Maruti Suzuki Celerio - Introduction
Maruti’s all-new Celerio sets the tone for what could be an exciting new chapter in Indian motoring history. Equipped with an Auto Gear Shift, or what Maruti-Suzuki calls ‘EZ Drive Technology’, the new Celerio aims to provide the convenience of an automatic transmission without the traditional disadvantages, viz. poorer fuel efficiency, which used to dog traditional automatic transmissions.
So does it work? That’s what we’re here to find out.
Maruti Suzuki Celerio - Design & Engineering
The Celerio's rear is reminsicent of the Alto 800. Not the prettiest behind in the business, but the flat sides do add to roominess.
The new Celerio is a global model, but Indian customers will view it more as a replacement for the outgoing Maruti-Suzuki A-Star, which it is, in a sense. It is bigger than the A-Star in every dimension, being both longer and wider, and riding on a bigger wheelbase as well. But it is between 50 to 60 kilos lighter than the A-Star, thanks in large part to newer construction techniques and the use of lighter materials.
Prices for the new Maruti-Suzuki Celerio however, start just under the Rs 4 lakh mark (ex-showroom), and if you compare variant to variant, the Celerio is only a couple of thousand rupees more than the A-Star. The biggest difference in Maruti’s approach this time though, is that it is offering two variants of the Celerio Auto Gear Shift – LXi and VXi, whereas previously Maruti offered the A-Star Automatic in VXi trim only. Prices for the new Maruti-Suzuki Celerio range from Rs 4.4 lakh for the base LXi manual to Rs 5.5 lakh for the range-topping ZXi Option. The Celerio VXi AMT we tested retails for Rs 5.12 lakh, all on-road prices in Kolkata.
The Celerio looks best from this angle.
So what is this Auto Gear Shift technology? Put simply, it is a conventional manual transmission with an automatic clutch. Modern control electronics, managed by the Celerio’s ECU, send a signal to the clutch actuator to engage or disengage the clutch as required. The ECU or electronic control unit gathers numerous inputs, including throttle position (the Celerio has a drive-by-wire throttle), present gear, fuel flow rate etc, and decides when to shift gears.
The rest of the Celerio is fairly conventional by modern compact car standards, with McPherson front suspension, a twist beam rear axle, front disc brakes and rear drum brakes.
Watch the Maruti Suzuki Celerio Test Drive video below:
Maruti Suzuki Celerio - Interiors & Comfort
Maruti has spent considerable time on making the Celerio’s interiors functional yet durable, and even the level of fit and finish is better than other compact cars from it stable, including the more expensive Ritz. The Charcoal grey and beige colour scheme is pleasant on the eye. Both the front and rear seats have integrated headrests, which makes the seats cheaper to manufacture. Further, the front seatbacks are quite thin, and have been hollowed out in the middle to increase the rear passenger leg room.
Celerio AMT is as easy to use as a conventional automatic. Note however, that there is no "P" for "Park" slot. AC very effective.
The VXi variant of the Celerio Auto Gear Shift we drove comes with power steering, air-conditioning, 4 power windows, central locking without remote and a 60:40 split-folding rear seat.
Driver ergonomics are good, and while the front seats do taper away at the top, they still remain reasonably comfortable. I appreciated the roomy footwell, which felt particularly generous without a clutch pedal.
Our model Ritwik isn't exacly petite, but the Celerio offers reasonable space at the rear. Short seat squab limits comfort on long drives, however.
The rear seat too is quite accommodative, with good leg room and headroom. The Celerio is reasonably wide as well, so you can seat three passengers in the back, although the middle passenger will not enjoy the contoured seats the other two passengers will.
Maruti claims the Celerio has 235 litres of boot space. While the boot did indeed appear quite commodious, the high load lip means you will need to lift heavy suitcases over the sill.
What I did find useful were the many storage options within the cabin. The Maruti Celerio has bottle holder in all four doors, two cup holders ahead of the gear lever, a bottle holder aft of the handbrake, and map pockets in all the doors. These may sound trivial, but it is these little things that customers appreciate, and indicates that Maruti has its ear to the ground in giving the Indian car buyer what he or she wants.
Celerio interior offers lots of functional storage room. VXi trim we tested has manually adustable ORVMs. The base LXi makes do with a single wing mirror, while on the ZXi the mirrors can be electrically adjusted.
Maruti Suzuki Celerio - Performance & Handling
Under the hood of the new Celerio is a reworked version of Maruti’s familiar 3-cylinder K10 engine. While it displaces the same volume, it has revised tuning and a new cylinder head. Maruti calls this engine K-Next. The valvetrain of the Celerio’s K-Next engine has been designed to minimize fuel wastage through optimal valve timing. The electronic throttle we were talking about earlier plays a part in ensuring the Celerio’s engine’s valves opening and closing do not overlap, leading to unnecessary wastage of fuel, especially when idling in traffic.
Celerio's performance is more than adequate for mostly city use. The AMT is a breeze to drive.
The Auto Gear Shift is very simple to operate and use, and features just Drive, Neutral and Reverse functions. Of course, you have the option of changing gears in the Celerio manually as well. For this, you need to tap the gear lever to the left from the Drive position. Thence, you need to simply tap the lever forward to downshift and back to upshift. While this is fun to play around with, it will have some utility when driving in hilly terrain, especially with a full complement of passengers and luggage.
