A budget car might be considered a somewhat derisory term for models that in fact offer
A budget car might be considered a somewhat derisory term for models that in fact offer good value for money in view of recent austere times.
The economy may have picked up but the reality is that most people are still on the lookout for bargains — not least in car ownership.
And for the majority of us, the budget car is the one that suits our pockets.
But what is a budget car? Well a brand new car that starts at around £8,000 has to make the list.
And this week’s drive, the Suzuki Celerio, fits the bill perfectly.
This new city car, that eventually replaces both Suzuki Alto and Splash models, has been warmly welcomed for its obvious competitiveness in the huge global city car market.
A decade ago you might have struggled to get the kind of equipment in such a small car that is offered on the Celerio.
Yet here you find a host of goodies including on the 1.0 SZ4 AGS test car, on the safety front, driver and front passenger airbags, side airbags and curtain airbags, daylight running lights, power steering, electric front and rear windows, and air conditioning to name but a few.
I am always urging potential new car buyers to check out the specification on any car they might buy. Generally, the higher the spec the better the car and the more satisfying it is to drive.
Of course you pay for these added extras and the test car’s final price, including options (one of which was £415 for its attractive Ablaze Red Metallic paintwork), came in at £10,214.
But, again, I think with the Celerio it is worth the extra initial outlay for "options" that will give you a more complete and satisfying city car.
Driving this car was interesting inasmuch as it was fitted with a fully automatic gearbox that incorporated a manual, clutchless shift mode.
This is Suzuki’s newly developed Auto Gear Shift (AGS) launched here in the UK in April as an option for the Celerio SZ4.
I found that the AGS in fully automatic form needed some practice to avoid a pause and lurch in power as you pull away.
This was invariably followed by that automatic lull in power between gear changes.
At times, for example, when approaching a roundabout and slowing almost to a stop before pulling away, this could provide an awkward dip in power.
It might of course have been my driving technique but I find this can be a common irritation with automatic boxes that do not employ engineering that eliminates any pause in power or this lull between gear changes.
Having said that, the AGS system also has a manual mode facility that worked a treat — very quick, smooth and nippy. Which is, after all, what you want from a city car.
Although inside the cabin as you would expect plastic is a main feature of the interior, the driver’s instruments are well laid out, simple in design and easy to locate.
The seats were surprisingly comfortable on a longish journey for a city car and the car’s squareish interior allowed for good space for passengers and driver both back and front.
What’s more, the boot space was more than adequate for this size of car.
I found the car’s exterior design pleasing for its simplicity — I don’t mind understatement in any car — and there was a general lightness of touch about the car that again would be easy to live with and all that one could hope for in a city vehicle.
Economy, as you might expect, is good — returning overall around 65.7mpg with this AGS transmission.
Your green credentials would remain intact, too, if you bought a Celerio with emissions of 99g/km.
Suzuki says that the "cost of owning a Celerio is set to be low over a typical three-year period with 12,500 miles service intervals".
Insurance group ratings of 7E for both trim grades, and zero VED — this all helps if you are motoring on a budget.
I think that Suzuki has got it right with the Celerio in this toughest of markets and although I would like to see an even smoother automatic gearbox (which would probably add cost) I would say that if you want a city slicker you should take a Celerio for a test drive.
Celerio 1.0 SZ4 AGS
Price of test car (on-the-road including options): £10,214
Available in two trim grades and priced from £7,999 for SZ3 model and £8,999 for SZ4
Air conditioning, DAB radio, Bluetooth and alloy wheels fitted as standard
Class leading luggage capacity of 254 litres
New K10C Dualjet engine now available on SZ3 with emissions of 84g/km and combined fuel consumption of 78.4mpg
Six airbags and ESP fitted as standard on both UK models