To understand the Celerio you have to acknowledge its price. Eight-and-a-half thousand pounds is an absurdly small sum for a brand-new car these days, so that a level of compromise is essential should be a given.
That the Celerio compromises less than many in its class speaks volumes of Suzuki’s dominance in this market; you might not know it but in Japan and India, for example, Suzuki is the major player.
So Suzuki knows that for a small, cheap car to succeed it needs to be honest. There is simply no point in scaling down a larger car by removing the good stuff and branding it as a cheap car: cheap cars need to be small and small cars need to be cheap.
The Celerio weighs just 845kg, so the little three-cylinder engine, which displaces less than one litre, doesn’t have a whole lot of work to do. It takes 13 seconds to reach 62mph from a standstill but feels faster thanks to the gruffness of the engine; you are never in any doubt that it is having to work hard but the engine noise is an endearing part of the whole experience.
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Vim and vigour
Driven gently the Celerio is an undemanding companion but driven with verve it shows a vim and vigour to its nature that you have no right to expect. It’s a joyous thing to drive when you’re in the mood for some fun, with a wonderful gearchange and a fine ride.
Understeer is strong, but a slight lift of the throttle will tighten the attitude nicely; it is very easy to adjust your cornering attitude using only the throttle, something keen drivers will love.
The brakes are a bit sharp on first application and will take some getting used to. They also lack ultimate stopping power but then the handling and ride is so good that you brake less than in many cars.
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The resulting conservation of momentum is good for the fuel economy: you’ll never match the official figure of 78.4mpg, but the 56mpg I managed should be easy to better because I was too busy having fun to worry about the fuel consumption.
WhatCar tested the same engine under real world conditions and found it to be the most economical car of its kind, returning 62.9mpg on average.
I drove it from North Wales to North Yorkshire and back, a serious journey of 400 miles along dual carriageways and motorways. The little Celerio was rock-solid, if a little noisy, loping along at 70mph without a care in the world.
I was baulked a couple of times by a slow lorry inching past one of his colleagues but the Celerio always had enough power to be able to regain its cruising speed without holding up the following traffic, even if I did need to drop down a gear or two to do so.
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Comfortable driving position
Interior space is good. At six foot three I found it easy to get into a comfortable driving position despite being shaped more like a rugby player than a footballer. Even then there was enough room in the back for two adults, something that is a rarity in this class.
The ergonomics are faultless, and the quality of materials and the overall finish is better than you have any right to expect, even if the Mii/Citigo/up! are slightly better.
It’s also got the biggest boot of all of its rivals at 254 litres with the rear seats up, and 726 litres folded down.
The under bonnet area isn’t painted to match the exterior and is one of the few areas in which Suzuki’s penny pinching is obvious.
The Bluetooth connection is also infuriatingly slow but other than that there was nothing that irritated or annoyed me. It’s a car that I would happily drive day in and day out, no matter how long the journey.
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The Celerio range starts at £6,999 for the basic SS2 rising to £9,799 for the SZ4 with an automated gear change.
I think the SZ3 with a manual gearbox is the sweet spot of the range, nicely balancing cost and features. The SZ3 costs £8,499 and potential buyers can only expect a very small discount in the showrooms of around £300 - and even that might take some achieving.
The Celerio is a car that gives you everything you need and nothing that you don’t. It’s a car of the old French school, a modern-day Citroen 2CV or Renault 4. If that sounds like your sort of car then you’ll love it. If not there is always a secondhand Golf.
For more car reviews and buying tips, browse our motoring articles.
Best-in-class – Suzuki Celerio: Small, cheap, fun and it comes with an engaging character as standard. It’ll carry the whole family - and quickly become a part of it.
The best of the rest – The SEAT Mii/VW up!/Skoda Citigo triumvirate are all enormous fun to drive and feel far more premium than their modest purchase price suggests.
Left-field alternative – The Hyundai i10: It’s a tiny bit more expensive than a lot of its rivals but it’s good to drive and it comes with a five-year warranty.
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