Maruti is set to launch the new Celerio with an unconventional auto gearbox. We drive the car to see what all the hype is about.

Maruti’s small cars are always much-awaited and come pre-loaded with market-shaking potential. It is, however, true that after the Swift, there hasn’t been a hatchback from Maruti-Suzuki that has really rocked the passenger car market.

But, the next small car from Maruti – the Celerio, due out at the Auto Expo next week, looks like it can disrupt the market.

The Celerio has been developed from the ground up on a completely new platform and has been endowed with a special automatic gearbox that Maruti officials believe with revolutionise the way we drive. The design of the Celerio is based on the A-Wind concept that Suzuki showcased at the Thai Auto show.

This new hatch has been built to fit into and complement Maruti’s portfolio of small cars, but it is also meant to take on new competitors in the segment such as the Hyundai Grand i10. The Celerio is just a bit smaller than the Grand i10 in terms of length and width, but matches the wheelbase and is even a bit taller than the latter.

Design

After the Swift, we’d say that the Celerio is the car that brings a fresh new face to Maruti Suzuki. Large curved headlamps, a twin-slat bonnet grille in chrome and an over-sized airdam below give the Celerio aggressive front looks. At the sides, the two parallel lines – tornado and the body side lines are prominent and lightly curved. The shoulder line has been set a bit high, but does not compromise the amount of light pouring into the cabin. The interior of the Celerio is quite airy, unlike the dark rear seat of the A-Star.

The rear of the Celerio features a simpler design, with a fairly straight-forward hatch door and the tail-lamps looking vaguely like they have been carried forward from the new Alto 800, though with a different combination. Overall, the design of the Celerio’s body panels seems to have been done with a dual-purpose in mind – to achieve a low co-efficient of drag for better aerodynamics and to ensure lower manufacturing costs. Open the door and they are fairly thin, in terms of width, including the plastic panels inside. But, they close with an assuring ‘thunk’.

Interior

The cabin of the Celerio is very Maruti-like in its excessive use of plastic. But, thankfully the quality of plastic used redeems it from seeming too tacky. The dashboard layout is quite modern and pleasing. There is also considerable symmetry to the features of the dashboard. The gear-shift stick is positioned at the base of the centre stack within easy reach for the driver in both the manual and the automatic variants.

The three-spoke steering wheel is healthy to hold and feels like it to belongs to in the premium hatch category. But, the seat squabs are thin and feel like they may not be the most comfortable during long journeys. There are a number of storage options including cup-holders. The luggage space in the boot is about 235 litres – above average for the segment.

The Celerio’s cabin feels surprisingly spacious for a car of its dimensions. There is considerable legroom at the rear bench and since the centre tunnel is not very tall, even the third passenger in the middle should be quite comfortable. There is enough shoulder room too, which hasn’t been compromised by the lesser overall width of the car. Depending on the variant, you can also get features like steering mounted controls, music system with Bluetooth connectivity, 14-inch alloy wheels and keyless entry.

Performance

The Celerio is being offered only with a petrol engine, though there are rumours already that Maruti Suzuki has developed a small, diesel engine in-house for use in the car. The same may be showcased at the Expo and potentially make it to showrooms late this year or early next year.

The engine that the Celerio will be launched with is the same one-litre K 10B engine that is currently available in the A-Star, Alto K10 and the Wagon-R. The engine is being offered in the same state of tune too. (See the Tech Spec box for more info.)

The story of the Celerio is actually inside the bonnet, but if the engine is a carry over, then what is different?

It is the new automatic gearbox that Maruti and Suzuki engineers have developed specially for the car, and which promises to be frugal both in terms of costs and in terms of fuel consumption. The new EZ Drive auto gear shift promises to do just that shift the gears on your behalf and it is a unique solution that is going to lead to a lot of clones cropping up amongst competitors. (Read more about it in the adjoining story).

The Celerio drives like a perfect city car. For an engine in this class, there is enough power and torque available on tap for all sorts of urban driving conditions and some more for the average highway cycle. The car is also offered with a 5-speed manual gearbox.

We test drove the Celerio in Jodhpur, both within town and a few stretches of the highway, and in terms of handling, the car felt quite self-assured and comfortable even at relatively high speeds (about 140 kmph) on straight open stretches. For a tall-boy, the Celerio’s handling is quite inspiring. The suspension has been tuned for ensuring comfort on average city roads.

Bottomline

The Celerio has all the ingredients of a blockbuster from Maruti. But, the pricing of the auto gearbox variants will be key to ensuring that this can truly be a revolution. We are hoping that prices will be within the Rs 3 lakh to Rs 5.5 lakh range.

UPDATE: The prices of the Maruti Celerio were revealed at the 12th Auto Expo today. Here are the details.

Maruti Celerio Introductory Price (ex-showroom, Delhi)

Manual Transmission

LXi - Rs 3.9 lakh

VXi - Rs 4.2 lakh

ZXi - Rs 4.5 lakh

ZXi (optional) - Rs 4.96 lakh

Auto Gear Shift

LXi - Rs 4.29 lakh

VXi - Rs 4.59 lakh

For an exclusive slideshow of the Maruti Suzuki Celerio, click here.

(This article was published on January 30, 2014)
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