A bud­get car with big ideas

It’s not one for road trips but it’s lekker for city traf­fic

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - AMIL UMRAW

SUZUKI’s new “XL Small Car”, the Cele­rio, may have a name that sounds like some­thing you can mix into a salad, but all jokes aside, this lil’ car can make quite a sat­is­fy­ing ap­pe­tiser in your garage.

Suzuki this week launched six Cele­rio mod­els — all with the same 1,0 three­cylin­der fuel-in­jected en­gine. Prices start at R109 900 for the en­try level GA with no ser­vice plan and top out at R139 k for the GL.

The op­tion of no ser­vice plan, by the way, is a good one for any­one who has a me­chanic in the fam­ily and full marks to Suzuki for al­low­ing this free­dom.

Another bit of free­dom in the two en­try level GA mod­els is the ra­dio — there isn’t one. There are, how­ever, two front speak­ers and an aerial plug just wait­ing for you to add that sound deal your un­cle got for you. A good air-con­di­tioner and two air bags com­plete the en­try level mod­els’ in­te­rior fit­tings’ list.

With the GL mod­els come a ra­dio, CD player with Blue­tooth, elec­tric mir­rors, fog lamps, power steer­ing and a tilt­ing steer­ing col­umn.

SPACE SUR­PRISE

On its lit­tle 14-inch steel wheels the Cele­rio’s styling isn’t go­ing to turn heads at the traf­fic light — its body shape looks like it could be the love-child of a Toy­ota Etios and a Dat­sun Go — but like those In­dian-built ri­vals, the Cele­rio also comes with more space inside than you’d think.

Which is why Suzuki calls it the “XL Small Car”. When I first fit­ted my­self inside, I didn’t re­ally grasp the amount of space at my dis­posal. But when I gave it a proper look around, I re­alised that if I dropped the back seats, I could have a lit­tle pic­nic for two in there.

I’m a big guy who nor­mally scrapes my coif against the roof lin­ing, but in this XL Suzi I can wear a Stet­son and not touch sides.

BE­ING A BIT OF A CREEP

I did not get to drive the Cele­rio with Suzuki’s new “au­to­mated man­ual gear­box”. The press state­ment says an elec­tro-hy­draulic ac­tu­a­tor “al­lows clutch­less op­er­a­tion of a man­ual gear­box with­out the en­ergy losses usu­ally as­so­ci­ated with con­ven­tional torque con­verter-based au­to­matic trans­mis­sions”.

The sys­tem syn­chro­nises clutch con­trol, gearshift ac­tion and en­gine speed, and has a creep func­tion to al­low smooth op­er­a­tion in stop-start city traf­fic.

Watch this space as we test drive that creep func­tion next.

PASS, PASS DAM­MIT!

The Cele­rio ticks a lot of boxes, but long road trips is not one of them. De­spite the peak torque start­ing at a rel­a­tively low 3 500 rpm, you only get 90 New­tons from that three-cylin­der block, which makes over­tak­ing the thou­sands of trucks on the N3 a mat­ter of con­stant swear­ing.

But drive this wee world car in the city and the fuel con­sump­tion will make you sing. All the Cele­rio asks is that you just tickle the go-faster pedal with the right toe and in re­turn it will give you 21 km per litre (4,6 l/100). De­pend­ing on your load and ter­rain, that could mean driv­ing 750 km on the 35-litre tank.

THE VER­DICT

With the fo­cus on econ­omy, the Cele­rio will never be the pep­per in a salad, but it could be the roasted broc­coli: af­ford­able, sur­pris­ingly tasty and very good for you.

All this makes it a very good con­tender for the ti­tle of per­fect bud­get car, be it for stu­dents or a granny who needs to run to the shops a few times a week. In this price range, the Cele­rio com­petes with the Dat­sun Go 1,2, the Geely MK 1,5, the Ch­ery QQ3 1,1, the Chevro­let Spark 1,0 and the Tata Indica 1,4 LE.

• Facts and im­pres­sions gath­ered dur­ing a Suzuki-spon­sored launch.

PHOTO: QUIKCPIC

Just tickle it: the Suzuki Cele­rio prom­ise over 20 km per litre if you take it easy.

PHOTO: QUICKPIC

Not to shabby Nige: the in­te­rior is neat in this price range and if you drop the back seats, you can have a lit­tle pic­nic in there.

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