Maruti Suzuki Celerio Review: How good is India’s most fuel efficient car?
26.68kmpl! That’s the new headline figure on the 2021 Maruti Suzuki Celerio — and is one that will get a lot of attention what with the fuel prices skyrocketing in the last few months. That said, the new Celerio is more than just an efficient car. It's a hugely significant car — the first all-new launch for Maruti Suzuki in a very long time, and one that sits in a lucrative segment. This is not a facelift. The new Celerio gets a new platform, an updated engine, fresh interiors, more space and very different styling to its predecessor. Is it any good? Let’s dive in to find out.
2021 Maruti Suzuki Celerio: Styling
The styling on the new Celerio is radically different from the old one. Where the older car was boxy, with flatter lines and surfaces, the new one is more rounded. The headlamps are little bubbles up front, and the grille is rounded as well. There’s a chrome strip that joins the two headlamps to give it some bling up front. There’s a big plastic insert in the bumper that also houses the fog lamps, and the bumpers themselves are more countered than before. From the side, the Celerio’s shape has been tweaked — it looks a little less upright, leaning more towards the Alto-end of the spectrum than the WagonR. The ZXi+ variant we were testing was running blacked-out alloy wheels (15-inchers), though lower variants come with 14-inch steel wheels. From the rear, again the softness in the design continues in elements like the taillamp and the bumpers. As for whether it looks good or not, I’ll leave that for you to decide. Maruti Suzuki is also offering accessory packs should you want to jazz up the styling a little more than it already has been!
The Celerio has grown in size. The new Gen 5 Heartect platform that underpins it is now bigger than before and the wheelbase is up 10mm to 2435mm and the width of the car is up a good 55mm to 1655mm — both of which have improved overall space on the inside. In fact the wheelbase and the track are now identical to the WagonR that it shares a platform with. That said, in terms of overall length, it hasn’t changed and the car is now shorter by 5mm.
2021 Maruti Suzuki Celerio: Interiors
One of the big changes for 2021 is the interiors. The new platform has brought in a whole new architecture that is more modern, but crucially, more spacious. The dashboard is a new design — there’s a 7-inch touchscreen front and centre running the intuitive SmartPlay user interface. It comes packing Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, through a wired connection. The speedometer is a large analogue set up, with a smaller digital tacho — all very clear and legible. Interestingly, the window switches have been moved to the centre like on the S-Presso and the HVAC controls are straight off the S-Presso as well. Storage spaces in the cabin are limited, this is after all, a compact car. You’ve got door pockets that will hold a 1-litre bottle comfortably but not much else. There’s a small tray under the centre console that will just about hold your phone and that’s it. The seats are comfortable — they have height adjustability as well and that gets you in to a reasonably comfortable driving position.
As for the backseats, room was impressive. I had a couple of inches of free knee-room — something that I was really not expecting and the increased width makes it slightly more bearable for three. Headroom is limited for anyone over 5-foot-10. Strangely, the window switches at the back have also been moved to the centre — right behind the handbrake. This means that they are easily accessible to the driver however the rear passengers have to stretch to reach them. Not ideal. As for boot space, a claimed longer rear overhang has freed up some room giving it a total of 313 litres of storage. The boot itself is cavernous and swallowed up overnight luggage for the three of us plus our camera equipment comfortably.
As for quality of materials, there’s the usual fare for cars at this price point — its all hard, scratchy plastics though I must say that it feels solid. The switches, the buttons, the air-con vents have a good heft to them and it feels well put together. I do believe that Maruti Suzuki should have at least provided the top variants of the Celerio with automatic climate control and a reverse parking camera — both features that the similarly priced Tata Tiago gets.
2021 Maruti Suzuki Celerio Engine
The Celerio gets an updated engine for 2021 — out goes the K10B to be replaced by the K10C. What’s in the suffix? Quite a bit actually — the new engine gets dual injectors for better fuelling, there’s variable valve timing and an integrated exhaust manifold. Tweaks have been made to the valve train, the timing belt and even to the viscosity of the oil used — mainly to limit mechanical losses and make the engine more efficient. But how does that translate to when you drive it?
