Whenever Maruti launches a car in India, it’s welcomed with a lot of enthusiasm, and when it’s a compact car, this enthusiasm reaches a whole new level. With the launch of the Celerio, Maruti wants to make its bestselling small car line-up even stronger. The car’s neatly styled exterior, combined with its space and practicality, promises a lot. That it’s well priced and has the company’s proven 1.0-litre K10 petrol engine under the hood just adds to its overall appeal. But in a small car-crazed country where there is no shortage of options, is the Celerio the pick of the lot? We’ve lined it up against three of its rivals to find out.
Nissan’s cut-price Micra Active is a big hatch for the price of a small one. It’s got the basics down right – space, practicality, power and proven mechanicals, and the same can be said about the Figo. The little Ford was always a good value-for-money car and its appeal lies in the fact that it offers a large overall package. The i10 was the de-facto choice in this segment for a long time and is still a very accomplished product. So, which one should you go for – Maruti’s fresh take on the urban hatch, the Nissan, the Ford or the Hyundai? One thing’s for sure, they all give you plenty of car for the money.
Maruti’s Celerio is powered by the now familiar 1.0-litre ‘K10’ petrol engine that does duty in the Wagon R and the Alto K10. But this is an upgraded version, and it shows. The first thing you realise when you set off is that this motor is really happy to rev; the flexible engine makes the Celerio feel light and agile. Even on the highway, overtaking is easy and the Maruti needs only a shift or two to accelerate with enthusiasm. As a result, performance figures are quite impressive – the sprint to 100kph takes 14.24 seconds. You’d never guess that it has the smallest engine here.
However, the engine isn’t perfect. It gets noisy after 4,000rpm and it takes a bit of time to get into its stride. Also, there is a degree of jerkiness when you’re negotiating stop-start traffic, since the three-cylinder engine doesn’t run as smoothly as an equivalent four-cylinder one.It isn’t smooth at idle either; the cabin shudders when you’re at a standstill because of the low idle speed.
The Micra Active, on the other hand, feels much more responsive at low engine speeds. The lower power output of 67bhp, compared to the 76bhp on the standard Micra, is down to Nissan tuning the engine for city use, and this is clearly evident when you drive the car. The bigger 1.2-litre motor feels peppy and flexible from the word go and, despite also being a three-cylinder motor, vibrations are kept in check. Since its engine is larger than the Celerio’s, the Active has better pulling power too. It pulls quite well from low speeds and spins quite freely to its 5,200rpm redline. On the downside, there is a fair bit of engine noise when the motor is worked hard. It is also difficult to modulate the accelerator, as the engine responds too strongly at times.
The i10’s ‘iRDE 2’ engine has strong responses at low speeds like the Micra, but once past 2,500rpm, the power delivery flattens out. It is probably the most rev-happy engine here, though it’s best to up-shift early and keep the motor at moderate revs. This is because it feels strained towards the higher ranges of its powerband.
What’s nice is the dashboard-mounted gearlever, which is easy to shift; the next gear is just a flick of your wrist away.
The Figo’s ‘Duratec’ engine, on paper, should be a strong contender, thanks to its larger, 1.2-litre size and four-cylinder layout. But when you drive it, you come away unimpressed. The power output of the motor is a meagre 70bhp. It responds well and the Figo keeps up with traffic easily, but ask any more of it and you will be disappointed. Once past 2,500rpm, power delivery is quite weak and you need to down-shift quite rapidly to keep progress respectable.
As a result, flat-out acceleration to 100kph takes a leisurely 16.3 seconds. The Figo’s hefty 1105kg weight is also a contributing factor. However, Ford’s five-speed gearbox is light, precise and feels the best to use in this test.
Ride & handling
It’s safe to say these petrol hatchbacks will spend most of their time driving in the city, but they’ll also have to deal with some rough patches along the way, so ease of use and good ride are of utmost importance. The Celerio is extremely easy to punt around in traffic, and the compact dimensions and good overall visibility help its cause. The Maruti’s low-speed ride is pliant and it handles broken surfaces and patchy tarmac well. The suspension works silently too, but as speeds build, potholes register a strong thud and there is a bit of bouncing too. However, it’s not unnerving and, in most situations, doesn’t feel uncomfortable either. Sound insulation is not that great though, and there is quite a bit of tyre and road noise that seeps into the cabin.
