There was a time when diesel cars were a rage in India. This was helped by better fuel economy and the subsidy that kept diesel prices unnaturally low in comparison to petrol. With the diesel subsidy gone, the scenario is starkly different now.
Yet, the introduction of a diesel engine in a category that never had one, could throw up interesting possibilities.
Hence, the Celerio Diesel is a bold and ambitious move. But, can the Maruti surprise us?
DESIGN AND STYLING
Given that the car is just over a year old, no major exterior or interior changes were expected. The Celerio was built on a longer platform, but it clearly isn’t a brand new design. Though, it does not look ugly, it is not very exciting either. What break the monotony of the design are the lines and creases on the sides.
The interiors overplay plastic and the practical nature of the hatchback, means creativity takes a back seat. It is a simple design where everything is where you need. The top-end variants get features such as Bluetooth connectivity and steering mounted controls along with dual airbags and anti-lock brakes.
WHAT WORKS: ENGINE AND PERFORMANCE
The 2-cylinder 793cc turbocharged engine is the smallest ever diesel motor fitted in a car by anyone in the world. There are notions that people carry when it comes to a diesel car — it has to be noisy, coarse but peppy and economical. This car, however, surprises on almost all parameters. The engine makes 47.6 PS power and 125 Nm of torque that compares unfavourably with its closest competitors (see table) but thanks to an allaluminium block, the overall car is only 70 kg heavier than Celerio petrol.
The attempts at keeping the weight low manifest itself on the road. The car takes its time to get going and you will have to use the clutch and accelerator judiciously in the first two gears but once the turbocharger kicks in at 2,000 rpm, the car jumps forward in a way you would not expect. It has a sweet spot between 30 and 90 kph and there it clearly belies the power figure. And these are the speeds we generally drive in cities. As one would expect, the engine starts gasping at high speeds, but it can hold its own at speeds around 100kph.
Comparing this to a straight-cut 4-cylinder diesel engine would be unfair but the Celerio is a better performer than the Beat. And the latter has an extra cylinder.
WHAT DOESN’T: NOISE AND FUEL ECONOMY
Any diesel engine would be noisy and when it is this small it can be disconcertingly so. The car has a very peculiar voice that is most audible from the outside while idling. It isn’t as annoying as the Nano and efficient insulation means it does not percolate inside. Touted as the most fuel efficient car in the country at 27.62kpl, it is in this department where the it disappoints a bit.
Floor the pedal and keep the AC on and the economy drops to around 15kpl. Drive it at leisure and you will probably get no better than 21kpl. Only if you are out on the highway on a balmy winter morning, can you get 25kpl or thereabouts. Given that the test vehicle was almost off the shelf, mileage figures may improve as the car is used.
If you drive around mostly in the city, you probably do not munch enough miles to need a diesel car. If you do, Celerio is affordable, peppy and does not really have a competition. Quite literally.