In India, a small car is always big news. And bigger if it comes from Maruti Suzuki. From the Maruti 800 to the Zen and from the Alto to the Swift, Maruti has barely failed with its small wonders. But it had two cars that didn’t quite set the markets on fire—the Zen Estilo and the A-Star. What to do? Make a car that has all the goodies of the two, introduce a path-breaking technology into the product, give it a cute name, price it correctly and launch it at the biggest automotive event in the country. That’s the Celerio for you.
The Celerio gets a bold and curvy design which the company calls CICO (curve in, curve out) styling. The car looks really ‘happy’ from the front—the new wide smiley grille flanked by swept back headlamps looks fresh. The stylised front bumper with a large air dam and character lines on the bonnet are contemporary. Yet it remains an out-and-out Maruti and this is apparent from various angles, especially the rear which strongly resembles the Alto 800. The Celerio may not be called stylish in the true sense of the word, but functional it definitely is. Let’s see how.
Step inside and you will realise how much has Maruti worked to make the driver and the passengers feel good. This car, no doubt, has the best cabin quality among all Maruti small cars—yes, the plastic quality seems even better than what you get in the class-higher Swift. Then, there is generous space all around. The Celerio is 3,600 mm long, 1,600 mm wide and 1,560 mm high. But what really works for the car is its wheel base of 2,425 mm, which ensures ample legroom for the rear passengers. In fact, as we found our during our test drive in Jodhpur, even three tall people can fit in the rear seats with some amount of adjustment. The headroom, too, at the rear is good. The boot space is a decent 235 litres.
The driving position is good. The seat height is just right, the vision all around is clear and the A-pillar doesn’t obstruct your view much. The design fabric chosen by Maruti is fresh and the dual-tone dashboard looks good. All the buttons are easy to reach and the steering wheel is nice to hold. The EZ Drive model’s gear-lever is also conveniently placed.
The Suzuki K10B three-cylinder engine that sits under the hood of the Celerio is one of its best assets. It produces a peak power of 68ps@6000rpm and a torque of 90Nm@3500rpm, which is more than enough for the Celerio that weighs 810 kg (830 kg with full options). This not only ensures amazing driveability but also a class-leading fuel efficiency of 23.1 kmpl. The car has got a tight turning radius of 4.7 metres and that can be a boon while parking or when driving on congested roads.
The EZ Drive
The best thing about the Celerio is the path-breaking technology that it comes equipped with, the two-pedal (accelerator and brake) Auto Gear Shift technology, which the company has christened as EZ Drive, pronounced as ‘easy drive’. Auto gear shift it is, but is it an automatic transmission? Not exactly. The EZ Drive is essentially a simple manual transmission that has been robotised. It uses a regular manual gearbox and a clutch (there is no clutch pedal though), but acts like an automatic, changing gears for the driver with the help of a dedicated ECU and actuators (call it a robotic arm). Unlike traditional automatic transmission, there is no torque convertor.
How does it look: The gear-lever unit, placed between the two front seats, looks exactly like a traditional automatic transmission unit. Towards the right, there are three slots—‘N’ for neutral, ‘D’ for drive and ‘R’ for reverse. Towards the left, there is one slot marked ‘M’ for manual. In the manual mode, there are options of ‘+’ to upshift and ‘-’ to downshift gears.
How does it drive: Before starting the engine, ensure the gear lever is in the ‘N’ mode and the brake pedal is pressed. Once the engine starts, put the gear lever in the ‘D’ mode and release the brake. The car will start moving, but slowly—this is called the ‘Creep’ function, which is effective in urban stop-and-go traffic. Gradually step on the accelerator and the car will pick up speed. Based on how much you press the accelerator, the car will move to a higher gear, the highest being fifth.
Similar to the traditional automatic transmission unit, the EZ Drive offers the ‘M’ mode—put the gear lever in the ‘M’ position and then shift gears by pushing the lever to either the ‘+’ or ‘-’ modes.
How does it stop: Pressing the brake reduces the speed of the car and the gears shift down automatically until the car comes to a complete stop. Then you have to shift the lever to the ‘N’ mode, switch off the engine and engage the parking brake. But unlike most traditional automatics, the EZ Drive does not have a ‘P’ slot—which indicates ‘parking’—therefore engaging the parking brake is important.
From Rs 3.9 lakh for the manual and Rs 4.29 lakh for the EZ Drive (Delhi ex-showroom starting prices), the Celerio can prove to be the most important launch by Maruti in a long time. What it offers is tremendous value at an affordable price point, and is sure to shake up the market.