There are manufacturers who make cars for speed, for luxury, for the wild, for the desert and then they build some which evoke lust and exhibit throat parching desirability. Then there’s Maruti, which has strived hard for years to give us cars that promise to sip fuel through a strangled straw, and surprisingly in the process, some of them turned out to be fun to drive robust products.
A champion of sorts in making ultra-popular hatchbacks, Maruti Suzuki had to bank on the Italians to propel their diesel-powered vehicles. Even till date, their cars continue to live a borrowed life, being propelled by the extremely popular, punchy, yet frugal 1.3-litre Fiat Multijet engine.
They’ve now introduced a diesel motor in their entry-level mid-size hatchback, the Celerio, and disengaging the clutches of externally sourced diesel engines, have managed to develop one themselves, in-house, in India.
Since everything except the motor remains the same, you may click this highlighted part to read about the car’s design, interiors and features. So brace yourselves, things are about to get loud, rudimental and shaky because we’re about to reveal what makes us shamelessly dislike this new engine and question Maruti’s austerity measures, taken to develop a car that costs more than half a million Indian Rupees for the base variant!
Oh, and just if you’re curious, we didn’t review this product earlier because most online publications don’t exist in Maruti Suzuki’s curious universe. India’s No.1 carmaker doesn’t apparently have enough cars for the online media when premium car makers like BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi do, AMGs and M division cars included. We’ll keep that discussion for a later day, though, and proceed with this review without much ado.
Images: Chirag Mondal
Engine, driving experience and efficiency
Until I had driven the Celerio, it always appeared to me as a handsome car which exuded some old-world elegance in a sea of new age designs, only until I looked sideways. But then we’ll focus on the engine here anyway. At Motoroids, we strongly support home-made brew and were eager to know what this new engine was all about, especially since it has been developed and made in India, and before launch, made a lot of headlines about its astronomical fuel efficiency figure.
To move numbers and figures out of the way, the Maruti Suzuki Celerio Diesel is powered by a 793cc, 2-cylinder, all-aluminium engine that is rated for 47.65 PS of rather feeble power output at 3500 rpm and 125 NM of un-diesel like torque at a slightly higher 2000 rpm mark. Tipping the scales at 89 kilos, it happens to be 39 kgs lighter than the Fiat sourced motor that does duty on the diesel Swift and is also the smallest diesel engine mounted under the hood of any production car in India.
With the key slid inside the ignition slot, it took just one twist to disappoint. The way this featherweight motor rumbled to life was a big dampener. Reminding us of old gen diesel engines that used to power cars and jeeps in India in the 90’s, the Celerio rocks from side to side like a boat, until the starter motor lazily brings the engine to life. Settling into an idle at around 900 rpm, vibrations are clearly evident and annoyingly noticeable on the pedals, the gear lever and even the steering wheel. Switch the air-conditioner on and working harder, the twin pot motor idles at 1000 clicks to counter additional tremors.
It just doesn’t stop at the vibrations though, the parallel twin engine sounds industrial and blares out some really loud clatter. The exhaust note will remind you of a distant water pump one can hear in a rural paddy field on a lazy, quiet afternoon. More than a hatchback, this 125 DDIS motor seems fit for an LCV, apparently where it will end up, whenever Maruti launches the Y9T. The aural experience isn’t any different inside the cabin either. A lot of clatter filters in, and things only get noisier as speeds build up, wind noise taking over at higher speeds.
Slotting the gear lever into first, the Celerio diesel isn’t a sprightly performer off the mark. Given the molecular motor, momentum remains sluggish until the needle crosses 2000 rpm. Shifting through the slightly notchy gearbox, one glance at the tachometer is enough to surprise, as the needle crosses the 3000 rpm mark in quick time like a hare, while the speedometer leisurely strolls and takes its time to point at decent speeds. If you’re in the mood, the little motor will rev until its 4900 rpm limit, but beyond 3500 clicks, it is pointless really. We repeatedly took to car till the 80 kph mark in 4th gear to confirm that the engine was indeed spinning beyond the 3000 rpm mark to maintain that pace.
As the twin pot engine is constantly in the upper reaches of its rev band, working through the gearbox is what helps it maintain momentum. Driveability is decent for an engine of this size, but you’ll have to slip the clutch over speed breakers if you’re adamant and lazy to shift into first from second. While the Celerio diesel can keep up with traffic in town, out on the open road, you may be able to cruise near the 100kph mark, but there just isn’t enough grunt in the engine to cheat through heavier volumes of air beyond that. It will take you to speeds beyond the ton mark if you insist, but will test your patience so much, you’ll ease off the gas automatically.
The steering weighs up decently as speeds build up, but even at crawling speeds, it remains slightly heavy in comparison to the units found in cars of the same segment or even lower. Handling is predictable, and at higher speeds, the Celerio remains steady for a car that weighs just 900 kilos. However, with a firmed up front suspension in comparison to the petrol powered Celerio, the oil burner doesn’t glide over surfaces, but things don’t get bone jarring either.
Fuel economy for the Maruti Suzuki Celerio diesel is rated at 27.62 kmpl, which again isn’t the figure we could achieve as we drove the car around for a day. In mixed conditions, the onboard computer displayed a figure of 17+, while we believe something around the 20 kmpl mark is achievable in real world conditions.
Is it a buy?
There are two situations where one would consider buying the Celerio diesel. The first would be as an A to B car that is functional and efficient around town. But then, starting at Rs 5,72, 476 OTR Mumbai, stretching to 7,00,000 for the top-of-the-line ZDi (O) variant, there are plenty of better options within Maruti’s own portfolio and elsewhere. Consider this, the new Ford Figo’s base diesel can be yours for 6,40,000 OTR Mumbai, and that is a far, far better vehicle than the Celerio. On the other hand, if A to B transportation within town is all that you seek, there are cheaper petrol options to consider, where the premium you pay for a diesel car can be saved to spend on petrol.
We’ve heard many say that the Celerio diesel could do well in rural markets where buyers don’t mind the non-refined engine and average quality build, fuel efficiency reigning supreme. We fail to understand why should they consider their own brethren to be okay with something that isn’t acceptable to them. We all pay the same amount of taxes, quality of roads is more or less the same throughout the country and the rural urban divide in India is now at its thinnest. I remember I experienced 4G cellular network in a place like Udupi, months before people could sample it in Mumbai.
Coming back to the car, in all honesty, the Celerio diesel seems overpriced for the package that it is. Agrarian levels of refinement, flimsy plastics, thin seats and that noisy motor contribute to deliver a washed out motoring experience that bleaches the joys of driving a car. Don’t take our word, go take a test drive and you’d probably agree. It reminds us of a no-frills bank account, which for some reason asks you to maintain a hefty amount as average quarterly balance, in exchange for nothing.
Price range: Rs 4.7 – 5.75 lakh ex-showroom
- Engine 793cc, 2 cylinder, DDiS125, turbo diesel
- Fuel Efficiency (ARAI) 27.62 kmpl
- Drivetrain Front Wheel Drive
- Fuel Type Diesel
- Max Power (bhp@rpm) 46 bhp @ 3500 RPM
- Max Torque (Nm@rpm) 125 Nm @ 2000 RPM
- Transmission Type Manual 5 gear
Heartfelt thanks to Shivam Autozone, one of the largest and preferred Maruti Suzuki 3S dealers in Mumbai.