When it comes to innovations, city cars often get the short end of the stick. Not only are these vehicles built to meet a low price point, but they also aren’t really designed for long journeys at high speeds. Normally, the design brief’s emphasis is about simply making these easy to drive and cheap to maintain.
But Suzuki thinks that the humble city car has a lot of potential. It has been the company’s specialty for a long time, and it has given the all-new Celerio the high-tech treatment normally reserved for bigger vehicles. To that end, Suzuki Philippines invited members of the media to put its latest model through its paces.
Instead of crawling in traffic where most Celerios will end up laboring, we were tasked to take this little car on a long, highway drive to Lipa, Batangas. This should answer that famous (or infamous) question about city cars being suitable (or unsuitable) for road trips.
Suzuki claims that vast improvements have been made to the Celerio’s frame and powertrain. The former is based on the automaker’s Heartect platform. This makes clever use of stronger and lighter materials in order to increase body rigidity, which reportedly makes the car more resilient from impacts.
The stiffer chassis really didn’t make itself felt on the expressway—the Celerio still succumbs to buffeting and wake turbulence from larger vehicles. But in the interest of bringing the car back in one piece, let’s just say we’ll take Suzuki’s word when it comes to crash protection.
What was really more apparent is the pairing of the Auto Gear Shift with the 1.0-liter K10C engine. AGS is just a fancy name for an automated manual transmission. Mechanically, there is still a traditional clutch. But the shifting duties are performed electronically, and operation on the part of the driver isn’t different from that of a regular automatic gearbox.
In theory, the Celerio’s powertrain should have reduced mechanical losses compared to one with a torque converter. This is definitely felt when accelerating as the clutch still provides a mechanical link to the engine. The slipping sensation is almost nonexistent—important when you only have 67hp to play with. For those hoping to maximize every drop of fuel, the shift logic errs on the side of efficiency as it tends to upshift early.
Also fitted as standard to the Celerio is the engine stop-start system. The job of this feature is to simply shut the engine off when the car is stopped in order to save fuel. This is normally equipped in more expensive vehicles, so it is a welcome addition to what is otherwise a basic vehicle.
Hill starts will always be a challenge for any car—regardless of the transmission type. No matter how smart the gearbox is, any vehicle will tend to roll back a little bit. This sensation may spook novice drivers. Thankfully, the Celerio has hill-start assist—another feature that’s uncommon in its segment.
Loaded with three guys and running at 65km/h on the highway without air-conditioning, our team was able to squeeze around 24km/L from the Celerio. But the car really isn’t in its element on the highway. A proper review should allow us to see how this vehicle and its high-tech equipment perform within city limits. But based on our brief experience, there is already a lot to like about Suzuki’s new baby.