The currency of the pretty little Celerio
The everyman Ford Cortina Mk3 (in 1971) cost £963 (the equivalent of £12,294 today), while the more iconic Jaguar E-Type V12 was a bolder £3,139 (£43,866 today). The Dagenham-built Cortina was sold as a ‘Standard’, no-frills model, powered by a 1.3-litre, four-cylinder engine that developed a weedy 58bhp, which was some contrast to the 5.3-litre V12 and 272bhp of the Coventry-built ‘cat’. As a measure of how much pricier cars have become, while accepting that today’s equivalent of the Cortina is Mondeo-shaped, an increase in equivalent list price of 37% for an entry-level model is still hefty. Eclipsing it by a margin of 256.8%, for the equivalent Jaguar (F-Type SVR), highlights the extraordinary value-for-money the brand used to offer.
Around 50 years ago the equivalent of a Suzuki Celerio 1.0-litre was the BLMC Mini 1000 Mark 3, which cost around £660. A brand new Celerio SZ3 costs £9,649 (the SZ2 version is £7,999) but its only real rivals hail from Romania, South Korea and Eastern European-built French models. It is a sub-compact by any definition, although it benefits from having five-door access to a surprisingly ‘Tardis-like’ interior, where four large adults (or five teenagers) can fit in moderate comfort.
Being of a narrower but taller body-style, its parking and manoeuvrability in built-up areas is little less than phenomenal. Yet, its specification is generous. Rather than the poverty-spec of fifty years ago, the Celerio features a rev-counter, lights-on and key-in reminders, gearshift indicator, Bluetooth connectivity, DAB radio, rake adjustable steering column, front and rear electric windows, remote central locking, alloys and manual air-con, although the manually operated, stalk-controlled door mirrors hint at more basic origins.
However, that is not the reason to acquire a Celerio. Size and low operating costs are the clear precursors and, with a puncture repair kit, rather than a spare tyre in the boot, its 254-litres of luggage space (to a maximum of 726-litres, with the 60:40-split rear bench flipped forwards), delivers practicality in the keenest terms. While the original Mini, notably without today’s safety and security features that add both bulk and weight, was a packaging marvel, the baby Suzuki musters similar values in a more modern vein.
Powering the Celerio is a 998cc, three-cylinder, 12-valve engine that develops a lively 68bhp and an impressive 90lbs ft of torque. Revving it out to the red-line it can despatch the 0-60mph sprint in a zesty 13.2s, running out of puff at a top speed of 96mph. However, it cruises at indicated motorway speeds without effort (3,000rpm) and no need to drop down a gear, or two, in its 5-speed manual transmission, to effect safe overtakes. Given a decent stretch of (German) autobahn, it will top 100mph indicated and actually feels decently planted, despite tipping the scales at a modest 835kgs (coincidentally around the same as a Mark Two Cortina).
As a measure of how far cars have come in efficiency terms, the 1.0-litre, normally-aspirated engine provides a readily attainable 65.7mpg, on the Official Combined test cycle, and many owners will return upwards of 70mpg with due care. Emitting 99g/km CO2 keeps the road tax requirement to £125 in year one and the standard £140 annually thereafter.
Delightfully weighted power steering provides not only good feedback from the road but also excellent responsiveness. All other controls (brake, clutch and throttle) are equally well balanced and the five-speed shifter slips effortlessly between gear ratios. The Celerio hauls up effectively under emergency stopping and the conventional pull-up handbrake, between the front seats, holds the car securely on hills. There was a time, when vehicles in this class were considerably more demanding of the driver and, without mentioning brand names, the products hinted at earlier as rivals to Celerio are simply not as driver-satisfying as the Suzuki. It imparts a very ‘grown-up’ character that just adds to the overall smile factor inherent to it.
Naturally, there is an ‘elephant in the room’, related to the car’s overall build quality. Well, get used to it folks, because cars in this price category feature paper-thin doors and body panels that flex worse than the scenery on some low-rent TV shows. Yet, the Celerio still manages to feel solidly assembled and the doors shut with a ‘thud’, rather than a tinny ‘clank’. It is worth remembering that it possesses a decent NCap crash test rating, as well as being packed with features that you would never have seen, or even heard about, on cars of more than thirty years of age.
Luscombe’s summary: Inexpensive to buy, representing good value for money and very cost-efficient to live with, a Suzuki Celerio provides base-line motoring in the right spirit, with total dependability as a most welcome feature.
Next week: Iain introduces you to Stacey Reed, who works at both Luscombe Suzuki and Mitsubishi.
Talk to the dashboard but be aware it talks back!
Despite the overall affordability of Suzuki motorcars, it may come as a surprise to learn that its top-spec models feature a ‘talking dashboard’ that our motoring specialist, Iain Robertson, has taken to calling ‘Dash Witch’!
While I mean no insult to the gently authoritative ‘electronic lady’ that sits within my Baleno’s dashboard, she can be a tad emphatic at times, not least when I do not utter a (to ‘her’) logical instruction. As a measure of Suzuki’s high-quality attention to detail, some SZ-T and all SZ5 models feature a high-end ‘touch-screen’ that provides a convenient and important safety aspect to the driver.
Although it is difficult to provide finite numbers of those drivers that have endured road traffic accidents, while attempting to adjust the setting of a radio station, or to alter the sat-nav parameters, they are surprisingly high. Many of us have been given a little jolt, either by clipping the kerb, or being tooted at by somebody, because we have crossed the road centre-line inadvertently. If there is a rule-of-thumb, it must be to STOP the car safely, before fiddling with any of its ancillary controls. Of course, it can be awkward on a clearway, or motorway.
However, this is where the ‘Dash Witch’ comes into her own. You have two ‘entry-points’, either the ‘voice’ switch on the steering wheel (lower-left quadrant), or the equally easy-to-reach touch control on the screen. ‘She’ will offer you the opportunity to use voice control (see the opening screen). If you say “Media”, the system offers you a choice between known stations, music types, or your personal choice from either your mobile-phone, or iPod, whichever, or both of which, may be plugged into the car, using the USB ports.
On the other hand, if you want to switch to ‘navigation’, you will be offered a suite of alternative speech options. Do not worry, because the list is not extensive but is enough for most on-the-move activities. You can enter a Point of Interest but, if you simply want to head home and are unsure of the directions, simply say “Navigate to Home”. There is plenty more but you can have fun making the system work to your needs.
In all cases, ‘Dash Witch’ will always ask you to confirm, or deny, your spoken choice; to which a simple “Yes”, or “No”, will suffice. While it is advisable to annunciate clearly, the system is surprisingly tolerant of regional accents, although it is not so sophisticated (nor does it incorporate any Artificial Intelligence, as yet) that it can become accustomed to slang, local, or not. It is fun but it does have a serious implication.
Luscombe’s summary: If you want one of our Service, or Sales, Advisors, to help you either set-up your car’s speech recognition, or even show you how to work it, just ask and you will be provided with all the assistance you need.
Next week: Iain contemplates cost of buying a new car.
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