Maruti Celerio AMT Drive Review – Automated Success

Maruti Suzuki unveiled Celerio at Auto Expo earlier this year with manual and automatic variants. It replaced A-Star and turned the game around with its USP, the Automated Manual Transmission (AMT). Celerio has received over 36,000 bookings so far, trumping Maruti’s own smaller estimate and now contributes for about 50 percent of Maruti’s entire sales volume, half of which is AMT version.

Maruti Celerio AMT 03 frontThis game changing AMT technology seems to satisfy the needs and worries of most small car buyers (which in India means two things, capital cost & fuel economy), and Maruti already being synonymous to those two words, kept its end up and introduced the small car goers to the world of driving with one foot.

While A-Star may have failed for its own reasons to appeal to the masses, Celerio has already proven to save Maruti’s face by its spiking number of bookings, even as company shows a big dip in year-on-year sales figures. Waiting period for Celerio AMT has gone up to about 8 months, varying from 4 months from place to place, while manual version is available for immediate delivery in some cities and in few weeks in others. Although, both models are booked in almost equal numbers, the difference in waiting period is due to unexpected burst in preference for AMT.

Maruti Celerio AMT 01 front leftFirst Impression – As I got the keys of a Celerio, I noticed that it’s identical to that of Swift’s and Ertiga’s. Some may see that as a nice touch for a car of smaller price tag, others may think ‘this is how Maruti saves on cost’. I did not take sides, just let it pass. Before getting in, I went around the car and was happy to see the headlamp and grille designs being fresh and did not resemble any others’ inside Maruti’s family. Then along the side panels, I started to wonder and getting behind the car, I knew I had seen the styling cues before; I shall rather put it as ‘inspired from Alto 800′. And my smile turned upside down.

Interiors carry dual-tone (beige & black) trims on nicely crafted dashboard. Steering wheel looks similar to Swift’s and feels quite better. Looking around inside, one can see few small components taken from Swift, like door opener, safety lock, hazard lamp push button, AC vent and the like. Then I had to admit Maruti’s gesture to save cost.

Maruti Celerio AMT 04 dashboardInteriors – Like mentioned, Celerio’s interior design feels fresh but some elements remind us of those that served for almost a decade in Swift. Never mind, Maruti lovers won’t mind I’m sure. On the bright side, there are ample utility spaces to shelve small items like mobile phones, toll tickets, pocket change to donate at traffic signals, etc., all placed within effortless reach of driver. In addition, there are two cup holders ahead of hand brake lever, one open able cup/bottle holder behind the same lever – well accessible for both front and rear passengers, and one bottle holder on either of rear door panels, all capable of holding a narrow bottle of say 500ml capacity.

Features aside, plastic quality is better for a Maruti, I mean if I were blindfolded and seated in a Celerio, I wouldn’t have guessed it was a Maruti, at least not immediately. But Maruti’s DNA in the polymers’ formula remains.

Seating comfort is fairly appreciable; most suited for commute and short distance drives. Head restraints on front and back seats are integrated, not adjustable.

Celerio offers good cabin space especially height-wise, and rear legroom is impressive. Still, three adults on back bench will be sitting tight.

What annoys buyers is that AMT version does not come in ZXi variant and looses many attractive features that come in Celerio Manual Zxi, like:

Alloy Wheels,
Body coloured door handles, orvms, front fog lamps,
Coloured door mirror,
Door trim fabric,
Driver seat height adjuster,
Front seat back pockets,
Audio system with bluetooth, steering mounted controls and 4 speakers,
Keyless entry,
Security system,
Tilt steering,
Airbag,
Anti-lock Braking System (ABS),
Rear window wiper & washer, and
Rear window demister.

Driving Experience – Make sure gear lever is slotted to N, depress the brakes and turn the ignition on, you’ll sense subtle vibration telling you that engine has started running. As you remove your foot from the brakes, the vehicle will start moving and go upto say 10kmph before pedalling the throttle. As far as left foot is concerned, it can wait on the floor till journey is over, as there is no dead pedal.

Maruti Celerio AMT 06 auto gear configurationAutomated gearshift process is very much noticeable during drive as power drops for more than a second till next gear is engaged. Its like a tiny robot leeching on usual gear shifter mechanism and changing gears for you. It reads your mind from how deep you push the throttle down and makes upshifts at co-related engine speed. Say if you want to race someone, simply flooring the pedal down at anytime will help reach red-line (6,000 rpm) as fast as it can and then upshift, but expected acceleration may not be felt immediately if AMT was not expecting it at the time. If it was on higher gear, it shows a lag to come down one gear and then rev engine to redline. So in short, it requires some getting-used-to to master the AMT and make it work the way you want it to.

But for regular city drive/commute, just hop in and start driving, it will be simple and enjoyable. In fact, it is much better to drive in dense traffic, with no stress of choosing right gears and pain of depressing the clutch repeatedly like manual sewing machine, especially for drivers who do not like manual transmission.

At anytime, the gear lever can be pushed to the left, switching to manual mode, and back to AT upon hitting traffic. Manual shifting also takes same time to shift but even if you forget to down shift or switch to AT under heavy braking, the AMT downshifts for you and never lets the engine turn off.

Thanks to the enthusiastic 998cc K10b engine that produces 68PS of max. power at 6,000 rpm and 90Nm of peak torque at 3,500 rpm, which remains peppy at all times and provides great driving pleasure for a small car. The engine does not sound so nice at higher speeds, but the AMT does not let it rev unnecessarily when clutch is engaged.

Steering feels light and offers right amount of feedback, giving sporty feel while manoeuvring, but the brakes feel soft at high speeds and hard at low speeds.

Verdict – Maruti Celerio appeals to both young enthusiasts and older commuters, mainly because of its brilliant engine, fresh interiors and affordable price range right between Alto K10 and Swift/Ritz. The AMT version is undoubtedly successful, especially because of its ability to maintain fuel efficiency on par with manual variant (approximately 14 kmpl in city).

Price of Maruti Suzuki Celerio Lxi AT is Rs. 4.14 lakhs, and Vxi AT costs Rs. 4.44 lakhs (ex-showroom Delhi).

Photo Gallery (20 images)
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