For most daily driving, the Celerio shifts gears optimally, and it really is one of the easiest cars to drive in traffic. Maruti’s engineers have tuned the Celerio well, and never one did I feel it was in the wrong gear. There was just one mild irritant however, and that is the Celerio’s propensity to immediately shift to a higher gear when your foot comes off the throttle. This can be slightly irritating given the stop-start nature of Indian traffic, but we can understand that the engineers wanted to err on the side of fuel efficiency.
The Celerio’s demeanour is in no way exciting or sporty, and if anything, it lacks the cheeky nature the A-Star had. It drives in a more grown-up way, and some may even call it staid or boring. But that’s not a bad thing, if you ask me. Maruti has worked hard at optimizing all aspects of the Celerio’s mechanicals, and it shows. The power steering feels more natural, with none of the curious weighting just off centre that otherwise seemed to blight so many other Marutis. The suspension also works better too, with fewer side-to-side and vertical moments, particularly when driving over rumblers. Straight line stability at speed was also just fine. But don’t expect to have fun throwing the Celerio around bends, because that is just not in its nature.
Maruti Suzuki Celerio - Fuel Efficiency
The Celerio's 3-cylinder K-Next engine manages to give mileage of 23.1 km/l, which is class-leading.
Maruti claims the Celerio will manage to travel 23.1 km in one litre of petrol. These figures hold true for both the conventional 5-speed manual and the 5-speed Auto Gear Shift. That’s considerably more than what the A-Star was rated at, which was 19 km/l. Just shows you how technology progresses. Of course, a lot has to do with Maruti’s new approach with drive by wire, and sophisticated valve timing and control, but it does point the way to the future. That the Auto Gear Shift, for all intents to all people an “automatic” can manage the same figures is truly commendable. But this is all theory and ARAI figures.
How fuel efficient is the Celerio in the real world? Surprisingly, on a test loop through the heart of Kolkata on a hot afternoon with the AC on and two people in the car, the Celerio managed just shy of 16 km/l. That is indeed very good.
Maruti Suzuki Celerio - Safety
Do we have a grouse with Maruti and its latest baby, the Celerio? Yes we do. And that has to do with the step-fatherly treatment towards safety. ABS and airbags are available only on the ZXi Option variant of the Celerio. For a Rs 50,000 premium over the ZXi, the ZXi Option gives you front fog lamps, alloy wheels, and an anti-theft system with a constant floating code. The other versions of the Celerio have to do without ABS or airbags. This is a regressive step in my opinion, especially considering the A-Star automatic offered ABS as standard. Agreed, Indian customers don’t appear to want to pay for safety features, but then India’s leading car manufacturer has to take the lead in this regard, offer these features as standard, at least on the mid and top versions. For those customers who opt for the Auto Gear Shift, and very many have and many more will, ABS and airbags are not even an option.
Maruti Suzuki Celerio - Verdict
Maruti-Suzuki’s dominance of the Indian car market is being constantly challenged, but this Indo-Jap combine has truly got its finger on the pulse of the Indian customer. Whether by creating new segments (think Ertiga), or dominating others, Maruti has constantly reinvented itself. With the Celerio, it has done exactly that once again.
By offering a combination of space, utility, great fuel efficiency, and by offering an all-new technology like the Auto Gear Shift, Maruti has positioned itself successfully as the pre-eminent maker of compact cars. There’s very little to fault with the new Celerio. Agreed, it is not the prettiest, especially from the rear, and it isn’t particularly exciting to drive. It also must be docked points for not offering safety features, even as a cost option, for customers opting to buy the Auto Gear Shift variants.
But then the new Celerio’s strengths far outweigh its weaknesses. It is spacious, comfortable, easy to drive, well built, very fuel efficient and good value for money. This is a car which deserves the accolades it has received, and Maruti is reaping the benefit.
I hope Maruti-Suzuki accepts some critical feedback on the safety front though, and offers ABS at the very least to customers opting to buy the Celerio VXi AMT.
Maruti Suzuki Celerio - Competition Check
Ford Figo, Nissan Micra Active, Hyundai i10, Chevrolet Beat
|Length x Width x Height (mm)||3600x1600x1560|
|Ground clearance (mm)||165|
|Turning circle dia (m)||4.7|
|Kerb weight (kg)||810, 880 -900 kgs (diesel)|
|Fuel tank capacity (lt)||35|
|Boot space (lt)||235|
|Engine & Transmission|
|No of cylinder & configuration||3|
|Power (PS @ rpm)||68 @ 6000 (petrol), 35@3500 (diesel)|
|Torque (Nm @ rpm)||90 @ 3500 (petrol), 125@2000 (diesel)|
|Suspension & Brakes|
|Front suspension||McPherson strut with coil spring|
|Rear suspension||Coupled torsion beam axle with coil spring|
|Anti-lock brakes (ABS)|
|Brake Assist (BA)|
|Electronic Stability Programme (ESP)|
|Luxury & Comfort features|
|AC / Climate control|
|No of speakers|
|Steering-wheel audio controls|
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