Once just an afterthought in a car manufacturer’s lineup, small city cars or micro compacts, are beginning to be top sellers, particularly in crowded cities like Manila. Buyers are spoiled for choice with offerings like the Toyota Wigo, Mitsubishi Mirage, Honda Brio, Kia Picanto and Hyundai Eon.
Yet one hotly anticipated one is a vehicle from a brand that particularly specializes in small cars, Suzuki. It’s offering, the Celerio, may have first entered the market as a youth-oriented choice with its bright colors and funky design, yet this all-new Celerio proves that it has quickly grown up and is ready for more serious competition.
The new Celerio takes a stark departure from its formerly cutesy design to create a more mature presence. It employs large, squared-out headlights, a larger grille, shaped like a smile, fog lights, and a tall cabin for better headroom. Towards the side, a character line starts from the wheel well and goes across cleanly across to the side. Nearing the rear, there’s a hint of the Swift’s profile, with thick corner pillars and a bulbous rear windshield for better visibility. Tall combination tail lamps make it highly visible, with turn signals and the reverse lamps integrated. As for the hatch, there’s no pneumatic actuator here. Just a simple color-keyed handle.
The same maturity has been applied to the interior. A three-spoke wheel greets the driver. In front of it is an instrument cluster dominated by a large, easy-to-read speedometer. The tachometer is situated on the right (no more pod extending from the binnacle), while a multi-information display sits on the left. It displays fuel, consumption, range and other vital trip info.
The center stack is crowned by twin air-conditioning vents, punctuated by the hazard button. Below it sits a new integrated entertainment system. Controls are laid out fairly simply, taking all of two seconds to decipher. Yet this simple and flush system is capable of playing CD’s, AM and FM radio and MP3’s or external audio devices via a hidden slots and ports and Bluetooth connectivity. It channels this audio through four speakers fitted as standard in this top-of-the-line model.
Despite its modern exterior, the Celerio doesn’t overhaul the thought and process by which micro cars are engineered and constructed. Brochures will taut of its A+ Compact design. In essence, it means Suzuki has gone great lengths to increase cabin space, without radically increasing its footprint. The result is a vehicle that is only millimetres larger than its predecessor but feels practically a class above in terms of space.
The doors and hatches are have been made thinner with the use of higher strength steels and less padding. Leave the door open and you’ll see just how narrow its width is. Passengers will enjoy the fabric seats that provide generous support, and yet take up very little space. Extra care has clearly been put into constructing these extremely thin yet comfortable seats with integrated headrests. There’s a lot of room for adjustment, with the rear bench even able to fold down to accommodate larger cargo. Yet even with the seat up, there’s more than enough room for two overnight bags, far better than its predecessor.
Perhaps the real charm of the Celerio is in its technical bits. Under the hood is a 1.0-liter K10B three-cylinder, four valve-per-cylinder engine. This configuration is chosen over the typical 1.0-liter four-cylinder engine as three cylinders rev more quickly and easily. It’s then paired to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) to deliver power to the front wheels. Suspending the body is a set of MacPherson struts in front with a coupled torsion beam in the rear with coil springs. This equipment may not sound particularly ground-breaking, yet by pushing the wheels towards the corners (like the original Mini Cooper) it creates a surprisingly fun drive.
Another area improved is the steering, now equipped with electronic power assist, to add some heft to the steering feel. In spite of the reputed numbness of this system in other cars, the wheel returns excellent feedback on the condition of the road while still allowing the driver to quickly turn the wheel.
Nonetheless, unlike most cars in its class, power will not be found lacking in this particular car. There’s an evident lag from the moment you step on the throttle to the point where it starts to accelerate, indicative of a new drive-by-wire system. Paired with a CVT, the engine revs climb quickly, returning, not neck snapping acceleration, but more of a smooth surge of speed. This surge continues unabated up to a top speed of 160 km/h.
It all adds up to an adaptive drive. The Celerio is smooth and frugal in city streets, yet zippy and responsive when needed. It is an absolute treat to drive with one passenger, but when loaded with more people and gear, may not feel as sprightly or agile.
In spite of all these trysts, the Celerio still managed to return an impressive 12 km/L in heavy city traffic. It clocked an even more astounding 14 km/L in the highway (1 passenger, light traffic).
Indeed, the Celerio may not have the newer GPS-Navigation systems, back-up cameras or Eco driving indicators its competitors are quick to boast of in their brochures. Yet this vehicle’s blend of simple solutions to typical problems in this class, are all done not with tech, but with some clever re-engineering. For those that want practicality with a little bit of a fun side, this is the micro car to have.