The Micra’s suspension is quite ‘thumpy’ at low speeds and big potholes need to be carefully dealt with, but things improve as speeds rise and it rides flatter than even the Celerio. The Micra also lets quite a bit of road noise seep through to its cabin, and even at speed the suspension never feels quiet.
The i10’s suspension is very pliant. It feels comfortable in the city at low speeds, but once you go a little faster or over large road undulations, it becomes bouncy, especially at the rear. But the Hyundai, like the other cars in this test, is extremely easy to drive in traffic. What also helps is the engine’s pulling power, the car’s slick gearshifts and the light clutch.
This department is where the Figo deserves all five stars. No other car at this price or range comes close to the Ford in terms of the way their suspensions behave. The Figo gives you that big-car feel, which the others lack, and it feels rock-solid at any speed. There is a bit of stiffness when you’re going slower, but it’s never uncomfortable, and it only improves as you go faster.The Figo’s steering is also light, but accurate, especially on a twisty road, and it steers beautifully. Body control is outstanding as well and the Figo simply begs to be driven hard. It’s such a pity that the mediocre engine cannot fully exploit this wonderful but heavy chassis.
Right behind the Ford in terms of handling is the Maruti Celerio. It steers accurately and is stable at high speeds. While the Micra Active and i10 are safe handling cars, they feel a bit dull and the Micra gets affected by crosswinds more than any other car here.
What people will welcome in the Celerio is its roomy cabin. Maruti has put the car’s height to good use, making the most of the vertical space available. The front seats, with their fixed headrests and slim design, are quite comfy and help generate more space for rear passengers. There’s more space at the rear than you’d expect too, but it is slightly less roomy than the much larger Micra. The rear seat is pretty comfortable, but thigh support is poor and the seat base is a tad shorter than we’d have liked. Another downside – the small, fixed headrests won’t be effective in preventing neck injury in case of a rear impact. Also, the cabin isn’t very wide, so seating three in the back will be quite a squeeze.
The Micra is by far the most spacious car in this test. The wide dimensions also mean three people can sit at the back in decent comfort. The rear seat has loads of space and there’s enough room for passengers to stretch out. But where it also falls short is thigh support. The front seats are quite generous though, and finding a decent driving position is easy. The cabin is a pleasing, inoffensive place to be. The light grey fabrics and plastics do a lot to brighten the cabin’s ambience and there’s loads of headroom, thanks to a roofline that doesn’t drop too sharply.
We like the way the i10’s interiors feel airy, comfortable, well detailed and solidly built. Things like the silver finish on the centre console, the nice switchgear and the precise fit of plastic parts deliver that feel-good factor. The front seats are comfy, with good overall support. The rear seat is just right too, and even though it has the least space of all, there is still decent amount of room for your feet. However, after seven years of its existence, the design and layout of the cabin have started to look a bit dated.
The Figo’s interiors are based on the Fiesta Classic sedan’s, but have been redesigned extensively. Splashes of silver, especially around the air vents, look great and lend an air of sophistication to the cabin. The plastics don’t have the richness we expect from a big hatch, but the plastics are hard-wearing and the switchgear feels solid. There is loads of legroom in the front, even for six-footers, and the Figo’s generous glass area and low window sills have given it a particularly airy cabin. The driver’s seat adjusts for height but not the steering wheel, which can sometimes feel odd, especially if the seat is dropped to its lowest setting. Despite the overall length of the car, rear legroom is not a Figo strength. To make up, Ford has cleverly liberated plenty of foot space below the front seats, which ensures you never truly feel cramped.
The Figo and the Micra have exceptional boot space, while the Celerio and i10 are just about adequate. All four cars have folding rear seats for extra luggage, but the Maruti Celerio, with its 60:40 split-folding seat, is more practical.
Buying & owning
The Celerio ZXi retails at Rs 4.34 lakh (introductory price) ex-showroom, Delhi. It is very well priced and, in the ZXi trim, is quite well equipped too. Maruti sells the Celerio in four trims – LXi, VXi, ZXi and ZXi (Option). We have the mid ZXi variant on test and it is pretty well equipped. Maruti also offers the best sales and service backup of the four but its standard warranty of 24 months /40,000km is the least of the four.
