• Suzuki Celerio replaces Alto
• Dual air bags, ABS standard
• New 'automated manual' gearbox
DURBAN – Suzuki has launched a budget hatchback, the Celerio, in South Africa at the expense of its cute little Alto range.
So, Suzuki now has two sub-R130 000 cars – the Celerio and the Splash, the latter launched in 2014.
With two similar vehicles sporting minor differences in tech, power and kit, Suzuki hopes to cast its net wide to capture buyers in the fierce A-AB segment.
It’s available in two specifications (GA and GL), two transmission options (five-speed manual and new 'automated manual' transmission), each with the same one-litre, three-cylinder, petrol engine. Prices start at R109 900 for the entry-level GA to R135 900 for the range-topping GL auto.
The Celerio has what Suzuki calls its CICO (Curve In, Curve Out) design language. In English, that means sleek lines along its flanks. It’s also is the first Suzuki with the quote-marked gearbox that has full auto and manual shifts as well as creep-function for dealing with traffic.
IMAGE GALLERY: 2015 Suzuki Celerio
The Celerio is 3.6m long, 1.6m wide and 1.5m high: that's 100mm longer and 70mm higher than the outgoing Alto though it's the same width. Its wheelbase has increased by 65mm to 2.4m, those wheels shod with 165/70 R14 tyres on 14” steel rims - alloys optional.
The Celerio's headroom, compared to the Alto, is 21mm greater up front and 43mm at the rear. Its extended wheelbase means more rear legroom (50mm) and the rear footwells are 28mm wider.
The three-cylinder, 55kW/90Nm engine drives through a five-speed gearbox called by Suzuki an 'automated manual transmission' – actually a CVT (constantly variable transmission) with five pre-selected ratios activated by a shifter, boldly described by Suzuki as “achieved via an electro-hydraulic actuator, making the use of a clutch pedal unnecessary”.
Or you can just let the AMT do its own thing, unless you're in "rush hour" traffic, when you can switch to "creep" mode - full auto which aids in stop/start traffic. In practice, it works like a traditional automatic; simply pop it into D (drive), N (neutral) or R (reverse).
Fuel Consumption is rated at a claimed 4.7 litres/100km for the manual and 4.6 litres/100km on the auto, with emissions of 110g/km and 108g/km respectively.
Its turning circle, rated at 9.4m, is one of the tightest in its class making parking and manoeuvring through city streets a breeze.
One is acutely aware of the Celerio's 55kW, especially when climbing a hill or carrying a full complement of passengers. Overtaking requires thought and ample space.
Its ride is supple, suspension surprisingly flexible and steering in that sweet spot of neither too light nor too heavy. It offsets its shortcomings by being a frugal, spacious hatchback, deserving of a second look. While not exactly a "fun car", it would be great for travelling students and young families, for whom space and practicality are much higher priorities than performance.
In terms of safety, the Celerio has what Suzuki calls 'Total Effective Control Technology' in its construction, which manifests itself as crumple zones, two front air bags, anti-lock brakes, inertia reel seat belts and an immobiliser with central locking.
CELERIO GA, GL
The differences between the GA and GL are relatively minor. The GA’s grille, exterior mirrors and door releases are finished in contrasting black. It has halogen headlights, a rear wiper/washer and manual external -mirrors.
The cabin has a large speedometer, multi-information display, power-assisted steering, manual aircon with a pollen filter and lots of stowage, including a number of bottle-holders.
Luggage capacity is 235 litres or 1034 litres with the rear seats folded.
The GL variant adds a glossy black grille treatment, chromed accents and external mirrors finished in the body colour. It also gains fog lights, power for the external mirrors and a rear-screen demister.
The black upholstery remains, though is bolstered with fabric inserts for the doors and chromed door releases. The instrument binnacle gains a rev counter, external temperature display, four power windows, central locking and a gear-shift indicator on the AMT.
The steering wheel gains tilt adjustment, Bluetooth and a four-speaker radio/CD audio system with MP3, USB and Bluetooth connectivity.
Toyota Etios, Ford Figo, Renault Sandero, Chevrolet Spark, Volkswagen Polo Vivo... these are some of the heavyweights with which the Celerio must compete. There's also the Mitsubishi Mirage, Hyundai i10, Kia Picanto and Honda Brio.
In the dog fight that is SA’s budget-car market it helps to have a low-price, ample kit and a squad mate (the Splash) in case buyers aren’t hooked by Suzuki’s latest offering but want to stay in the family. It's frugal on fuel and well-equipped although there are vehicles with better interiors and more satisfying road manners in its class.
The Celerio has the edge in terms of interior space over its competitors and, considering how flooded its market is in terms of rivals, even the slightest advantage could make a huge difference in shifting units.
It’s a cute, practical little hatchback which vastly improves on the outgoing Alto while having enough personality to stand out from the Splash. While it may leave you wishing for extra power, especially when carting passengers and/or tackling hills, drive within its limits and you’ll have an adequate little hatchback.
One area of major appeal is its interior, the fit-and-finish of which is on par with its popular Swift sibling.
Its pricing and equipment are compelling reasons to buy; its a sensible new model for the millions of South African living on a tight budget. Its interior quality and space are above average even if it’s looks aren’t enough to grab you.
The Suzuki Celerio is sold with a three-year or 100 000km warranty; a two-year or 30 000km service plan is included in the GL’s price. Service intervals 15 000km.
1.0i GA manual (no service plan) R109 900
1.0i GL manual R124 900
1.0i GL AMT R135 900
Click here for full specifications