Inigo S. Roces / Inigo S. Roces | February 10, 2017 08:29
Excise tax beater
As the debate over the possible increase in excise tax for cars (HB4774) rages on, and possibly pushing many of our dream cars out of budget, there’s still reason to still smile. Those planning on getting a car soon should be pleased to know that the vehicle offerings in the A-segment should see the lowest increase in price.
Among the many choices like the Toyota Wigo, Mitsubishi Mirage, Honda Brio, Kia Picanto and Hyundai Eon is Suzuki’s contender, the Celerio. Launched back in 2015, the Celerio, like its Suzuki stablemates, continues to be a tempting value for money alternative to the usual choices. It’s also been updated to be even more compelling to buyers.
Many might remember the old Celerio as a youth-oriented choice with its bright colors and funky interior design. Yet this all-new Celerio proves that it has quickly matured and is ready for more a more competitive market.
The Celerio’s design doesn’t bother to be cute or eye-catching. Instead, its large, squared-out headlights, a larger grille, shaped like a smile, fog lights, and tall cabin for better headroom speak of more conservative styling to appeal to those looking for a more presentable yet practical daily driver. There’s a hint of its larger sibling, the Swift, in aspects like its diagonal character line, shoulders, and even a little bit of the tail lights.
The same maturity has been applied to the interior. Indeed it’s all plastic, yet it’s also quite austere and unpretentious, which will do well to disguise the car’s age years down the line. 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 left, while a multi-information display (illuminated in red) sits on the right. This can be configured to display fuel consumption, average, range and other vital trip info.
The center stack is crowned by twin air-conditioning vents, with a hazard button in between. Below it sits the new integrated entertainment system with a larger touch screen. Controls are laid out fairly simply, taking all of two seconds to decipher. It’s the same system on the Ciaz, 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 even has provisions for GPS Navigation, which should be offered as a dealer option. It channels this audio through four speakers fitted as standard in this top-of-the-line model. Unfotunately, on our test unit, the stereo was inoperable so we can’t give a verdict on how good it was.
Perhaps the real genius in the Celerio’s design is its A+ Compact design. In essence, it means Suzuki has gone great lengths to increase cabin space, without radically increasing its footprint. It’s only millimetres larger than its predecessor but feels practically a class above in terms of space. No shoulder rubbing with your passenger here. The interior space is comparable to a Mitsubishi Mirage or even a Toyota Vios.
The doors and hatches are have been made thinner with the use of higher strength steels and thinner padding. The fabric seats provide decent support, and yet take up very little space. Thankfully, the tacky fabric pattern from its predecessor has also been replaced by a more subtle design. The rear bench can 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.
The Celerio continues to surprise with 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 five-speed manual 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. It’s light, but very sensitive and precise, requiring just a little turn for the car to round a corner. 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.
As expected, it’s very agile, quickly changing direction with little body roll. What surprised us is how stable it still is at high speeds, one just has to be more careful with steering input on the sensitive electric power steering.
Three cylinders may not sound like much, yet Suzuki has tuned the engine to more than make up for the missing cylinder. Power comes in as early as 2,000 rpm and only seems to fizzle out near the redline. Even driving leisurely, the engine revs climb quickly, and it seems to enjoy cruising at a steady 2,000 rpm. Step on the throttle and the light little Celerio is eager to accelerate to 100 and can comfortably keep it there for a long drive. In case you’re curious, the Celerio is capable of a top speed of 150 km/h. Not bad for a little 1.0-liter three-cylinder.
It results in an enjoyable drive, both faster than the CVT equipped variant and more economical too. The Celerio is smooth and frugal in city streets, yet zippy and responsive when needed. It’s also got a very light clutch, making it easy to drive even in heavy traffic. 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.
Our week with the Celerio return an impressive 14 km/L in heavy city traffic. It clocked an even more astounding 19 km/L in the highway (1 passenger, light traffic, 100 km/h average).
With surprising peppiness, incredible fuel efficiency and above average interior space, the Celerio 1.0 M/T is easily one of the best entry-level A-segment cars out there. The excise tax may put large cars out of reach, yet offerings like this Celerio make up for it with fun and frugality.