Driven: Suzuki Celerio

The Suzuki Alto and Splash have reached the end of their lives so, in typically sensible Suzuki fashion, both models have been replaced by just one – the new Celerio.

It presents an appealing package on paper, with prices starting at just £6,999 for a car that packs DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity, air conditioning and alloy wheels as standard across the range.

That’s some £2,000 more than the old Alto though, which will see some budget-conscious buyers disappear off to the likes of Dacia. For those not controlling the purse strings quite so tightly, you’ll end up with a bigger and better equipped car.

It’s also sensible. As sensible as sensible ever gets. The cabin is surprisingly large, with plenty of leg and headroom in any seat, although it’s quite narrow so you’re occasionally left rubbing elbows with your passenger.

Up front you’ll find a somewhat bland dashboard that’s made from materials that feel pretty cheap, although it’s all extremely solid. Being kind, you’d say it looks hard-wearing.

Fire up the engine and the three-cylinder 1.0-litre engine barely makes a noise, but it does get the car moving reasonably quickly. The benchmark 0-62mph run is done and dusted in 13.5 seconds, which sounds slow but it’s just about enough to keep up with most traffic in the city. Once you’re up to speed, the ride quality is actually very good as is, somewhat surprisingly, the handling. Lessons have obviously been learned from its bigger Swift sibling.

Only the steering really lets things down, with a self-centering action that makes things feel a little awkward – it stops centering when there is still half a turn or so of the wheel still to go. At least the steering is incredibly lightweight. Combined with square sides and lots of glass for good visibility, it makes city driving extremely easy.

Those slab sides promise best-in-class practicality, with a boot that will swallow 254 litres of stuff. That’s bigger than a Volkswagen up! or Hyundai i10, but only by the smallest of margins.

Efficiency is also pretty good, with an official economy figure of 65.7mpg. Around the FSD test route (a collection of local motorway, country and urban that allow some kind of consistent comparison) it returned an impressive 59.7mpg. Emissions of 99g/km of CO2 means it’s car tax free, helping keep running costs down.

Euro NCAP crash safety testing gave the Celerio a slightly disappointing three stars, but UK models benefit from extra safety equipment, including curtain airbags. This, claim Suzuki, would see the car score a more acceptable four stars.

There’s a lot to like about the little Celerio then. It feels like an honest car, one that isn’t pretending to be all about smokey burnouts and lift-off oversteer. It just gets on with the job of being a city runabout without any fuss.

It looks pretty good value too. The £7,999 mid-range SZ3 model probably offers a better return for your money than the highly specified SZ4 model tested here, while running costs are very much kept in check by the frugal engine, low insurance costs and solid build quality. Sacrifice air-conditioning and a few other conveniences and you can pick up a Celerio SZ2 for less than £7,000, rivalling Dacia’s options.

Practical and cost-effective it may be, but it’s certainly not exciting or dynamic. That doesn’t matter though, as it’s all about value offering more space for less money than any of its rivals.

Except one. While the Celerio offered was a strong contender when it was released earlier in the year, Vauxhall has turned up with the new Viva since then. Luton’s finest might not have quite the same space inside, but it’s wrapped up in something that’s far smarter both inside and out, feels of a higher quality, is also well equipped and costs around the same amount of money.

The Viva also promises to hold its value a little better, although higher emissions means you’ll be paying a little bit of car tax.

It’s a case of swings and roundabouts. If you’re looking to save money over anything else, the entry-level Celerio will do you fine. If you want a little more refinement and luxury, then it’s harder to recommend the Suzuki over its latest rival.

Model Tested: Suzuki Celerio SZ4 1.0 Manual
Price: £8,999
Engine: 1.0-litre petrol
Top speed: 96 mph
0-62 mph: 13.5 seconds
Power: 68 PS (67 bhp)
Torque: 90 Nm (66 ft-lb)
Combined fuel economy: 65.7 mpg
Road Test economy: 59.7 mpg
CO2 Emissions: 99 g/km
VED Band: A / £0 per year
Car insurance group: 7E
Kerb weight: 835 kg

Phil Huff

Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, DAD.info and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.

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