August 13, 2014 01:00
By Kingsley Wijayasinha
Suzuki's little A-segment car is spacious, performs well on the street and is one that you can confidently take out on long trips
When Suzuki launched the Swift a few years ago, many felt it wasn’t a true eco-car. It was clear that the dimensions of the Swift actually belonged to a B-segment car, and the company simply took advantage of eco-car loopholes to qualify for the privileges offered by the Thai government.
Another car in this category that’s way bigger than others is the Toyota Yaris, which is even larger than its 1.5-litre B-segment predecessor. But both the Swift and Yaris were fitted with small engines that helped disguise themselves to fit the eco-car category, which offered plenty of benefits for investments including corporate tax breaks and lower excise duty when marketed.
Now, however, Suzuki has introduced a second eco-car in Thailand and this time there is no doubt that it is in fact a true eco-car. I’m talking about the Celerio – a diminutive A-segment car that’s 3.6 metres long and 1.6 metres wide on a wheelbase of 2,425mm. The prototype version of the Celerio, the A-Wind, made its debut at the Thailand International Motor Expo late last year, and a few months later, at the Bangkok International Motor Show, the production version was unveiled.
Suzuki has long been established as a small-car expert, and the Celerio is a great example of how the Japanese company excels in this area.
Despite its compact exterior dimensions, step inside and you’ll discover a cabin that is spacious enough to allow plenty of headroom, along with a luggage area of 254 litres – way above the competition. With the rear split-folding backseats fully down, it is possible to fit a full-size bicycle without having to disassemble the wheel or handle bar. That’s mainly because of its boxy rear dimensions. This may not appeal to many people in terms of design but it does provide extra space and functionality.
The interior design isn’t bad either, with decent materials and a good number of storage spaces. The front seats come with built-in headrests that remind you of sports cars, but at the rear the small headrests may not be adequate for tall passengers.
Yes, the Celerio may not possess the aesthetics that many Thai customers desire, but this is an entry-level A-segment car that is made to serve particular purposes – like getting from point A to point B confidently, and carrying stuff, as well as offering good fuel economy. Target customers are mainly young people with an active lifestyle as well as small families that are now financially capable of purchasing their first automobile.
Well, I didn’t have high hopes for the Celerio before I took charge of it for a week. In fact, I haven’t been impressed by any “genuine” eco-car at all – whether it’s the Honda Brio (that appears to be unfinished in terms of design) or the Mitsubishi Mirage (that offers hopeless highway performance). And although the Celerio is no head-turner by any means, I was in for several pleasant surprises as I got in behind the wheel.
The 1.0-litre 3-cylinder motor develops 68 horsepower and 90Nm of torque, and is mated to a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) which provided rather good street performance. The vehicle is light and has acceptable aerodynamics, allowing it to pass the 20km-per-litre fuel consumption rating for an eco-car. Of course, acceleration was nowhere near breathtaking, but the Celerio isn’t a snail either. Floor the gas pedal and it speeds up comfortably, making overtaking on the highway a non-nerve-wrecking experience. Undoubtedly, this ain’t a city car for simply delivering noodles, but one that can take you on long distances with a good level of confidence.
Handling is another surprise as the little car zips around traffic with surprisingly high levels of nimbleness. I liked the steering feel and once you get to cruising speed (above 100km/h) this little car shows a very good degree of on-road stability, something that you can’t find in competitors of the same size.
Yes, the Celerio is able to deliver what Suzuki is good at making – small cars that are fun to drive as well as practical and economical. And while the Swift is produced in Thailand only for the domestic market, the Thai-made Celerio will be also destined for Europe, a market with very high customer standards.
The starting price of the Celerio here is only Bt359,000 for the GA Manual version, which is highly attractive and offers a chance for those with low incomes to own a decent car. The model I drove was the top GLX CVT priced at a much higher Bt488,000, which is still a bargain considering the added features such as dual front airbags, ABS brakes or electric windows.
So would I buy the Celerio if I was shopping for an eco-car with eco-car pricing and body dimensions? Most likely, although it would not be for me or my 21-year-old son, who has been brainwashed with souped-up car ideology. Well, he wants a customised Honda Integra DC5, and the only way he’s going to get it is by earning the money himself. The Celerio will instead be a perfect match for my 17-year-old daughter, who’s more of a painter/guitar player/singer and would enjoy an all-rounder like this Suzuki. She likes pink and it’s one of the eight colours being offered by Suzuki. And she won’t have to pay for it.