Suzuki's Celerio citycar may well make more of an impact than its predecessors. June Neary checks it out
Will It Suit Me?
Small cars are very much in vogue at the moment. They're the simplest, most effective way to achieve the dual goals of minimising motoring costs and cutting vehicle emissions, so both manufacturers and consumers are paying them more attention than at any time in the past. It's into this state of affairs that Suzuki has pitched its Celerio, a compact citycar with the tough task of vying for attention against some very high profile rivals. Suzuki is strongly represented in the supermini market with its Swift and the Celerio slots in below this offering. Its aim is to replicate some of the Swift's sporty flavour in a more compact package that's also strong on economy, practical and easy to use around town. Sounds like a recipe for more success but with the likes of Fiat's Panda, Ford's Ka, Toyota's Aygo and Renault's Twingo targeting a similar market, the Celerio will need to be right on its game.
It was once enough for a citycar to be small and efficient. If it looked like a shrunken Transit van and had a wow-factor equivalent to a bag of potatoes, nobody much cared. Today, as small cars become a more mainstream choice for urban motorists, there's a demand for them to display a lot more individuality and style. With the Celerio, Suzuki has risen to this challenge, creating a look it says 'exudes urban energy'. You can be the judge of exactly what it's exuding but I thought the styling was definitely distinctive. deeply sculpted flanks, with an arcing swage line that runs just below the door handles. The front grille is unusual, with a three-bar design that kinks upwards at each extremity into the big headlight pods. And inside? Well, I was told that the space for front seat occupants had been 'prioritised' with this design and so it should be but that doesn't bode well for those in the back. Still, the fact is that most citycars are used to carry more than two people rarely, if ever, and so long as the rear seats can cope with a few shopping bags and a tattered road atlas, they'll do the job. The Celerio's C-Pillars are extremely thick and this may result in visibility issues when parking but the interior itself looks to have the requisite youthful feel with the curvy lines of the dash and the door inserts. There's also a healthy amount of storage capacity. A height of 1,530mm and a non-slanting roofline affords respectable headroom for occupants. The boot is vast for a tiny urban-orientated hatch, with a capacity of 254-litres. I struggle to fit things like a pushchair into the trunks of most citycars in this class, but that wasn't a problem here.
Behind the Wheel
The Celerio's 1.0-litre petrol engine looks ideal for a compact urban vehicle. The 3-cylinder unit musters 66bhp - which doesn't sound thrilling. Still in such a light car, it's enough to enable it to cover the 0-62mph sprint in 14 seconds. Stick at it and a top speed of 96mph is also attainable. The Celerio is just 3600mm long and that helps it achieve a super-tight turning circle that should be ideal for manoeuvring into tight parking spaces or executing the odd cheeky U-turn. Suzuki's Swift supermini never fails to impress with its sharp handling and the Celerio aims to replicate that big fun factor within its more compact package. The MacPherson strut front suspension is tuned to give the rigidity and fast response required in a nimble small car and at the rear, Suzuki's clever 3-link rigid axel suspension is used. This set-up is also tuned to deliver firm, stable ride but its compact design is a further benefit in a small car like the Celerio.
Value For Money
The citycar sector looks set for boom times ahead on the back of motorists downsizing their vehicles in a quest to cut costs. The Suzuki Celerio will be up against some stiff competition for these sales but this manufacturer's small car expertise and aggressive pricing policy should count for something. Prices start at around £8,000 for the SZ3 version, rising to around £9,000 for the plusher SZ4. If you're happy with the SZ3, then your dealer will offer you the option of Suzuki's more efficient 'Dualjet' 1.0-litre petrol engine - for a price premium of around £500. Standard specification highlights for the Celerio SZ3 include six airbags (Driver, passenger, side and curtain), ESP stability control, air conditioning, alloy wheels, DAB Radio, CD Tuner, USB, Bluetooth connectivity and remote central locking. The ordinary 1.0-litre petrol engine can return an impressive 65.7mpg on the combined cycle along with 99g/km emissions - whether you choose manual or AGS automatic transmission. These are figures the more modern Dualjet variant improves to 78.5mpg and 84g/km. It's greener than Robin Hood on a rollercoaster.
Could I Live With One?
The choice now at the disposal of UK citycar buyers is quite something and the Suzuki Celerio looks like being another useful addition to the field. Operating at the value for money end of the segment, its low costs and competitive pricing will be crucial to its success.