The Nissan Micra Active comes in four variants. Prices start from Rs 3.37 lakh for the base XE variant and the top-end XV S Active costs 4.71 lakh. We have the XV S and it comes with all the basics and it offers unmatched space and practicality in this test. Nissan offers a comprehensive 24 months /50,000km standard warranty on the car.
The Figo prices start at a very attractive Rs 3.86 lakh for the base model and goes upto Rs 5.06 lakh for the top-of-the-line Titanium variant. The car featured here in its ZXi trim gets all the essentials. Ford offers a standard warranty of 24 months/100,000km on the Figo.
The Hyundai i10 on the other hand now only comes with 1.1 iRDE 2 engine. It comes in three trims and the top-of-the-line Sportz model here retails at 4.35 lakh, which makes it the cheapest along with the Celerio. Hyundai offers a comprehensive warranty of 24 months/unlimited km on the i10 and after Maruti, Hyundai has the best after -sales and service network in the country.
In terms of economy, it is the Celerio that stretches each litre of petrol the furthest. The ARAI figures for the Celerio stand at 23.1kpl. A long way behind is the i10 with an ARAI claimed figure of 19.81kpl, closely followed by the Active with 19.49kpl. The Ford Figo is by far the least efficient with an ARAI figure of 15.6kpl. The low efficiency figure of the Ford is also down to its heavy 1105kg weight.
Equipment & safety
The Figo ZXi in this test retails for Rs 4.69 lakh. This variant comes equipped with a driver airbag, and electrically adjustable wing mirrors. It also gets a headlamp reminder, tachometer, keyless entry and a rear de-fogger. The Ford is the only car here that comes with manual rear windows, only the front are power windows. Even the top-spec car doesn’t have four power windows.
We tested the top Sportz variant of the i10 that retails for Rs 4.35 lakh. The i10’s Sportz variant had the least amount of standard equipment in this test. It is the only car that does not feature a driver airbag. However, it is also the only car with fog lamps and a gear-shift indicator. It comes equipped with basic features like front and rear power windows.
The Celerio ZXi variant here costs Rs 4.34 lakh. The Celerio ZXi matches the Figo ZXi with similar levels of features as standard. It gets a driver airbag, electrically adjustable wing mirrors, keyless entry, front and rear power windows. The Celerio is the only one in this bunch that gets a 60:40 split rear seat, headlight leveler and a rear window wiper and washer.
The Micra Active we tested is the top XV S variant, which costs Rs 4.71 lakh. In the safety department, the Active XV S trumps its competition, being the only hatchback that comes equipped with a driver and passenger airbag. It’s also the only car in this test that comes with an anti-lock braking system (ABS) along with electronic brake distribution (EBD) and brake assist as standard. Also, only the Micra Active XV S gets follow-me-home headlamps and adjustable rear headrests. It even reminds the driver if the headlight hasn’t been turned off when exiting the car. It gets front and rear power windows and keyless entry as well.All cars come equipped with air-conditioning, power steering, an engine immobilizer, a tachometer, tilt steering and central locking. The Figo ZXi and the Celerio ZXi come with a four-speaker music system with radio, CD, MP3, USB, aux, Bluetooth compatibility and steering-mounted audio controls. In comparison, the four-speaker music systems of the Hyundai i10 and the Micra Active lack Bluetooth compatibility.
The Figo is a solid package. It’s very well priced, has a big car feel, rides and drives like a charm and is well built. But in keeping the price down, Ford has left out some essential equipment. The engine also offers the least performance and rear space is not that great either.
The i10 is still quite a competent city car. It’s compact, extremely easy to drive and has a good amount of equipment as well. But it is outclassed here and it has started to show its age. The engine, though good in the city, lacks grunt, and the bouncy high-speed ride is uncomfortable.
The Micra Active, on the other hand, feels properly modern. It’s got the most space, a very responsive engine, good low-speed ride and a very attractive price. But the rear seats need a bit more comfort, they’re quite low and lack support. Plus, the engine, though responsive, is very jerky and, at times, tricky in traffic.
The Celerio is the winner of this test simply because it is the best all-rounder here. It’s got reasonably good interiors, a punchy and powerful engine, and a decent balance between a comfortable ride and safe handling. Sure, the cabin may not have the same solid build as say the Figo, and equipment levels aren’t the best, but it isn’t far behind enough to lose serious points here. That Maruti has squeezed out so much passenger space, especially at the rear, and given that it comes with properly comfortable seats and a decent boot only adds to its practical nature.