2021 Maruti Celerio: First Drive Review
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The Celerio needs to have the basics of a family car right before it starts to boast the feature list. So, can it do that?
Nowadays, new car buying decisions are based more on what the brochure says than how capable the car actually is. And while the more expensive cars usually do get these basics right, it becomes more difficult for compact hatchbacks to get the correct balance. That is what we intend to find out with the all-new Celerio. Can it be a practical car for everyday use, or is it more impressive on the brochure than on the road?
Basic. If the Celerio's design needs to be summarised in one word, that would be it. It is reminiscent of the Alto 800 but larger. Compared to the older model, the Celerio has grown in wheelbase and width, improving its proportions. However, the design details seem a bit too plain. While it won't tug at your heartstrings, thankfully, it isn't off-putting either -- or loud or quirky, for that matter.
At the front, it gets halogen headlamps and fog lamps along with a subtle touch of chrome on the grille. There is nothing special about this look, and it remains rather sombre. LED DRLs could have added a bit of spark here, but they are not even available as accessories. Speaking of which, Maruti is offering two accessory packs that add exterior and interior highlights.
At the side, the black 15-inch alloy wheels grab the most attention for looking smart. Sadly, they're limited to the top-spec variant, with the others getting 14-inch tyres. The ORVMs are body-colourd and get turn indicators. However, the important part is that they are electrically adjustable and fold automatically when you lock the car. And then comes the passive keyless entry button, which could have definitely been better executed in design; right now, it looks aftermarket.
At the back, the width: height ratio feel right, and the clean design gives it a sober look. LED taillamps could have helped this profile look a bit more modern. However, you do get a rear wiper, washer, and defogger. The boot release handle is rather convenient, and the out-of-place passive keyless entry button is here as well.
Overall, the 2021 Celerio is a simple-looking hatchback that will not garner any attention on the road. The design is a bit too safe and might irk young buyers who might want something with a bit more punch. Pun intended.
The Celerio, while bland on the outside, looks rather stylish on the inside. The black dashboard design and the silver accents (on the AC vents and the centre console) feel upmarket. Also impressive is the build quality here. The fit and finish and the plastic quality feel is solid, a pleasant surprise for a budget Maruti. The same is also communicated from the various touchpoints like all the buttons, steering wheel, and the gear shifter.
The good news continues with the seating posture as well. The driver seats are well cushioned and wide enough to accommodate drivers of most sizes. A big range for the seat height adjustment means short and taller drivers will be comfortable and have good outward visibility. The tilt-adjustable steering further helps with the proper driving position. However, the seating is still low, like a conventional hatchback (and not tall, like an SUV, something you get in the S-Presso). Overall, from an ergonomic standpoint, the Celerio is spot on.
But then comes cabin practicality, an area where this hatchback leaves us wanting for more. It gets two cup holders and a not-so-wide (but deep) storage tray right ahead, which can’t fit modern-day smartphones, leaving them dangling while charging. Other than this, you get a decent-sized glovebox and door pockets on all doors. The cabin could have had more storage spaces, particularly in front of and behind the handbrake. Open storage on the dashboard would have been nice too.
The feature list here is quite useful, if not extensive. On the top is a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment unit (paired with four speakers) that supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. However, sound quality is average at best. You also get a manual AC, push-button start, electrically adjustable ORVMs, steering-mounted controls, and Hill Hold Assist with the AMT transmission.
While the feature list feels practical enough, adding a rear parking camera would have made it even easier for new drivers to park in tight spaces. And since we are wishing, automatic climate control at Rs 7 lakh (ex-showroom) should have been included.
Because the Celerio is not as tall as the Wagon R, ingress and egress aren't as easy. You have to sit 'down' into the car versus the WagonR, where you simply 'walk' in. That said, getting in is still effortless. The seat base is flat and the cushioning soft, which will keep you comfortable on city journeys. The space on offer is ample for even two 6-footers sitting one behind the other. Knee room, legroom, and headroom won't give you a chance to complain, and the cabin feels reasonably airy as well. The only thing you cannot do is seat three at the back as the cabin lacks width.
While the seats are comfortable, the experience remains basic. The headrests are not adjustable, and there are no cupholders, armrests, or a place to keep the phone and charge it. Even the seatback pocket is just for the passenger side. You do get door pockets, but the Celerio needed some more features to help the rear seat experience.
