Bumpy road ahead for new Suzuki Celerio

Five-seater Suzuki Celerio. Picture: Contributed
Five-seater Suzuki Celerio. Picture: Contributed
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SUZUKI’S supermini boasts exemplary fuel consumption at bargain prices if you don’t mind some noise and discomfort, writes Frederic Manby

Celerio? It’s a species of moth, the surname of a Filipino composer, the alternative Filipino name of a reef in the South China Sea – information thanks to Wikipedia, the go-to site for a quick what’s what on most things these days.

It recorded similar figures in pushy driving, revving the sweet engine to 60mph in second gear just to see if it would

Suzuki gets its inspiration for the name of its new small car from one of its key markets, the Philippines. Whatever, my spellcheck wants to correct it to “celeriac”.

Production is in Thailand – where our test Celerio comes from – and India. Dealers here rate the company highly and it figured third in a survey which came out as the firm was confronted by a potential sales disaster, having to recall all its brand new Celerios in right-hand-drive markets like the UK and Australia.

This was because the brakes had failed on two cars at high speed under emergency braking tests made by Autocar. Suzuki diagnosed a problem in the brake pedal release mechanism and within a month had fitted modified components.

So far so good. By the end of June more than 3,000 had been delivered to customers but total Suzuki UK sales in the first seven months have gone the other way, with a 10 per cent dive pending the impact of the new Vitara. To boot sales along it has introduced a new price-leading Celerio, the SZ2 at £6,999 which is £1,000 below the SZ3 and aims to flatten some of the competition from the Hyundai i10, Nissan Micra and Vauxhall Viva. Subject to small print you can put down £1,816 and pay £79 for the next 42 months – which brings the compact five-seater, five-door hatchback within the reach of most wage earners.

The price of the SZ2 includes central locking, stability control and DAB audio with a CD slot. If you want to keep the car after the hire period, you pay £2,685, making the total bill £7,819. That’s £820 paid out for the easy payments. It should be cheap to own, with a road tax-free 99g CO2 rating and 65.7mpg (claimed) in the combined cycle fuel tests from the one-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine.

My test car went one better. This “dualjet” engine has twin fuel injectors which give a more effective fuel supply and better efficiency. So much so that it achieves an official 78.4mpg and just 84g of CO2.

The happy news is that – said the trip computer – it averaged 78mpg on a long motorway journey, 70mpg on a regular 40-mile mixed urban/rural route, 69mpg on a 10-mile local drive and 56mpg on a hilly country drive. It recorded a similar economy in pushy driving, revving the sweet engine to 60mph in second gear just to see if it would.

Yes, it is one of the most economical petrol cars available and if you want a compact runabout, this may suit all or most of your driving. It is easy to use, but you’ll have to get accustomed to road rumble through the Bridgestone ­Ecopia tyres which have a low rolling resistance tread.

It had significant steering interference on bumpy roads and on what are often normal surfaces these days it was far from settled. I took my old mother out for a Sunday run in the glens and she was not at all comfortable. I concurred.

It was not a happy bunny in stop-start traffic. The clutch was smelly and the juddering at slow speed suggested it had been “slipped” a bit too often by previous testers.

Consequently you may want to try for more than just a trip round the block before you buy – which you should anyway with a new buy.

There are numerous storage pockets for those everyday oddments carried in cars. However, I did not manage to get my Nokia connected with the Bluetooth hands-free phone system. I did manage to test the brakes at a high-speed emergency stop and they worked. Phew, but would a “what-if?” linger in the nervous mind?

The range also includes an automated manual gearbox, so no clutch, and it does so with no increase on the engine’s CO2 emissions – making it a rare petrol automatic without road tax. It also has a tickover “creep” which is convenient in slow-moving traffic and parking. This is offered only on the top SZ4 trim at £9,799 (£800 more than the five-speed manual gearbox) but surely would be appreciated by buyers not able to afford top trim but needing an auto shift.

It’s not just the elderly, either, who like a two-pedal car. Vipona, mid-30s, has just got an automatic RAV4 and likes its easy manners in busy traffic and for parking and, indeed, creeping uphill in traffic jams.

Verdict: Impressed by its economy, not by its suspension.

It is: Suzuki Celerio. Five-door, five-seater titch with more cabin room and luggage space than you’d expect. Made in Thailand. One-litre, three-cylinder 67bhp petrol engine.

Green? Rather. Its headline 78mpg average was almost matched in mixed driving: impressed.

Pace: Maximum 96mph; 0-62mph 13 seconds.

Size: Big enough for 4+1, a size down from a Fiesta.

Prices: From £6,999 for the SZ2. On test the SZ3 Dualjet from £8,499.