Brian Bas­sett finds the same val­ues that cre­ated this Suzu­light in 1958 still un­der­pin the new Suzuki Cele­rio su­per­mini to­day.

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - BRIAN BAS­SETT

SUZUKI does not ad­ver­tise much na­tion­ally in South Africa and this leads to some con­fu­sion about the brand and its in­di­vid­ual mod­els.

In a snap tele­phonic poll amongst eight friends, all knew the brand but only one could name a model, namely the Swift.

No one had heard of the Cele­rio, al­though one thought it might have some­thing to do with the Honda Brio.

What no one could un­der­stand was why I was ex­cited to drive this lit­tle car, be­cause of its rep­u­ta­tion for space, sound pack­ag­ing and un­usual not-quite au­to­matic gear­box. It is also a sign of am­bi­tion and imag­i­na­tion from Ja­pan’s su­per­mini and 4x4 spe­cial­ists.

We thank Des-Marie Vic­tor, new car sales man­ager at Honda Fury, PMB, for lend­ing us the car for a few days for re­view.

Styling

Cele­rio means Ce­les­tial River and it is an easy name to re­mem­ber. De­spite the ro­man­tic name the Cele­rio is not ex­tro­vert, but a quite con­ven­tional-look­ing hatch, ob­vi­ously de­signed to pro­vide as much in­te­rior space as pos­si­ble.

The car projects an air of qual­ity with a prom­i­nent front grille and cen­trally-placed Suzuki badge and, be­neath the built-in bumper a fur­ther black grille is flanked by fog lights.

At the sides there are sculpted styling fea­tures, while a high roof leads to a wide, con­ve­nient tail­gate and large tail lights.

The car is easy to en­ter or exit for pas­sen­gers of all ages. The re­sult is a fairly at­trac­tive, well­built, un­pre­ten­tious car with some on-road pres­ence.

In­te­rior

Most Suzuki dash­boards look alike. Hard, black, durable plas­tic, which has been well put to­gether.

Ev­ery­thing is where you would ex­pect it to be. The ana­logue gauges are right in front of the driver for safety. The air con­di­tion­ing and au­dio con­trols are on the cen­tral stack, while the au­dio and Blue­tooth con­trols are re­peated on the typ­i­cal three-spoke Suzuki steer­ing wheel.

The elec­tric side mir­rors and win­dows have their con­trols con­ve­niently ledged into the driver’s door. The seats are ro­bustly cov­ered in a pat­terned ma­te­rial and the driver’s seat is height ad­justable. The steer­ing can also be height ad­justed.

The in­te­rior has ex­cel­lent head­room and more space than ex­pected. Even at the rear it was pos­si­ble to ac­com­mo­date two adults in rel­a­tive com­fort for in­ter­me­di­ate-range jour­neys.

The three rear seat­belts do ap­pear a bit too op­ti­mistic, as the two chunky adults I put into the ve­hi­cle had no day­light be­tween them. The boot space of 235 litres is class lead­ing and, with the rear seats folded down in 60/40 fash­ion this rises to 707 litres.

Safety and se­cu­rity

The Cele­rio, un­like some of the com­pe­ti­tion, has ABS.

In South African driv­ing con­di­tions I find it dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand why some brands con­tinue to of­fer their lower-spec mod­els with­out this safety fea­ture.

The Cele­rio has driver and pas­sen­ger airbags, seat­belts for all; child-proof rear door locks, a high-mounted stop lamp, as well as a se­cu­rity alarm and im­mo­biliser.

Per­for­mance and han­dling

The Cele­rio is a town car and in town the ride is firm but not harsh. Usu­ally one finds that small town cars do cer­tain things well at the ex­pense of oth­ers, but the Cele­rio of­fers a wide range of tal­ents. The three-cylin­der, 998cc petrol en­gine puts out 50 kW/90 Nm and even when driven hard the car man­aged 5,5l/100 km, which is very good.

The Cele­rio is not par­tic­u­larly pow­er­ful and 0-100 km/h takes about 18 sec­onds.

Top speed is around 155 km/h. The car ap­pears com­posed and se­cure and in heavy, wild traf­fic such as you have on a Fri­day af­ter­noon in PMB, the car is sup­ple and quite ath­letic.

In fact it has an un­ex­pected amount of dy­namic abil­ity backed by good body con­trol on the Mid­lands back roads.

The steer­ing is re­spon­sive and the car is a re­spectable part­ner on the N3.

Shift­ing gears

The unique and in­ter­est­ing Auto Gear Shift needs to be ex­pe­ri­enced to be ap­pre­ci­ated and there are those who will not like it, but I per­son­ally thought that it rep­re­sents a ef­fec­tive method of avoid­ing the con­sid­er­able cost and main­te­nance of a full auto box, while pro­vid­ing its con­ve­nience.

The box is es­sen­tially a fivespeed man­ual trans­mis­sion cou­pled to a hy­draulic unit that con­trols its op­er­a­tion. The unit sits above the trans­mis­sion and ob­vi­ates the need for a man­ual clutch. There is no cog for park so you have to use the hand­brake.

Gearshifts are no­tice­able, es­pe­cially up-shifts, as the unit strives to keep up with the ac­cel­er­a­tor po­si­tion.

While the sys­tem works well, it is not for en­thu­si­as­tic driv­ing, but for com­fort in traf­fic. I per­son­ally would use the man­ual for free­way driv­ing. The point, how­ever, is that, be­cause of the al­most-man­ual na­ture of the gear­box Suzuki is able to of­fer great value, low main­te­nance and bril­liant fuel con­sump­tion.

Costs and the com­pe­ti­tion

The en­try model comes in at around R128 000 and the GL Auto will cost you about R155 000. The car has a 3-star Euro NCAP rat­ing and comes with a five-year or 200 000 km guar­an­tee and five-year or 90 000 km ser­vice plan.

This is a crowded mar­ket sec­tor so look at amongst oth­ers the Ford Figo, Dat­sun GO, Honda Brio, Hyundai I10, Kia Pi­canto, Toy­ota Aygo, Tata Bolt and Volkswagen Polo Vivo.

PHOTO: WIKIPEDIA

PHOTO: SUZUKI

The Cele­rio has all the su­per­mini hall­marks — good head room and ath­letic han­dling.

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