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The year is 2022. A Russian megalomaniac is waging war against another country in Europe. The price of oil per barrel keeps shooting up. You are not that invested in the world of politics and economics. You are just on the market for a new car, and the thought of buying fuel at about R21/litre is making you reconsider your options.

‘I thought this was a car review?’ you might be asking yourself. Stay with me. The above has to be established to highlight just how well-timed the latest Suzuki Celerio is in the current economic climate. The world around us ultimately determines what motivates us to buy specific vehicles in a saturated market. With the rising fuel prices, much focus will be on fuel-efficient cars, and this is where the new Suzuki Celerio promises to shine.

Baby Swift Vibes

In its second generation, the new Celerio retains the predecessor’s HEARTECT platform, now more prominent in its dimensions, invariably offering more car than the model it replaces. Two trim choices will be provided: the GA and the GL. As far as the exterior is concerned, the entry-level GA is identified by 14” steel wheels, while the GL comes with 15” alloys, body-coloured mirrors and door handles, front fog lamps and electric mirrors. From certain angles, the Celerio gives me baby Swift vibes, which adds to the little car’s appeal. And whereas the first generation styling seemed uninspired, the new Celerio bears attractive body contours and 3D elements that endow the car with more character.

Practical Comfort

You naturally expect cheap hard plastics at this price point, and sure enough, hard plastics are used generously throughout the cabin. However, Suzuki has given enough attention to the aesthetic to elevate the cabin’s overall feel. 

The GA trim comes with audio controls on the steering wheel, an immobiliser, rear parking sensors, engine start-stop functionality, information display and air conditioning. The GL adds a multifunction wheel, a rev counter, remote central locking, a 7” touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a USB port for connectivity. 

The cabin has enough room for four adults to sit in relative comfort, and you may be able to squeeze three adults onto the rear bench in an emergency. Wrapped in hard-wearing fabric, the seats are comfortable. Luggage space of 295 litres is par for the course in this segment and should be acceptable for a weekend’s worth of luggage on a road trip. However, I found the hatch opening to be slightly restrictive, as it requires you to deadlift your luggage over the lip before you can drop it into the surprisingly deep cargo area.

Frugal Powertrain

Beneath the Celerio’s snub nose is the piece de resistance – a 1.0-litre naturally aspirated 3-cylinder petrol engine mated with either a 5-speed manual or an automated transmission. This little engine with the big heart delivers 49 kW of power and 89 Nm of torque in either union.

In a world where hot hatches are hovering around the 250 kW mark, I will quickly admit that 49 kW is a bit of an eyebrow-raiser. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the little car’s eagerness to move about. This is partly due to the 805 kg weight of the vehicle, which gives the Celerio a pretty decent power to weight ratio. The car gets a move on with surprising verve and is relatively quiet while doing so. Expectedly, given its small size, the engine starts to run out of steam when you push it to triple-digit speeds. 

Of course, much of the power to weight ratio advantage is lost as you increase passenger numbers or luggage weight but, to be clear, this is not a family saloon, so in the hands of a single young adult with one passenger, it’s perfect for its intended use. The manual option provides more of a sense of involvement and control for the driver, though. The 5-speed has easy throws and is easy to live with daily, giving you more control over the little power plant up front, and I found the 49 kW hatchback quite enjoyable to drive.

Overall, the ride comfort was pleasant, even over some rutted roads during the launch drive, and the level of cabin insulation was surprising given the materials selected for the car. Because of its small dimensions, the Celerio proved to be perfect for city driving as you can squeeze it into any small space you come across. 

As far as handling is concerned, this is no sports car. However, for daily city driving, it is good enough. There will be a fair amount of lean in the corners, but that is only if you treat the Celerio as anything other than a city car. The steering is reassuringly heavy on the highway while light enough for parking.

While the car’s performance is impressive enough, we were simply in awe of the engine’s efficiency. Suzuki claims figures of 4.4 l/100 km for the manual transmission. We managed 5.1 l/100 km on extra-urban roads, which is still astoundingly frugal. In an inflationary economy, the Celerio is a heaven-sent piece of engineering.

Last Word

Aimed at young buyers, probably looking for their first car, or anyone who needs to add a ‘run around’ to their garage fleet, the Celerio is an excellent fuel saver while also offering a surprisingly fun and well-built package. With a starting price of just R174,900, the Celerio also happens to be one of the most affordable new offerings on the market, making it a no-brainer option for anyone looking for an affordable and fuel-efficient vehicle.

Report by BRYAN KAYAVHU | Images © Suzuki South Africa

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