Maruti’s small cars are always much-awaited and come pre-loaded with market-shaking potential. It is, however, true that after the Swift, there hasn’t been a hatchback from Maruti-Suzuki that has really rocked the passenger car market.
But, the next small car from Maruti – the Celerio, due out at the Auto Expo next week, looks like it can disrupt the market.
The Celerio has been developed from the ground up on a completely new platform and has been endowed with a special automatic gearbox that Maruti officials believe with revolutionise the way we drive. The design of the Celerio is based on the A-Wind concept that Suzuki showcased at the Thai Auto show. Find best offers on Celerio
This new hatch has been built to fit into and complement Maruti’s portfolio of small cars, but it is also meant to take on new competitors in the segment such as the Hyundai Grand i10. The Celerio is just a bit smaller than the Grand i10 in terms of length and width, but matches the wheelbase and is even a bit taller than the latter
From various angles the Celerio brings to mind the Toyota Etios Liva, especially that smiling grille with the twin smiling slats flanking the Suzuki Logo. In fact, if you took off the Suzuki logo and replaced it with a Toyota badge you could easily fool anyone into mistaking this car for the latter. As it is, driving this car on the busy roads around Jodhpur did not elicit much interest from the very people who would in the near future be buying this car, the aam janta! And let me tell you in the past there hasn’t been a single new car that hasn’t grabbed attention on these drives.
At the front, the bumper is a strong element of the design and looks sturdy and well-sculpted, though the inverted curve to the lower air dam and the single fog lamps scooped inside the bumper continue to remind you of the Etios Liva. I like the hood which has this slight clamshell effect to it and gives the Celerio a sporty character.
The side profile is sculpted with two sweeping character lines that appear running parallel to each other. The one running along the shoulder starts at the fender and sweeps upwards towards the rear window with a sculpted kink. The outside rear view mirrors with integrated turn lamps and smaller indicator lamps on the fenders are the only ornaments that give this profile a sparkle. The rear is my least favourite area. The tallish tail lamps look a bit out of place, though the chunky bumpers look quite in sync with the rest of the body shell. The rear tail gate can only be accessed from the outside and not from within the car.
Where dimensions are concerned, the Celerio is comfortably long and wide, though to put it in comparison, it’s shorter in length than the Hyundai Grand i10 though taller by a few inches. At 2.425 metres, however, both hatchbacks share the same wheelbase and that also means the Celerio has substantial amounts of interior space, especially knee room, just like the Grand i10.
As with the exterior, Maruti has played it very safe with the cabin. The two-tone dashboard uses a rather basic design, and though the instrument cluster is easy to read, it looks very bland. Plastic quality is good, but still not up there with Hyundai. It scores decently on practicality too, and though the front door pockets are slim, the rear ones house bottle holders. There’s another bottle holder between the front seats, a pair of cupholders near the gear lever and a medium-size glovebox. For luggage, you have 235 litres once you get past the tall loading lip, but you can also split-fold the seat for even more room.
Space is a strong point of the Celerio, with good headroom in all seats. Three adults in the back is a bit of a squeeze, but legroom is decent, and you get a good sense of space too. Apart from a slightly short seat squab and the low-set, fixed head restraints, the seats are really comfortable as well. Even the fixed-headrest front seats, though they don’t look the plushest, serve up a good mix of softness and support. The equipment level is acceptable and this ZDi (O) gets features like Bluetooth, driver’s seat height adjustment, steering-mounted controls, electrically adjustable mirrors, ABS and two airbags.
The Celerio is being offered only with a petrol engine, though there are rumours already that Maruti Suzuki has developed a small, diesel engine in-house for use in the car. The same may be showcased at the Expo and potentially make it to showrooms late this year or early next year.
The engine that the Celerio will be launched with is the same one-litre K 10B engine that is currently available in the A-Star, Alto K10 and the Wagon-R. The engine is being offered in the same state of tune too. (See the Tech Spec box for more info.)
The story of the Celerio is actually inside the bonnet, but if the engine is a carry over, then what is different?
It is the new automatic gearbox that Maruti and Suzuki engineers have developed specially for the car, and which promises to be frugal both in terms of costs and in terms of fuel consumption. The new EZ Drive auto gear shift promises to do just that shift the gears on your behalf and it is a unique solution that is going to lead to a lot of clones cropping up amongst competitors. (Read more about it in the adjoining story).
The Celerio drives like a perfect city car. For an engine in this class, there is enough power and torque available on tap for all sorts of urban driving conditions and some more for the average highway cycle. The car is also offered with a 5-speed manual gearbox.
The suspension is soft enough to iron out road imperfections but the light car that it is, allows Maruti to keep the tune stiff enough for the Celerio to feel composed at high speeds. You don’t feel as nervous north of 100kmph in the Celerio as you would in an i10. The Celerio is a predictable handler too, fun to chuck around corners when you pick up the pace but the tyres could have offered more grip, especially in the diesel as there is more weight up front.
It is a given that a Maruti has to be an easy car to use in the city, and with the Celerio it’s no different. Light steering and good visibility out of the cabin coupled with nearly straight lined sides make for some precision driving when you are weaving through traffic. If there is one drawback in the diesel, it’s the lack of low end punch.
The Celerio CNG is one of the most affordable hatchback in its segment and is the perfect package. The Wagon R’s interiors have started to look aged and the Celerio is a better option to pick as you will look at keeping the car for a period of three to five years. At the price and the mileage, Celerio CNG is a great buy. Wish it was also available in the ZXi variant also