5mpg on the combined cycle and 84g/km of CO2.
It’s rather refreshing to come across such an honest and straightforward little vehicle. Having started the test speculating on whether it could compete with supposedly more sophisticated citycar rivals, we’ve ended up wondering whether it actually needs to.
A Celerio is, after all, different from other little urban runabouts in so many ways. It’s less fashion-conscious, so bigger inside. It’s also better equipped and safer than many of its rivals – and crucially, much cheaper to buy. Go for the Dualjet version and you also get yourself the cleanest and the most economical car in the class.
Try one, then stack it up against pricier rivals and one thing’s for sure, there’ll be no need for the hard sell.