Well for starters, the engine is supremely refined for a three-cylinder unit. Other engines from Tata and Renault are rather noisy and gruff, but this one is relatively smooth with well contained vibrations. The switch over to the new platform has helped — the new engine is mounted differently on the chassis and that has taken care of some NVH. But it is inherently refined as well.
As for performance, it makes a 66bhp and 89Nm — not spectacular numbers but it suffices in this car that weighs a little over 800kg. There’s a meaty mid range with peak torque coming in at 3500rpm itself, so you never really need to rev out this engine to get the best out of it. It doesn’t feel like a quick car, but once you get it up to speed on the highway, it will cruise comfortably at 100kmph without complaint.
What stands out the most about the Celerio is the fact that it is a very easy car to drive. The clutch action is light, the gear shifts are slick, the way the power is deployed is very smooth — these little things come together to make the Celerio a very un-intimidating car. After all, a lot of buyers in this segment are fist time car buyers and this friendliness of the Celerio, this ease and mindlessness that you can operate it with, makes it a very appealing prospect.
There’s the AMT on offer as well and its an improvement on the AMTs as we knew them. The head toss effect is well contained and it suffices if you’re just driving around town and don’t want to bother yourself with the clutch. These AMT ’boxes never do well with aggressive inputs so should you find yourself hustling the car, the transmission will leave you wanting. But when being driven in a relaxed manner — both on the highway and in the city — it does what it says on the box without getting on your nerves.
Maruti Suzuki has also engineered a stop-start system in to the car to just add to the fuel savings just that little bit more. This is not a full-blown SHVS mild hybrid system, but it does kill the engine at a stop and restart it when you’re ready to set off. Smooth and seamless — it didn’t interfere with the driving experience one bit and is very welcome.
2021 Maruti Suzuki Celerio Ride and Handling
The Celerio is set up for comfort — that’s obvious from the moment you set off in the car. Over small bumps and undulations, Celerio’s suspension feels supple and does a good job of absorbing the road. A typical Indian road with small undulations and bumps is where it feels most at home, allowing you to rumble through everything without much concern for what’s underneath the car. However, the suspension does have a tendency to crash through sharper bumps — with a rather loud, jarring sound. There’s more vertical movement than what the older Celerio had and that doesn’t allow it to feel just as settled, but at low to medium speeds, this is nothing something that you would notice.
The converse of that is handling, and the comfortable suspension set up hasn’t done the handling any favours. It’s a soft, squidgy set up that doesn’t react particularly enthusiastically when you ask too much of it. The tyres are narrow and fuel-economy-focussed so they aren’t grippy either. Combine that with a steering that is close to dead — not much by way of feel and the lack of self centring — and you’re left with a car that doesn’t score particularly well on the Thrill of Driving.
Its strengths lie on dealing with bad roads, though you’ve got to be measured as you take them on left you hit those sharper bumps which really feel unsettling. It is reasonably composed on the highway as well, and unless you’re asking for aggressive lane changes (it rolls a lot!), it’ll manage just fine.
2021 Maruti Suzuki Celerio Verdict
Compared to the older Celerio, the new one is definitely a better city car. The space on the inside is more, the interiors are a much welcome step ahead and backseat is more useable. There’s also the fact that it comes with modern tech like stop-start and remains like before, very easy to drive. The older one felt a little more planted and solid out on the highway but as an urban runabout, this Celerio is very competent.
At Rs 6.44 lakh (Rs 6.94 for the AMT - both prices ex-showroom), the Celerio’s direct rival is the Tata Tiago but it also has the Hyundai Santro, the Renault Kwid and the Datsun redi-Go in its sights. The Tiago does things a little differently - giving you more polished dynamics, though overall, the Celerio is a much more stress free driving experience. It is easier to drive, easier to operate, comes with Maruti Suzuki’s promise of reliability and vast service network. It may not break any new ground, but as a first car on a budget? Very hard not to recommend!