BEEFED up and wearing a new name, Suzuki's new affordability king has been crowned.
The micro-size Celerio has been launched with prices from $12,990 drive-away for the manual and $1500 more for the auto, replacing the popular Alto.
While it sounds like a vegetable with a sunbed obsession, or something you'd need to get a cream for at the chemist, the Celerio is an adept little vehicle.
As opposed to being Indian-built, the Celerio comes from Thailand and is bigger, better to drive and more practical than the outgoing Alto.
Internal finishes are far improved on the Alto and aesthetically the cabin is an inviting location.
All materials are still what you'd expect at this end of the market with a range of plastics used through the console and dash.
Flat seat bases only become noticeable if you attack a bend too quickly, and the cloth trim feels hardy. Still, there is impressive four-person accommodation for a micro machine. With some thoughtful front passengers there is ample room in the back for two adults.
There is additional head, shoulder and leg room both front and back, which is due to the Celerio being 100mm longer and 70mm higher with a wheelbase (distance between the centres of the front and rear wheels) that has grown 65mm.
Given the price-point this ensures there is no array of buttons or high-tech gear to get your head around, and the driver has a large analogue speedometer in the instrument binnacle along with a smaller fuel gauge and tachometer. Getting a comfortable driving position can take some time as the steering wheel just has vertical adjustment - most cars nowadays, and even the utes, have telescopic functionality.
On the road
Given there is only a 1.0-litre three-cylinder powering the Celerio, it's surprisingly peppy.
It's an all-new engine, which has been stripped down, made lighter and now has the ability to run on the less expensive E10 or 91RON unleaded fuel as opposed the 95 required previously.
Available in five-speed manual or continuously variable automatic, the three-potter gets the job done honestly and with an exhaust note which doesn't scream.
The manual feels move lively, but the auto will be the volume seller in this genre and it has improved off-the-line performance which results in less "flaring" under acceleration. With easy use of the throttle it feels more like a conventional auto, but stamp your foot and the engine will rev hard without much result…which is a common trait of CVTs.
Proving capable in the city with a tight turning circle and light steering, the Celerio was also accomplished on the highway getting along at 100kmh below 3000rpm.
What do you get?
With only one trim level, basic equipment includes a CD stereo with MP3 capability with USB input, Bluetooth connectivity with steering wheel-mounted controls, air conditioning, central locking and power windows, six airbags along with anti-lock brakes and traction/stability control.
There is no option for alloy wheels, due to the fact most people shopping at this end of the market are chasing the sharpest bottom line possible. And while there is a spot for fog lights, they aren't available either.
The Celerio hasn't been crash tested in Australia, but European results have provided the basis for a four-star result. While some competitors in this segment have five stars, ANCAP safety standards have risen and vehicles such as the Mitsubishi Mirage were tested under the previous regime and would now also likely get four stars.
Primary competition in the pint-size genre comes via the Mitsubishi Mirage (from $13,490 drive-away and the Holden Barina Spark (from $13,990 drive-away).
With a 254-litre boot there is enough space for a large suitcase, and the 60-40 split fold rear seat means it's a useful compact transporter with a wide boot opening.
There are two cup holders in the front, able to handle the 600ml bottles, and other one in the back. Bottles can also be stored in the rear doors.
A handy nook for keys, phones and audio players is just about the gear shifter.
The Alto was lauded for being the best budget transport in the annual auto clubs analysis, and the Celerio should still maintain market leadership.
Capped price servicing, and now being able to run on the cheaper fuel means even the meagre 0.2 litres/100km gain in average fuel consumption is cancelled out.
The official figure is 4.7L/100km for the manual (4.8L automatic), yet we managed to achieve 4.4 on our test trip.
Services are every 10,000km or six months which is a shorter interval than some other manufacturers, but Suzuki has a good reputation for longevity and reliability which can partly be attributed to the recommended preventative maintenance.
Wearing a smiling grille, this is one happy hatch.
The external lines are square and it sits on small wheels but it has ample personality.
It's available in eight colours, with white the only hue which doesn't attract a $475 premium for pearlescent or metallic paint. Also available are pink, yellow, blue, silver, grey, black and red.
Delivering something competitive in this micro segment is a challenge for car companies. Buyers have high expectations and it's a tough ask to pack a whole heap of features into a sub-$13,000 offering.
Which is probably why the segment has dropped in sales. Those financing can step up into something bigger for a small monthly premium with more kit and kudos.
Still, anyone searching for a second car runabout or a first car will not be disappointed by the Celerio. While not having the full five-star safety title it boasts the extras like curtain airbags, stability control and anti-lock brakes which are musts for drivers of all ability.
Feeling larger inside than the dimensions dictate, it's not a bad drive, and remains a bargain to keep on the road.
Model: Suzuki Celerio.
Details: Four-seat front-wheel drive micro-size hatchback.
Engine: 1.0-litre three-cylinder generating maximum power of 50kW @ 6000rpm and peak torque of 90Nm @ 3500rpm.
Transmissions: Five-speed manual or continuously variable automatic.
Consumption: 4.7 litres/100km (manual, combined average); 4.8L/100km (auto).
CO2: 108g/km; 112g/km.
Bottom line: $12,990 drive-away (m); $14,490 drive-away (a).
What matters most
What we liked: Roomy interior, surprisingly good to drive, outstanding economy and running costs.
What we'd like to see: Telescopic steering wheel adjustment, cruise control, better name.
Warranty and servicing: Three year/100,000km warranty, which is extended to five years/140,000km with Suzuki dealership servicing. Capped price servicing is available, at $199 each with every fourth maintenance visit $249. Service intervals are six months or 10,000km.
Verdict: 3.5 stars
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