Currently reading: Matt Prior's tester's notes - why the Autocar road test is so important
The Suzuki Celerio has become a case in point for the importance of Autocar's industry-leading road tests

The reasons we conduct performance tests were thrown into sharp focus recently by the travails of the Suzuki Celerio, whose brake pedal, and any accompanying deceleration, failed catastrophically under the foot of one of our testers. Twice.

It’s barely comprehensible, is it? Cars cover hundreds of thousands of test miles during their development at a cost of hundreds of millions of pounds.

Even our limited tests have our publishers fingering their collars, because we spend close to six figures on them every year. Car makers spend years and nigh on 10 figures developing every new model.

And yet here we are. Through the Autocar and What Car? tests, you and Suzuki know about the failings of the Celerio. Its fault, whether ingrained in development or the result of deviation from the design spec, will be outed soon enough.

It’s rare that magazine performance tests reveal such significant problems. The last notable mechanical failure we had was with a Morgan 3 Wheeler, which received upgraded suspension components after its wishbones failed in our hands on a test track.

Usually, common defects slowly emerge only after myriad accident reports appear and are correlated, like the one affecting airbags supplied by Takata. Some of its bags have inflated with such force that the inflator bursts, too, deploying high-velocity shards of metal as well as the airbag towards the car’s occupants.

The problem stretches back more than a decade, but the first recall – then affecting only six car makers, all in the US – wasn’t raised until 2013. Two years on, more than two dozen manufacturers are affected and more than 24 million cars worldwide have been recalled.

It is a vast problem with a slow fix. Court cases pending in the US will determine whether it’s unacceptably slow.

Magazine tests typically find the opposite: small issues, easily resolved. But there are more significant landmarks. Swedish magazine Teknikens Värld’s 1997 discovery of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class’s elk-dodging shortcomings not only helped to fix that car but also led to the introduction of electronic stability programs throughout the industry.

Today, Mercedes is able to talk about the elk test with a smile, which would have been impossible if it were customers rather than a magazine who discovered the problem.

Ultimately, it’s better for a car maker that faults occur in repeatable, controlled tests than at the hands of customers, even if it means an embarrassing, expensive and very public conversation. What looks like a bad day for Suzuki and a good day for our testers is infinitely preferable to the alternative.

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Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

Join the debate

Add a comment…
Daniel Joseph 6 February 2015

Another contribution nobody can see...

Anyone listening at Autocar..?
Daniel Joseph 6 February 2015

Whatever the rights and

Whatever the rights and wrongs of what happened beforehand regarding testing by Suzuki, well done to Autocar for discovering this fault and, potentially, saving lives. Putting aside the braking problem, which will be resolved in due course, it is very disappointing to see the company responsible for the excellent and still competitive Swift producing such a dreary and regressive car as this.
Andrew 61 6 February 2015

Autocar did everybody a

Autocar did everybody a favour finding this fault and well done to them :-) There are other faults that can be just as bad but are not highlighted as vocally, such as driver visibility when car designers insist on fitting very raked windscreens and thick A pilers....
scotty5 6 February 2015

Andrew 61 wrote:Autocar did

Andrew 61 wrote:

Autocar did everybody a favour finding this fault and well done to them :-) There are other faults that can be just as bad but are not highlighted as vocally, such as driver visibility when car designers insist on fitting very raked windscreens and thick A pilers....

100% agree. There's more chance of me having a serious accident whilst trying to operate a touchscreen than there ever is of me ever meeting an Elk.

Alexanda 10 February 2015

Deer near

We may not have 8 foot tall Elk's but we do have deer in this country. And a deer being smaller, still regularly 4-5 foot, can easily go over your bonnet and through the windscreen, and you can imagine the rest. I regularly have to stop for deer near to where I live, thank goodness not in an A-class. PS I am of the generation that loves ipod, screens etc. I do not operate my ipod whilst driving as it is dangerous, so are most screens if you are making a choice. IMO it is easier to talk on a phone then operate a screen/menu selection whilst driving. As the Welsh government proved with their tests a few years ago. Texting whilst driving is far more dangerous then talking on a phone.