It may not be the most popular kid in school but there is something intriguing about the 2016 Suzuki Celerio.Sure, it’s a bit of a wallflower compared to some of its funky, bubbly and cutesy competitors, however, until recently it was arguably one of the best micro cars you could buy – the cheapest drive-away option, deceptively spacious and a bit of fun to drive.
The Suzuki Celerio launched in Australia just over a year ago and CarAdvice has previously pitted the baby Suzuki against both the Nissan Micra and Mitsubishi Mirage in twin tests; the Celerio racking up two-from-two – but now things have changed.
The Micra has been axed and fresh blood has been introduced to the segment by way of the Holden Spark, which replaced the Barina Spark in March, and Kia Picanto, which landed in Australia for the first time late April. These new additions are moving the game forward with the Spark offering a touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity as standard, and the Picanto offering an automatic transmission for $14,990 drive-away. So does the 'Celery' - as we've fondly nicknamed it - have any ammunition left to fight this war?
Currently priced from $12,990 drive-away for the manual, it's likely to be the cheapest micro car on the road. The only one with cheaper list price is the Mitsubishi Mirage at $12,250, but that's before on-roads. The Celerio is only available in a single specification with a choice of either a five-speed manual or a continuously-variable transmission – though you pay extra for the auto.
When it comes to the sales figures, the segment leaders are typically the Holden Spark, Mitsubishi Mirage and Nissan Micra. The Celerio is technically the fifth highest, behind the combined total of Fiat 500 and Abarth sales.
This five-door, four-seat hatch has a 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine and its feature highlights include remote central locking, power windows and Bluetooth connectivity. If you'd like to personalise your Celerio, there are a few options. There are five colour choices; our test car is Mineral Grey metallic, there is also a no-cost white, another shade of grey, plus yellow and blue.
Available accessories include roof racks with attachments to carry either a bike or kayak, weather shields (which add zero sex-appeal!)... or how about dark side-body mouldings emblazoned with the Celerio logo that match the black bonnet protector? The accessories range also includes 14-inch alloy wheels - a damn sight more attractive than the 14-inch steel wheels with those hubcaps.
The one unquestionable benefit of micro cars is that they can be squeezed into parking spots too small for most other cars. The Celerio is 3.6 metres long, 1.6m wide and 1.54m tall. The Micra and Mirage are slightly longer, while both the Picanto and Spark are 5mm shorter.
What the Celerio does have that many of its competitors don't, is a real feeling of spaciousness inside. It also has a sense of charm and a bit of old-school character in its finishings, though it's a little rough around the edges.
There are zero soft-plastics over the dash or centre stack, just a bit of fabric trim on the doors that matches the seat material.
When in the driver seat, the nice, high driving position is instantly noticeable, even when seat is as low as it can go and headroom in the front is generous too. The Celerio feels higher-set on the road than in other baby city cars. The seats are very firm but seem to offer support in the right places.
There are small, narrow pockets in the door and they are sans-bottle holders, but there are two cupholders that are essentially sitting on the floor in front of the handbrake.
The gearshift is mounted part-way up the centre stack and below that, there's a strange gap in front of the cupholders. The carpet covered transmission tunnel is visible and that just seems like either the pieces didn't quite fit together, or if deliberate, a waste of space.
Positioned in front of the gearshift is a small storage nook that houses a 12V and USB outlet, but it's not quite big enough for an iPhone 6s to sit flat. There's also a small glove box but no centre console bin.
There's a small digital display that shows CD, FM, AM and media information, nothing fancy and it's very low-resolution. There are no buttons for functions like trip data, fuel economy and fuel range, instead there are two stalks that pop out of the instrument cluster where the information is displayed.
The power windows are a nice inclusion and the driver's side has a one-touch function to open it which comes in handy in parking lots when you have to grab a ticket.
The Celerio misses out on conventional steering wheel mounted controls, and instead has a cluster of three buttons positioned to the side of the column for Bluetooth, phone answer and phone disconnect.
In the backseat there is enough space for two adults to be comfortable with generous headroom and foot room, but knee room is a little less ample in comparison. The outboard seat-bases are lightly shaped, while the seat back is very flat which allows for more outside-elbow room.
Rear passengers do score bottle holders in the doors and there's a tiny storage bin where the centre console should be. There are no rear air vents and a map pocket on the back of the front passenger seat only.
Suzuki has been relatively liberal with providing cargo space: the Celerio has 254 litres which is bigger than the Micra at 251L, Mirage at 235L, Picanto at 200L and the Spark at 185L.
There's a thin floor cover over the space-saver spare wheel but the cover isn't firm enough to sit flush at the edges. As a result there's a bit of a gap and you could easily lose small items under it.
Out on the road, overall the Celerio has a certain charm and is fairly well behaved. Its 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine is teamed with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and produces a dainty 50kW of power and 90Nm of torque – it's weak, even compared to others in its class, and though it's willing enough once on the move it is lacking torque down low.
There is hesitation when taking off from a standstill, especially if you stamp your foot down. The Celerio would not make a good getaway car; when asked to launch into a sprint it behaves more like a wheezing smoker and quickly runs out of puff. But the three-pot has a bit of character that starts to shine through once it's rolling. It certainly becomes more eager to respond when on the move.
The ride is fairly compliant and doesn't get too upset by potholes or speed humps, though it can feel a little sharp over cobbles or road joins. Over coarse-chip surfaces, concrete and at speed on highways, road noise is evident and engine noise isn't stifled much either.
There's a bit of vagueness to the steering but it's still nice and light. Visibility is excellent thanks to its large side windows and the snub-nosed bonnet is easy to see over.
In recent years the minimum requirements for a five-star ANCAP safety rating have changed and more active safety technology as standard is needed to rate highly. The Suzuki Celerio only scored four stars when tested in 2015. Its test results however, were similar to the Mirage which has a five-star rating but was tested back in 2013. It remains to be seen whether the Mirage would score five-stars if tested today. However, both the Spark and Picanto achieved five-star ratings when tested this year.
At any rate, the Celerio has all of the basic safety features covered with six airbags, stability control, anti-lock brakes, front seat belt pre-tensioners and load limiters, and electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist.
The Celerio is also quite frugal on the road. During our time with it we recorded a figure of around 6.0 litres per 100km, slightly up on its 4.8L/100km combined cycle claim. Suzuki offers a three-year/100,000km warranty and a five-year capped-price servicing program.
The 2016 Suzuki Celerio offers spaciousness, feels solid on the road and isn't out-of-the-box like some of its competitors. Thanks to newcomers to the segment, it is now lagging behind when it comes to infotainment, and needs to up-the-ante to secure that five-star ANCAP safety rating next time. However, it remains one of the cheapest new-car options on the market and is right at home in the urban jungle.
Click on the Photos tab for more 2016 Suzuki Celerio images by Christian Barbeitos.