With the monsoons in full swing and a mid-week national holiday coming up, I decided to head to Goa for a little vacation. It’s a near-600km drive from Mumbai and what I needed was a car that would be good for a long-distance, highway run. But being at the end of the month, I also had to consider the factor of fuel economy. So, brushing aside the S-cross, Creta and Brezza, I decided to take the Celerio diesel for the drive. It is, after all, one of the most economical cars on sale right now.
Of course, I was warned by several colleagues who were apprehensive about the little hatchback’s capabilities outside the city. But given that I wouldn’t be able to carry much speed anyway, owing to wet conditions, I wasn’t particularly worried about the underpowered diesel engine. The dual front airbags that ZDI (0) trim brings gave me more reassurance, especially when heading out on such a long drive.
We set out early in the morning to skip traffic and were soon on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. To my surprise, the Celerio was faring pretty well on open roads. Yes, the vibrations from the two-cylinder engine were constantly present and the intrusion was irritating – especially when pushing it on the highway – but it was fairly easy to hold three-digit speeds. I just made sure the music was turned up enough to drown out the engine noise. Speaking of entertainment, Bluetooth, USB and aux compatibility, along with steering-mounted controls, ensured I could have uninterrupted music on the go. And the speakers are better quality than quite a few of its competitors in the class.
Stability at high speeds isn’t too bad either, but its hatchback shape is a bit vulnerable to the strong cross winds that accompanied the rains on the open highway. There is body roll around corners, but nothing that shook my confidence.
The best part about the driving dynamics is the car’s ride. Some stretches on NH4 have diversions, owing to ongoing construction, and the road surface is in very poor shape in places. The monsoons compound this, making some stretches look like a war zone. But the Celerio took it all in its stride. The supple ride gobbled up broken surfaces with aplomb. Bigger potholes and speed bumps did crash through to the cabin, though.
In terms of comfort, the seats are well cushioned and while they don’t exactly cosset you in luxury, even after driving for six hours at a stretch, my back was in fine nick. And steering adjustability ensured my arms weren’t too strained either.
Practicality-wise, there are plenty of spaces to store knick-knacks in the cabin. Although we only had a couple of soft bags, which easily fitted into the 235-litre boot, all the small things one takes along or accumulates on a long drive were tucked into the many cubbyholes: coffee cups went into the cupholders up front, while the magazines (Autocar India, naturally) my co-passenger brought along were stowed away in the door pockets.
As Goa loomed on the horizon, I checked the fuel gauge and was amazed to find it still had three bars on it. The range showed more than 120km while the distance to our destination was less than half of that. We’d actually managed to make the entire way on less than one tank of fuel! As we cruised into rain-soaked Goa, I knew that bringing the Celerio along had been a great decision. Next time, I may just take it along for a cross-country road trip.