In a couple of weeks I’m off to drive the new Audi R8 supercar.
Not long ago I spent the day with the latest A4, which had more electronics than my house, and is a thoroughly impressive piece of kit. Before that I was slightly gob smacked at how the newly minted, 3-cylinder, 1.0litre engine offered in the latest Kia Cee’d could punt this mid sized car speedily and quietly. Go back five years and you’d have no complaints if a 1,600 went as well.
I suspect that the R8 will prove memorable, but the car that has created the biggest impression on me recently was the most unlikely, because I had no expectations of it and little enthusiasm at the prospect of spending time in its company.
This was the Suzuki Celerio, one of those tall, small hatchbacks older private buyers who keep their cars for longer and perhaps don’t travel so far in them tend to favour.
It had five doors, and the standard issue design template of a five-speed gearbox and 1.0 litre, three-cylinder petrol engine, just like a great many of its rivals.
However, if anything it was less interesting to look at. A square little box that for all its modern detailing could have appeared thirty years ago.
Its case wasn’t helped by a brake-related recall when the car had barely gone on sale here and less than forty had been sold. The fix was easy, but Suzuki’s marketing bods must have been beating their heads against their desks.
I read a couple of reviews and found them if not hostile, then indifferent. Then I drove the Celerio, and wondered if my judgment had been impaired because I grew to really like this unassuming little car.
Its designers had clearly worked hard on finessing the details. Getting in and out was easy with large doors, high seating position and a great deal more room for people than some of its rivals. There are plenty of Golf-sized cars with less rear legroom.
With the back seats raised the boot was compact but not absurdly small. The fit and finish of the interior, although inspiration-free, was actually very good. Likewise the paint and panel gaps outside. There was nothing flimsy about the Celerio.
I found I liked driving it too. The steering was speedy, the gear change very slick, and the engine willing in a way some far costlier rivals aren’t. Little cars like this can be a lethargic on motorways, but the Celerio dealt with the M25 with much less fuss than I’d expected.
Again, some reviews had been a bit sniffy about its dynamics, describing them as uninspired. I suspect the R8 will be more fun, but I must say I thought the Celerio was rather nicer than some of its competitors, with only a slightly choppy ride –typical of cars like this- to actively moan about. Equipment-wise even the cheapest version came with air con and six airbags.
I’d expected boring mediocrity and instead found a good, engaging little car. The only thing I couldn’t forgive the Celerio was its name. Inevitably, during its stay with us the unfortunate Suzuki became known as the ‘Celeriac.’