While all the diesel hatchbacks in Autocar’s long-term fleet are generally in great demand, with daily tussles for keys breaking out at the close of the day’s business, a new entrant, the Maruti Celerio, has surprisingly not been at the centre of too many disputes. Understandably, not many were enthusiastic about having a 793cc, two-cylinder diesel engine hatchback that makes 47 ponies, as a daily runabout. But unlike my colleagues, I’ve had my eyes set on the Celerio diesel ever since it joined our fleet over a month ago; I dread frequent trips to the fuel station way more than being left behind by swifter moving traffic on the road.
With an ARAI rating of 27.62kpl, I realised the Celerio would be the most sensible choice for my daily commute; a round trip of around 35km. In fact, during our fuel-efficiency tests in typical city conditions, it returned an astounding mileage of 16.7kpl, which, till date, is the highest delivered by a diesel car. Irrespective of whether I was crawling along at snail’s pace during rush hour or driving hard to reach home after a late night at the office, the Celerio’s mileage never dropped below this figure.
Amazed with its fuel-sipping discretion even in the most trying conditions, I decided to give it some breathing space on the weekend. A quick run to Pune was planned and, once again, the Celerio didn’t disappoint; it returned an impressive 20kpl on the relatively empty Mumbai-Pune expressway. An overall economy of 18.35kpl and a 35-litre tank gives it a range of around 640km. Apart from sparing my rather shallow pockets, this also meant fewer visits to the fuel pump and hence, time saved.
However, while driving on the highway, the small diesel engine revealed its drawbacks. As long as you adopt a relaxed driving style, the motor plays along happily and delivers an acceptable performance. It feels best while cruising at 80-90kph in fifth gear and the Celerio diesel can comfortably do this all day long. But if you start pushing it, the engine starts to feel strained and runs out of breath. Also, with the narrow powerband, overtaking manoeuvres need to be planned well in advance.
Where the diesel motor feels at home, is in the city, gaining pace smoothly from rest with the small turbo providing a decent punch in the mid-range. Credit must be given to the healthy torque of 12.1kgm, along with the light kerb weight of around 900kg. The two-cylinder diesel engine vibrates and makes a fair amount of noise as you fire it up, and even my mom’s friends could guess which fuel it’s running on. Although it’s not too much of a bother, but Maruti should improve damping on the Celerio as a fair amount of engine and road noise filters into the cabin.
Thankfully, the top trim gets steering-mounted audio controls which come in handy and allow me to switch tracks or modulate volume on the go; not a feature you’d come across too often in this segment. The Celerio comes equipped with a few other useful features too that make life behind the wheel a lot easier. The height-adjustable driver seat along with tilt-adjustable steering make it easy to find a good driving position. The electrically adjustable wing mirrors are a relief too for I can change their position at the flick of a knob, without requiring to stretch uncomfortably towards the left door. On a rainy day, the rear tyres end up spraying a lot of muck on the windscreen but the rear washer and wiper clean it up in a jiffy, ensuring clear rearward visibility.
The car’s other strength is that it rides well over Mumbai’s monsoon-ravaged roads with only the sharper bumps managing to thud through. Also, the Celerio never fails to attract praise from my family and friends for its spacious cabin and it offers more room in the back than what one expects, considering its exterior size. But the quality of cabin materials and fit and finish could have been better.
I have to admit, I have grown fond of the Celerio diesel because when it comes to efficiency, running costs and practicality, few segment rivals deliver it better than Maruti’s new mileage champion.