The 2016 Suzuki Celerio may not be the first car that comes to mind when planning a return road trip from Sydney to Brisbane. However, CarAdvice videographer and editor, Brett Sullivan, wasn't daunted by the idea of driving one of Australia's cheapest and smallest cars on a 2000km round trip along one of Australia's busiest and longest highways. Though he had a special reason for making the journey.
I've always wanted a puppy but unfortunately my nephew is allergic to dogs. After doing some research I discovered that Labradoodles are hypoallergenic, meaning their fur isn't as irritating to those with an allergy. Finally having identified a breed of dog that would fit into my life, I scoured the internet and contacted almost every Labradoodle breeder in Australia.
As you could imagine, finding available puppies around Christmas time was a bit of a challenge, but luckily I managed to secure a labradoodle puppy in Queensland. Before I'd even met him, I'd named him Parker.
The fact that I lived in Sydney left me with two options; flying Parker down via freight, or driving up to meet him and bringing him home. I chose the latter because I thought it would provide the perfect chance for us to create a special bond throughout the trip. After deciding to drive the 1000km to Brisbane, I needed to consider a suitable car for the trip.
Should I take an SUV for the size and comfort? Or should I take a smaller car with better fuel economy? After pondering briefly I chose the Suzuki Celerio, which does sound like something found in a salad bowl. Jokes aside, this little package was not too shabby upon first glance.
It's one of the cheapest cars on the market in Australia, priced from $11,990 drive-away for the five-speed manual or $2000 more for the continuously variable transmission (CVT) that was on our test car. There's only one specification, and it has a one-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, with the choice of the two transmissions. Fuel economy is a claimed 4.7-litres per 100km for the manual and 4.8 for the automatic.
Though basic, the audio system has Bluetooth compatibility, MP3, CD and radio with a 12V, USB and auxiliary outlet. It's also got power windows and remote central locking, which is just enough kit at a really good price.
I set out from Sydney at 7am on a Saturday morning, my mum joining me for the journey to help share the driving and reduce fatigue. We packed the boot with our overnight luggage and found its 254-litre capacity comfortably accommodated a small suitcase and a couple of extra bags. We made our way out through the city and promptly encountered stop-start traffic. As traffic crept forward slowly, I found the braking solid and not too jarring.
Setting up the Bluetooth in the Celerio was a lot easier than I had anticipated. The controls on the unit are pretty basic and missing a few buttons like pause/play, but the sound quality of the four-speakers was better than expected, so we cranked the tunes. Mum is a bit of a Chris Issak and Michael Buble fan, which was great to test out the sound range between the music styles. Given the time we were spending on the road, being able to plug my phone into the USB port to keep it charged was handy.
After making our way out of the city and joining Highway 1 (A1 & M1 between Sydney and Brisbane), we were able to get a better idea of how the car was going to handle the next 9 hours. The speed limit jumped up to 110km/h and the Celerio steadily built up momentum. At that speed on relatively flat ground, the tachometer was reading around 3000rpm but the engine noise wasn't too loud in the cabin. When we climbed the occasional hill we did notice it struggle a little, straining to get the power it needed to maintain momentum up the slope.
When I think of the features I'd use the most during a long drive, cruise control and satellite navigation would be at the top of the list. Unfortunately the Celerio didn't have either, and they're not even optional features. Luckily we were able to use an iPhone and Google Maps to keep us on track, so the lack of in-built navigation wasn't an issue. At least I had a passenger to keep an eye on the phone while I was driving, and the ability to charge the phone meant we didn't need to stop at a servo to buy a Refidex or UBD (street directory). I did miss cruise control though, which would have made the trip more comfortable.
By midday we were starting feeling quite peckish so we pulled into Taree for a lunch break and the chance to stretch our legs. Coming back to the car 45 minutes later meant that our dark grey Celerio had been sitting in direct sunlight on a 30-degree day, absorbing the heat. Fortunately when we got back into the car and popped the air-conditioning on, the heat was quickly dispatched with the fan set to medium.
Further along the Pacific Highway, just after Kempsy, we hit road works which dropped the speed limit down to 80km/hr. On the rough surface I found the road noise was infiltrating the cabin to the point where conversation was quite difficult, and hearing the music on the radio was a struggle. On the other hand, the Celerio handled the bumps in a comfortable manner.
It was getting late in the afternoon and we needed somewhere to stay for the night. We hadn't booked ahead, deciding instead to play it by ear along the way. After quick search online, we found a hotel and used our phone with the car's Bluetooth to dial ahead. The receptionist on the other line had no issues hearing us and the audio was nice and clear.
As we finally rolled into Brisbane to get settled into our accommodation, I realised that we'd been travelling for 13 hours (though we did stop a few times to do a bit of sightseeing along the way). Admittedly, my body was pretty sore from sitting in the car all day, but not as much as I had expected given that it is a micro car and I am 190cm tall. The comfort of the drive was above average, but I sorely needed rest. Tomorrow I would be picking up Parker!
The breeder was conveniently around the corner from our hotel, so after taking full advantage of the buffet breakfast (we had a big day ahead) we jumped back in the car. It was no understatement to say that I was extremely excited. I have wanted a dog for about six years now and that moment had finally come.
Parker and I connected the instant we met.
Being my first dog, I admit that I have a lot to learn and thankfully the breeder provided us with some very useful information. She knew it would be a long drive for Parker and warned us that he may get carsick, not to mention the added distress of a new environment and family.
But I was confident that the Celerio would provide a welcoming and smooth transition into his new life. Certainly a car trip in the Celerio would have been far less distressing for Parker than being sent by airfreight.
With Parker settled in his crate, we were back on the road again. Our new little passenger quickly became understandably distressed so we pulled over to calm him down. I decided to jump in the back seats and secure him in the crate next to me so that I could comfort him.
He then settled very quickly and, as puppies tend to do, fell straight to sleep while being quietly talked to and gently patted. But then it occurred to me; I was in the back seat of this tiny little car and I was actually quite comfortable too. The leg space was great and I still had a good four or five-inches of headroom.
After what can only be described as another epic day on the road, we finally arrived back in Sydney at around 10.30pm. We were all exhausted, but I was so excited to welcome Parker to his new home.
Click on the Photos tab for more images by Brett Sullivan