What is it?
It's the Celerio, from Suzuki, offering us more choice within the growing city car class.
This five-door hatchback will initially be sold alongside the Suzuki Alto and Splash, but it clearly overlaps with their remits. Suzuki refers to the car as an 'A+ compact', suggesting it sits between the likes of the Toyota Aygo and larger models such as the Ford Fiesta. The Celerio's dimensions back that up. It measures 3600mm long and 1600mm wide with a 2425mm wheelbase.
Luggage space is quoted as 254 litres with the rear seats occupied, or 726 litres with the seatbacks folded. That all compares favourably with one of the most spacious cars in the segment, the Hyundai i10, while a tall roofline also means that headroom is distinctly generous front and rear. A flat cabin floor unintruded by a transmission tunnel makes it possible for an adult to sit in the middle rear seat if necessary. On top of that, access to the back seats is made easy by wide-opening doors.
Euro NCAP awarded the Suzuki Celerio a below-par result of three stars this November, mainly due to a poor score in the side impact pole test. However, the crash-tested car did not feature curtain airbags, which are fitted as standard in the UK. It is thought that these could have altered the final score. Suzuki also fits airbags in the front for the driver and passenger, plus side airbags in the seats.
What's it like?
Up front, the driver and passenger sit upright and high up.
This makes getting into the car easier, but also enhances visibility in all directions. At parking speeds the light steering and other driving controls are a boon, although on the move the car's overall lack of weight means it's difficult to accurately place it on the road.
Exacerbating the issue is a near absence of self-centring through the steering system. Continuing a similar theme, the clutch is so light that it's impossible to feel the biting point. At least the five-speed manual gearbox is relatively slick and unobtrusive to use, though. This is mated to an economical engine, but not a powerful one. Our low-mileage test car felt particularly underpowered, even around town.
On the plus side, the three-cylinder unit is remarkably quiet and refined, being all but inaudible at idle. While the column stalks are a little flimsy (and that's not unusual in this class), the heating and ventilation controls and infotainment buttons are reassuringly solid and tactile to use. It stands up well next to the Suzuki Swift's cabin in that respect, even if much of the plastic trim feels durable rather than soft-touch.
A generous level of standard equipment enhances the ambience no end. Two trim levels will become available when the Celerio goes on sale in February 2015: SZ3 and SZ4. The full suite of safety systems will be standard at the entry-level price of £7999, including ESP stability control and a tyre pressure monitor.
On top of that are ISOFIX child seat anchor points, electric front windows, air conditioning, DAB radio with USB input, Bluetooth and 14in alloy wheels. The SZ4 adds subtle upgrades inside and out for a £1000 premium, including electric rear windows and electrically adjusted door mirrors.