The Suzuki Celerio has become a case in point for the importance of Autocar's industry-leading road tests
Matt Prior
6 February 2015

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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Comments
12

6 February 2015
Before you go blowing Autocar's trumpet too loudly, I'd suggest that magazine tests are not THAT important in revealing serious car faults. In my experience, the little old lady driving 2 miles to the shops each day, is just as likely to discover serious failings as a professional tester's on the limit exploits. In fact, you could say that magazines have been negligent in not spotting many faults - dismissing, for example, lift-off oversteer in cars like the Peugeot 205 and early Porsche 911s as entertaining character traits, not problems. It begs the question just how serious was / is the Suzuki's problem? The fact that the "failure" happened twice suggests that nothing actually broke, and that issue may have been severe brake fade, or brake fluid boiling, rather than a mechanical issue. Granted these things should not happen, but then just what is the likelyhood of Celerio drivers subjecting their cars to repeated emergency stops from 80mph?

6 February 2015
LP in Brighton wrote:

.... It begs the question just how serious was / is the Suzuki's problem? The fact that the "failure" happened twice suggests that nothing actually broke, and that issue may have been severe brake fade, .....

Check the original report and you'll see they had TWO test cars.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

6 February 2015

LP, we had two test cars. The brake pedal assembly broke, the pedal went to the floor, and all braking force was lost during an emergency stop on the first.

The fact it was from 80mph is rather irrelevant to that - it was the force on the pedal, rather than the speed of the car, which broke it.

Yes, the driver was a young reviewer rather than a dear old lady popping to the shops, but that is not the point. If any driver treads on the stop pedal in an emergency, the car should brake - not break.

Suzuki then provided a second car to repeat the test and precisely the same thing happened. Car manufacturers do not issue worldwide recalls or suspend launches of cars without good reason.

6 February 2015
Yes it was two cars used Lp in Brighton both had the same problem , hence the immediate withdrawl from market.At least if a car is thrashed to its limits on aroadtest it should be safe for the old dear that may be travelling far too fast for her abilities if she is anything like my mum ,whom is 86

6 February 2015
Which begs the question, why should we rely on magazines conducting tests? Shouldn't the car have been subjected to an official government test before being allowed on the public road? Is there such a thing as government test? What does it include? Did this car pass? Same with 'the Elk test' all those years ago... Official bodies should be responsible for this, not some magazine who picks cars at random.

6 February 2015
scotty5 wrote:

Which begs the question, why should we rely on magazines conducting tests? Shouldn't the car have been subjected to an official government test before being allowed on the public road? Is there such a thing as government test? What does it include? Did this car pass? Same with 'the Elk test' all those years ago... Official bodies should be responsible for this, not some magazine who picks cars at random.

Agree with this. I work at a software company, we would never dream of releasing a product without a full QA and regression execution run.

How does Suzuki get away with selling a car that fails a magazine roadtest with no brakes?

A car that would be bought and used as a family car.

Suzuki should hang their heads in shame.

6 February 2015
Dear Autocar big bums on seat testers

Your technical and driven testing is very good and always worth a read apart from some clear bias from time to time - but seasoned readers know about this and take it with a pinch of salt.
WHAT we do need in every test is the following important information
1) service intervals
2) guarantee period (and pitfalls like the VW guarantees)
3) Posted costs of the service at such intervals

Thes are vital pieces of information which a car buyer needs - thank you for taking your bums off the seat and scrathing your collective brains..ohhhh thats where you keep them !! ...sorry just kidding

what's life without imagination

6 February 2015
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....

6 February 2015
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.

10 February 2015
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.

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