The A+ given by Suzuki to their all-new global City Car – the five door,
Celerio with its 1.0-litre, 68hp three cylinder petrol, is not its performance rating but refers to its size.
The new City Car + model is priced at £7,999 for the best selling SZ3 version and £8,999 for the SZ4 and UK sales start on 1 February with 220 orders already placed.
The Celerio replaces Suzuki’s Alto City Car range of 1.0-litre petrol models priced from £7,199 but currently on run-out offer at £5,999. Celerio also replaces the slightly larger five door Splash 1.0 and 1.2-litre petrol models which were priced from £7,999.
City Cars, or A-sector as the Society of Motor Manufacturers categorises them, remain popular in the UK with a 4.6% sales increase last year to 84,237 units representing 3.4% of the new car market. Ed Norman, Suzuki GB’s product planning manager thinks true A-sector sales are much larger than the official figures because the boundaries between the A and B-sectors have become blurred. Some City Cars like the Celerio are getting larger and encroaching into B-sector supermini size territory. In fact at the UK media launch for the Celerio this week he said their estimated figures show UK sales numbers for the new A+ sector were worth 218,815 units last year.
Suzuki GB expects to sell around 6,000 Celerio units in a full year against the 14,000 total annual sales for the outgoing Alto and 3,500 for the Splash. As Suzuki GB’s aim in 2015 is to equal the 37,400 record total achieved last year, where is the 9,500 sales shortfall going to be made up especially as the Grand Vitara SUV has also been discontinued? Ed Norman reply was for them to sell more units of the Swift supermini, the SX4 S-Cross crossover, the Jimny small 4×4 and the all-new Vitara compact crossover to be launched in the Spring.
Much depends on the public acceptance of the Thailand built and larger Celerio. It is expected to appeal to existing Alto and Splash loyal Suzuki customers and to mainly retail buyers moving from other brands. There will also be an opportunity for some additional fleet/business and Motability sales with Celerio due to its compact size, larger interior space, improved specification, price and low running costs.
The CO2 emissions for the 1.0-litre 68hp engine are 99g/km so VED road tax is free-of-charge, the official Combined Cycle fuel economy is 65.7mpg and Benefit-in-Kind company car tax is 12%. In April an AGS (Auto Gear Shift) clutchless gearbox option will become available with this engine for around an extra £500 again with the same CO2 emissions and fuel consumption figures as the five-speed manual models. An even cleaner and more fuel efficient Dualjet (twin-injectors per cylinder) version of the 1.0-litre triple-cylinder petrol engine with a manual gearbox will be introduced in April. The CO2 emissions go down to 84g/km and fuel economy up to 78.4mpg and a price increase is expected to be in the region of £500. Company car tax will be 11%. Suzuki GB expects up to 10% of customers to choose this version.
The Celerio with its A+ size of 3,600mm length with five doors, five seats and 254-litres boot capacity means it can be used as a city commuter car for the young and not so young, a family’s second car or the main car for ‘empty nesters’. Its main competitors will be the Toyota Aygo, Peugeot 108, Citroen C1, Kia Picanto, Hyundai i10, VW Up, Skoda Citigo, Seat Mii and Fiat 500.
At the UK media test driving event around the A/B roads and motorways of Leicestershire we had the opportunity to drive the new Celerio five door A+ sized City Car with the 1.0-litre, three-cylinder 68hp petrol engine with the top of the range SZ4 specification. This is a revised version of the engine used in the outgoing Alto and Splash models. This engine will account for 90% of Celerio sales even after the slightly cleaner and more fuel efficient Dualjet version is introduced in April. Although only the top spec SZ4 trim and equipment models were available for testing the lower cost SZ3 level will be the most popular taking 75% of UK sales.
The Celerio SZ3’s core specification includes air conditioning, Bluetooth, 14-inch alloy wheels, CD tuner with DAB radio, two-speakers, tachometer, computer display, remote central locking, height adjustable driver’s seat, 60/40 split folding rear seats, electrically operated front windows, electronic stability programme and front, side and curtain airbags. The SZ4 spec level additions are black polished 14-inch alloy wheels, body colour door mirrors, electrically adjustable door mirrors, front foglights, four-speakers, rear electric windows and front seatback pockets.
Although the global sales Celerio model is claimed to be all-new styling wise it is an evolution of Suzuki’s well known City Car design used for the outgoing Alto and Splash models. With an overall length of just 3,600mm and a width of 1,600mm it retains the tall-height body style now being 1,540mm. There are four 90-degree wide-opening passenger doors and the extra height gives ample headroom for easy access. The extra width will be appreciated by the rear seat passengers and can accommodate three adults at a squeeze. Behind the seats is a 254-litre deep boot, the largest in its sales sector and with the rear seats folded down this goes up to a roomy 726-litres.
Its high spec, low price and the interior space for occupants and luggage are the Celerio’s main reasons-to-buy features. The quality of the interior is acceptable, the plastics are a bit hard but the seats are comfortable and the equipment impressive. Ride comfort is also very good for such a relatively small car. The suspension does good job of smoothing out humps, bumps and potholes, usually bugbears for small cars. Given its height there is a fair amount of body lean during cornering at higher speeds but the grip even on damp roads seemed trustworthy with the steering light and predictable. There was noticeable wind and road noise intrusion into the vehicle but given its price that is understandable. A bit more sound-proofing would not go amiss. The tall body height and large glass areas make visibility for parking good although I would like to see rear parking sensors fitted to make squeezing into small parking spaces a bit easier.
As for the engine performance; the 1.0-litre, three-cylinder normally aspirated Euro-6 compliant petrol engine has been refreshed to improve fuel economy and lower emissions. It is still a high revving unit with the distinctive triple-cylinder growl under acceleration but generally this unit seemed quieter and smoother than most other small capacity triples. Maximum torque of 90Nm (66lb ft) is delivered at 3,500rpm but even so it proved to be responsive at low in-town speeds and relatively lively accelerating along open roads. It is mated with a five-speed manual gearbox with an automated transmission to come in April. It would have given more refined performance cruising at motorway speeds if a sixth gear had been available.
Officially this engine will return 65.7mpg in the Combined Cycle and on our test drive with two people in the car the real-life figure was an impressive 56.3mpgh. With CO2 emissions of only 99g/km road tax is nil cost. Top speed is a modest 97mph but it held its own happily cruising at 70mph on the motorway. The zero-to 62mph figure is 13.5-seconds. The insurance group rating has yet to be announced but around Group 7/8 would seem possible.
This small but capable car has a big job to do for Suzuki if they are to maintain their UK sales success. It has the potential to meet that task but it’s a competitive market and growing sales sector where low prices and running costs are the priorities.
MILESTONES: Suzuki Celerio 1.0 SZ4 5-Door City Car. Prices: From £7,999 and £8,999 as tested, PCP personal contact purchase expected to be from £99 per month. Engine/transmission: 1.0-litre, 3-cylinder, normally aspirated Euro-6 petrol engine 68hp, 90Nm of torque at 3,500rpm, 5-speed manual. Performance: 96mph, 0-62mph 13.5-seconds, 65.7mpg Combined Cycle (56.3mpg on test), CO2 99g/km, VED road tax £0, BIK company car tax 12%. Insurance group rating: TBC. Warranty: 3-years/60,000-miles. Dimensions/capacities: L 3,600mm, W 1,600mm, H 1,540mm, boot/load space 254 to 726-litres, five seats. For: High spec, low price, low running costs, roomy and comfortable for a City Car, easy to drive. Against: Functional over fun to drive, road/wind noise intrusion, no official five-star safety rating but UK spec cars have more airbags. Miles Better News Agency