Celerio. A – Wind of the Season
They say there is always the calm before the storm. Maruti Suzuki didn’t have any new launches in 2013, but it’s going product offensive in 2014. The first of the lots is the Celerio – a new small car that will be one of the most important cars launched this year. We got an exclusive drive of this new car in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, months before its actual launch at the Auto Expo.
This is an important model for India’s largest car manufacturer, being the mainstay in the compact hatchback segment. Evolved from the A-Wind Concept, the Celerio is built on a completely new platform which will spawn the new Alto for international markets. The design has a wide appeal which is important in this segment. It is very well proportioned and appears bigger than the segment demands. The stretched front face and the wraparound headlamps give it good presence on the road. The sides have strong character lines to reduce visual mass, which extend to the rear and disappear into very shapely tail lamps. Flap type door handles for the tail gate look decidedly old school. Alloy wheels (optional on the ZXI) look good and go very well with the rest of the car.
The interiors are another strong point of the Celerio. The pleasing combination of beige and grey adds to the cabin’s overall airy feel. The Celerio is a rather tall hatch with good headroom and adequate legroom both front and rear. The front seat backs have been made thinner to liberate more knee room and this surprisingly doesn’t cause any concerns in the comfort department. The rear seats have good space, but we found it a bit lacking in underthigh support. Overall visibility is good. The prominent centre console has all the buttons and knobs falling easily into hand. There is sufficient space for knick-knacks all around the cabin, though front door pockets are a bit slender. The boot at 235 litres is adequate and the rear seats fold down in 60:40 split on all except the base variants.
The big news in the Celerio however is the debut of an automated manual transmission, hereafter referred to, as the AMT. To the uninformed, this could look like a regular automatic transmission employing CVT or torque convertor. But what Maruti engineers have done is give the standard five speed manual transmission, hydraulic actuators to perform the clutch and the gear shift functions for you. The only difference between the AMT and MT variants, are the addition of a hydraulic unit that sits atop the brand new gearbox, an electronic brain to control the shift timings, and a different wiring harness.
The benefits of this system are many. For one, it has none of the power-train losses of a torque convertor which means the in-gear acceleration is identical to the manual version. Two, the fuel efficiency will be comparable to what a very good driver can achieve in an MT variant. And three, because it is less complicated, it doesn’t cost that much more than the manual variant. Clutch wear will be minimal and unlike a conventional autobox which costs prohibitive amounts to rebuild, should something go wrong, this one costs as much as a standard clutch replacement.
So, what is it like to drive? Slot the well weighted lever into D and you’ll notice, the AMT gearbox copes very well at city speeds, upshifting and downshifting to match the driver’s throttle inputs. The engine feels quite refined too at low rpms. This gearbox makes light work of the crawling in bumper to bumper traffic and keeps up with most vehicles at city speeds. It’s only when you drive enthusiastically that you feel the gearbox lacking. It takes a while to upshift and when it does, there is a noticeable lull period when the clutch disconnects the drive. On full throttle it makes the drive feel jerky and the driver feels as if someone has inadvertently shifted the car into neutral. The Celerio AMT also has a manual over ride feature wherein you shift the gearlever further to the left and move it back and forth to shift gears. In manual mode, the box holds on to whatever gear you are in, bouncing against the rev limiter without upshifting. Unlike conventional ATs, the AMT doesn’t have a Park function to lock the gearbox in stationary.
The familiar K10 engine has been updated with higher compression ratio, low viscosity oil, better valve springs and a drive by wire throttle system. The MT variant shows off the full nature of the revvy power plant with a 0-100kmph time of 14.7 seconds. Though not to full Quarter Mile roadtest standards, we found out the AMT variant gets there half a second later. The MT variant suffers from slightly blunted low end performance, but the revvy nature of the engine makes it reasonably fun. This being a city car, we would choose the AMT variant over the MT for its ease of driving.
The Celerio drives well for a small car too. The ride quality is soft enough to absorb potholes without being wallowy. Straightline stability is good and handling is good enough to entertain most drivers. The rear end could do with a bit more grip, but most Celerio owners would find it comfortable enough at three digit speeds. The light controls and tight turning radius are a boon for most drivers.
Our only gripe with the Celerio is that the AMT isn’t available in top spec. Which means, you can’t have one with ABS and airbags. Why Maruti has chosen this is, beyond our comprehension. But we have to hand it over to them for redefining the way we drive. A small automatic city car that is as fuel efficient and not too much more expensive than a manual – is every commuter’s dream. On top of that the Celerio has good space, great looks, decent interiors and strong after sales backup to make it a segment leader.
Celerio Technical specifications
|Type||3 cyls, 998cc, petrol|
|Power||67bhp at 6000rpm|
|Torque||9.1kgm at 3500rpm|
|Type||front wheel drive|
|Gearbox||5-speed manual / automated manual|
|Boot volume||235 litres|
|Tyres||LXI 155/60 R13 / VXI and above 165/70 R14|
|Front||McPherson strut with coil spring|
|Rear||Coupled torsion beam axle with coil spring|
|Type of power assist||Electronic|
|Tank size||35 litres|