What is it?
It’s no secret that fuel efficiency and running costs are a massive factor in car-buying decisions in India. Diesel engines are especially important for car owners who commute over long distances on a daily basis. Unfortunately, not many entry level cars in our market use diesel engines, because small-capacity diesel engines are both hard to engineer well and expensive to make.
However, nowadays, it’s starting to catch on. Hyundai’s Grand i10, for example, can be had with a 70bhp, 1,120cc three-cylinder engine and Chevrolet has a 58.5bhp, 936cc three-cylinder diesel in the Beat. The Chevrolet is, in fact, India’s most fuel efficient hatchback: with a fuel economy rating of 25.44kpl.
Now Maruti wants to up its game with this new Celerio diesel. What we’ve discovered is that the car has received an ARAI rating of 27.62kpl, and that places it ahead of Maruti’s own Ciaz diesel, which has held the title of most efficient car in India until now.
Maruti, unlike the competition however, hasn’t lopped a cylinder off an existing engine; it has designed an all-new one, from scratch, with a reduced cylinder count specifically in mind. Known internally as the E08A, Suzuki and Maruti’s first diesel will also be the first two-cylinder engine after the Nano. Displacing a mere 793cc, which would make it the smallest automotive diesel engine in the world, the unit will put out a mere 47bhp at a relatively relaxed 3,500rpm. While that kind of power is barely sufficient, what will help is the healthy torque of the diesel – 12.1kgm (versus 9.1kgm for the petrol). And what will also help the car will be its light kerb weight; between 880 and 900kg.
What’s it like to drive?
Now as expected, this two-cylinder diesel vibrates and makes a bit of noise when you start it up. Turn the key and it coughs, wheezes and then settles into a lumpy idle. Sure, you can tell it’s a diesel right away, but the slightly off-beat tone and the mild vibration give it away as something a bit different too. It’s not as silent as Hyundai’s Grand i10 and it isn’t as smooth either when revved, but all things considered, refinement levels are quite acceptable. And while engine noise increases as you spin it faster, it doesn’t get excessively gruff either.
Performance is less impressive; clearly, this car is tuned more for gentle cruising and success at the pumps. If you adopt a relaxed driving style, the Celerio diesel will pull you along cheerfully and it is pretty good at that. It takes off quite smartly from rest and there’s very little delay before the small turbo gives it a bit of a boost, so driving at city speeds isn’t too much of a bother. Try to press on, however, and the Celerio diesel runs out of breath. Yes, there is some amount of grunt in the mid-range and you can make use of this in the higher gears, but effective powerband is so narrow that power soon tails off. We did manage to get some indicative acceleration numbers on our brief drive around Goa, but those didn’t prove to be too impressive; expect a 0-100kph time somewhere in the region of 19 or 20 seconds, which isn’t too far from the Chevrolet Beat diesel. And while the clutch is light, the gearbox did need a bit of effort to slot in occasionally. So, expect enough performance to drive around in a relaxed manner, but not much beyond that.
Should I buy one?
Otherwise, the Celerio diesel is quite similar to the petrol-powered car. The ride on the tall tyres and long travel suspension is comfortable, the steering is light and direct and there’s plenty of space on the inside. The VDi’s specifications also mirror those of the VXi quite closely, so you know what to expect. Maruti will launch the Celerio diesel on June 3, and you can expect a difference in price of around Rs 60,000-80,000 from the petrol car, which would mean an ex-showroom price of around Rs 5 lakh; perfect if all you’re looking for is a practical and efficient car.