The Celerio AMT test-driven

Mar 02, 2014, 12:17 IST | Amit Chhangani

Does the new Maruti Suzuki Celerio really give beleaguered city commuters a real reason to celebrate? We find out as the most talked-about hatch comes to town

The recently launched Maruti Suzuki Celerio aims at democratising the convenience of an automatic transmission. Maruti Suzuki has taken an unconventional approach to solve the cost-convenience conundrum by introducing a semi-automatic system in its new small car. Known as the Automated Manual Transmission, or AMT, the system is essentially a manual transmission which is made to work like an automatic with the help of electronics and hydraulic actuators. Does the approach work well in the real world? Let’s find out. 

The design of the Celerio is quite simplistic, with wrap- around headlights well integrated into the double slat, angled chrome grille. The Celerio is a fairly tall hatchback, which also adds bit to the roominess factor on the inside. The Celerio has sharp creases and tight lines throughout the body, making it look unique, if not absolutely head-turning.

It’s no revolution in design, but looks decent for a small car and will suit the taste of a majority of car buyers in the small car segment.

The interior trim of Celerio across all the variants remains predominantly two-toned with multiple textures and finishes to it. Piano black plastic and brushed silver inserts have been used cleverly to elevate the appearance of the interiors.

The three-spoke steering wheel feels good to hold and the in-dash placement of the gear shifter/selector falls within easy reach. Surprisingly, even with the front seat adjusted for a 6-footer, the rear seat legroom is enough for an average Indian adult. The rear seats provide good support to the back, but the small headrests do not help much. 

All the variants, except the base LXi, get the 60:40 split rear seats. Boot capacity is an appreciable 235 litre. The car gets two cup holders at the front, space for bottles on rear doors and a bottle holder behind the handbrake. Other storage spaces include a small recess on the right hand side of the driver, and another small storage for wallets and cellphones below the central HVAC controls.

Things like music system and other bells and whistles are not available in the Celerio AMT, which is available only in the LXi and VXi variants. For more features in the Celerio, you will have to opt for the ZXi or ZXi (O) variants, available only with the 5-speed manual version of the car.

Engine and transmission
Powering the Celerio is the K-Next Engine with 3 cylinder 1.0 litre unit. Christened as the K10B, the engine develops 67bhp of max power at 6,000 RPM and 90Nm of peak torque at 3,500 RPM and is mated to 5-speed manual and automated manual transmission (the version we drove). In a typical 3-pot manner, the motor is quite vibe-y at idle, and some vibrations trickle inside the cabin, but are never bothersome. 

The AMT transmission depends on an electronic control unit (ECU) that manages actuators to control the clutch engagements for the gear shifts to happen. The AMT variant has the same ARAI rated fuel efficiency of 23.1 kmpl as of the manual Celerio variant, which sounds terrific on paper. 

There are two modes to choose from — D and M. In D Mode, with a light foot, the car shifts gears quickly to aid fuelefficiency. Keep the accelerator pedal buried and the transmission will perform up shifts late at about 5,000 rpm. This mode is the one you’ll use the most number of times. The shifts are slow, and sometimes erratic — but the system makes the Celerio a convenient car for daily use in heavy traffic. 

You can shift the drive selector lever to the left to get into the In Manual (M) mode to manually perform upshifts and downshifts. Push backwards to upshift and forward to downshift. In the manual mode, the system holds on to a gear and downshifts if you reduce speed in a higher gear, to maintain the low RPM threshold. 

Ride and handling
Low speed ride of the Celerio remains a bit firm, but it drives well with passengers onboard. The firm setup also means that the Celerio is a decent handler around corners, but being a small hatch is suited more to the city than enthusiastic driving on a windy road.

As with all the Marutis, the Celerio employs the efficient EPS. The steering feels light at slow speeds and firms up with speed. Remember, this is predominantly a city hatch and it excels in the ride and handling department at city speeds.

With the Celerio, Maruti brings to the table the most important factors namely — convenience of an automatic transmission, fuel efficiency, decent space, dealer network and low running costs. It’s a very smart product which really addresses a need, and should be a hit among the city dwellers.

>> That’s the layout for the Celerio AMT’s drive selector lever, showing reverse gear engaged. You have to bring the lever down into the second notch to get into Drive mode. Push the lever further left to get into Manual mode. You have to pull the lever down for upshifts, and push it up for downshifts

>> The instrument panel is a simple but tidy and functional design with a black dial and white markings. The big speedo in the centre is flanked by a smaller tacho on the left and a digital panel on the right which features fuel gauge, gear indicator, fuel efficiency metre and a few other readouts

>> No dearth of cubbyholes and other storage spaces on this one. Here’s a small crevice below to the right of the steering panel for putting your wallet or mobile. More such spaces such as cup/bottle holders and small compartments abound within the cabin

On road prices Celerio (Mumbai)
LXI AMT — Rs 5.20 lakh
VXI AMT — Rs 5.54 lakh
LXI — Rs 4.72 lakh
VXI — Rs 5.08 lakh
ZXI — Rs 5.43 lakh
ZXI (O) — Rs 5.97 lakh

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