It has been a tough month for Suzuki. Fresh from a successful launch of the company’s generally well-received new city car – the Celerio – suddenly Suzuki found itself in the headlines. On test with a motoring magazine, the new Celerio’s brakes failed. It happened on a test track, but with alarming implications for cars already on the road.
It was a huge issue for Suzuki, a tiddler in the UK automotive pond. Immediately the car, which had only just gone on sale, was recalled. The company went into overdrive to deal with the problem, as well it might. Experts flew over from Japan to investigate. The cause was swiftly identified as a fault in the brake pedal release mechanism, part of the structure that allows the pedal to move away from the feet in the event of a collision, so as to protect them from impact injury.
With the car so brand new, only 37 Celerios had already been delivered to their new owners, but another 100 were about to be delivered, and together with dealer demonstrator models and the launch press fleet, up to 500 cars have been affected by the recall. All of them are having the brake pedal assembly replaced with a revised design. Meanwhile the affected owners have been given other models as loan cars.
Cars are complicated pieces of kit, with around 2,000 components in a typical model, and recalls to sort out problems that arise are by no means uncommon. There are hundreds of them, both minor and more major, every year. Important safety recalls are notified to car owners and sometimes even make news, but many more minor issues go under the radar – as advisory items that dealers are instructed to routinely deal with when vehicles are serviced.
It is rare for a problem as worrying as this one to make headlines, and it is a setback for Suzuki and a lousy start for the new Celerio. It doesn’t help, either, than the car has only been awarded three stars in Euro NCAP crash testing, while rivals have fared better: with four stars for Hyundai’s i10 and five for the Volkswagen Up! It’s a pity that the Celerio has had such a traumatic arrival, because the Celerio is really quite a decent little budget car with likeable road manners and a fair bit of interior room for its dinky external dimensions.
It’s not a car to quicken your pulse, and some of its rivals are a bit more fun to drive and a notch higher for build quality. In the Celerio’s favour, though, is keen pricing, a cabin that doesn’t feel as squeezed for space as in many similar-size cars, and a boot that at 254 litres is just a little bigger than those of its most obvious rivals.
For the money – starting at a quid short of £8,000 – you get a pretty reasonable list of standard kit. Included on all versions are six airbags, alloy wheels, electric front windows, air-con, a height adjustable driver’s seat, DAB radio and Bluetooth. For £1,000 more the range-topping SZ4 has a much longer equipment list including electric back windows, powered door mirrors, an upgraded radio and extra speakers.
The engine is a one-litre, three-cylinder petrol unit, which is quite lively and makes a distinctive thrummy sound. The top speed is just under 100 mph and acceleration to around 60 mph takes about 13 seconds. The manual gearbox is five-speed, and there is also an automatic version. The official combined fuel figure is in the mid-60s mpg, so around upper-50s mpg is likely in real-world use.