The 313-litre boot space is ample. While it may not be as much as the Wagon R's 341 litres, the shape here is wide and deep, which will help you store even large suitcases with ease. You also get 60:40 split rear-folding seats if the luggage exceeds the boot space.
Two issues here. First, the loading lip is quite high and has no cover. Lifting heavy bags will require strength, and sliding them often might just damage the paint. Second, there's no boot light, so you will have to use your phone's flashlight at night to hunt for particular items.
The Maruti Celerio is available in four variants: LXI, VXI, ZXI, and ZX+. Of these, all but the base variant is available with an AMT automatic transmission option. Prices range from Rs 4.9 lakh to Rs 6.94 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi).
Engine And Performance
The Celerio gets a new 1.0-litre petrol engine with the Dual Jet tech with VVT and auto-idle start/stop to save fuel. Power and torque figures stand at 68PS and 89Nm, which are not all that impressive. But let's leave the brochure aside and focus on the drive.
The first thing you notice as you set off is just how easy the Celerio is to drive. We mean a light clutch, gears slotting in easily, and compliant throttle response. All these combined makes getting off the line smooth and effortless. The engine has a good amount of usable power at the start, helping you accelerate at a brisk pace. It's not very quick but steadily builds speed. This nature of the engine also allows the Celerio to feel responsive within city limits. Going for overtakes is easy at city speeds and does not usually require a downshift.
The engine refinement is good, especially for a three-cylinder mill. This remains true even when you push the engine to higher RPMs on the highways for overtakes. Cruising at 100kmph is effortless, and you are still left with power for overtaking. Sure, they need to be planned but are manageable. In fact, its 1-litre engine feels peppier than the 1.1- and 1.2-litre engines its competition employs. There's a bit of a learning curve involved if you're trying to drive the Celerio smoothly in bumper-to-bumper traffic. It feels slightly jerky even with minor throttle inputs, and Maruti should look to smoothen this out. While this engine has its merits, the 1.2-litre engine (in the Wagon R and Ignis) is still a superior unit both in refinement and power delivery.
If you want a truly hassle-free experience, pick the AMT. The shifts are smooth and reasonably quick for an AMT. And because the engine offers good low-end torque, the transmission doesn't have to downshift often, allowing a relaxed drive experience.
The other highlight of the Celerio's drive is its mileage. With a claimed efficiency of up to 26.68kmpl, the Celerio is said to be the most fuel-efficient petrol car on sale in India. We will put this claim to test in our efficiency run, but based on the time we spent driving the Celerio around, it's safe to assume around 20kmpl in the city.
Ride and handling
Comfort is an essential factor for buying any small family car that will spend most of its time on city roads. The Celerio manages to isolate you well from surface imperfections at slow speeds and keeps you comfortable. But as the speeds increase, the suspension starts to feel firm, and more of the road surface can be felt inside. Broken roads and potholes are felt properly, and there is some side-to-side cabin movement as well. While this is not uncomfortable, we reckon a small city car should have a more comfortable ride quality.
Handling feels neutral, and the steering at city speeds is light. This adds to the Celerio’s easy-to-drive nature, making it easier for new drivers. But what the experienced ones will notice is that after taking a turn, the steering doesn’t re-centre properly, and that feels a bit annoying. On the highways, the steering is certainly more confidence-inspiring.
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Before we reach a verdict, there is something that needs to be addressed. As you can see, the Celerio sits right in between the Wagon R and the Ignis in terms of price. The Wagon R is regarded as a practical and spacious hatchback, and in its top AMT variant, it is Rs 50,000 less expensive than the Celerio. The bigger and more feature-loaded Ignis, in its top variant, is just Rs 50,000 more expensive than the Celerio. So, if you are looking for something more than what the Celerio has to offer or are ready to compromise on a few features, the Wagon R and Ignis make more sense.
Frankly, choosing the Celerio will really need a solid reason.
And that reason is the hatchback's easy-to-drive nature. The Celerio won't intimidate new drivers and is a more stylish option than the Wagon R. Also, it has more practical features, comfortable rear seats, and a peppy engine with impressive fuel efficiency. However, there could undoubtedly be improvements in the design, ride comfort, and cabin practicality -- things that hold back the Celerio from being the ideal (city) family hatchback.
The reason to buy the Celerio is singular -- you need an easy-to-drive, fuel-frugal hatchback. If you need anything more (or less), there are the more already established Marutis in a similar price range.