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Suzuki Celerio vs Vauxhall Viva

Vauxhall has given its keenly priced new Viva city car a classy interior and low running costs to help it take the fight to the Suzuki Celerio

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Buyers of budget city cars invariably have โ€˜convenienceโ€™ and โ€˜low costsโ€™ at the top of their list of priorities โ€“ and the new Vauxhall Viva and Suzuki Celerio seem to have both bases covered.

These five-door urban hatchbacks have lower list prices than big-selling city car rivals such as the Hyundai i10 and VW Up. The Viva and Celerio are also available with attractive PCP deals, crucial in this class where monthly payments are a big factor in buying decisions.

Both cars are around the same size and have a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine and five-speed manual gearbox.

The contenders

Suzuki Celerio 1.0 Dualjet SZ3

One of the cheapest cars out there, despite its generous equipment and practicality

Vauxhall Viva 1.0 SE a/c

All-new baby Vauxhall is cheap yet has a classy-looking interior and a refined engine

What are they like to drive?

There are similarities. Both the Celerio and the Viva need to be revved hard if you want to get punchy acceleration โ€“ particularly the Vauxhall, which needs to be up beyond 2500rpm before it gets properly into its stride. Both cars are responsive enough by class standards, though, and are happy to potter around town without constantly having to change gear.

Fewer turns of the steering wheel are required to get around tight corners in the Viva, which makes it feel slightly more agile than its rival. That said, the Suzukiโ€™s steering is heavier at higher speeds, which helps to make the Celerio more stable. Itโ€™s just a pity you have to wind lock off manually when exiting tight corners at low speeds, rather than the steering self-centring of its own accord.

Body lean through tight bends is fairly pronounced in both cars, but the Viva leans a little less and generally feels better tied down, with less nose diving under braking. The Vauxhall soaks up speed bumps and other big intrusions reasonably well and while uneven town roads cause it to fidget, the ride never becomes uncomfortable. Mind you, the Celerio is fractionally more comfortable around town, moving around less over poor surfaces yet remaining equally composed over bigger bumps.

The Suzuki is let down by a substantially noisier engine, though. Both cars suffer some vibration through the steering wheel and pedals, particularly at tickover, but the Vivaโ€™s engine sounds more pleasing and thereโ€™s less road noise to endure, which makes motorway journeys a more peaceful experience.

The Vauxhallโ€™s vague (if light) clutch can make it tricky to pull away smoothly until youโ€™re used to it, but otherwise all the pedal responses are good and stop-start driving is fairly hassle-free in both cars. They also have light and easy-to-use gearshifts.

What are they like inside?

Step into the Viva โ€“ easy to do thanks to a high roof and lofty seat height โ€“ and the first thing many drivers will notice is the restricted amount of adjustment in the steering wheel. Granted, it moves up and down, but the range is rather limited. Neither carโ€™s steering wheel adjusts for reach, although both do at least have a driverโ€™s seat that can be raised and lowered, helping most people find a moderately comfortable driving position.

The Vivaโ€™s is better, thanks to its more generous leg room and better lower back support. The Vauxhall also has the classier-feeling interior. Plusher plastics and sturdier materials โ€“ along with more modern-looking dials and readouts โ€“ mean it feels a notch above the more basic Suzuki for perceived quality. Visibility is better in the Celerio, thanks to its higher rear roofline and broader rear screen while both cars have decent forward visibility and short bonnets that allow you to judge the carsโ€™ proportions easily.

If passenger space or cabin versatility is a priority, the Celerio is the better bet. It has usefully more leg and head room in the back, and the boxier styling and squarer rear door openings make access a simpler affair. The Celerioโ€™s rear seats drop easily but leave a big step in the floor, which is a pain when youโ€™re sliding in heavy items.

Folding the rear seats in the Viva is a more convoluted process altogether; you first have to flip the rear seat bases and remove the rear headrests, before folding the backrests. On the plus side, you are left with a flat extended load area with no annoying steps or ridges. The Suzukiโ€™s wider, deeper boot โ€“ complete with a bag hook and load bay cover that opens with the boot lid (two things missing from the Viva) โ€“ means it also has the more practical luggage area, although both cars have big drops from the boot lips to the floor.

What will they cost?

If youโ€™re planning on buying outright, the Suzukiโ€™s bigger discounts drop the price down to ยฃ7849, which is ยฃ530 less than the Viva. The Vauxhall is also less effi cient, averaging 48.9mpg in our real-world True MPG tests compared with the Celerioโ€™s 62.9mpg, the best economy weโ€™ve seen in any small petrol city car. As a result, despite the Vivaโ€™s fractionally cheaper insurance, the Celerio will cost you ยฃ435 less to own, assuming you buy now and sell after three years.

Buy on finance and both contenders look a touch expensive. Put down ยฃ1500 up front and youโ€™ll pay ยฃ125 per month on a three-year PCP deal, which is about the same as youโ€™ll pay for a Hyundai i10. As company cars, the Celerio will cost you around ยฃ200 less in benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax over the next three years, thanks mainly to its impressively low CO2 emissions. The Suzuki is also fractionally cheaper to lease.

More significantly, you get more relevant standard equipment with the Celerio. Yes, Vauxhall has thrown in some big-car benefits, such as cruise control, lane departure warning, heated door mirrors and front fog lights, none of which feature on the Celerio. However, the Viva misses out on a DAB radio, Bluetooth, a CD player and even USB input, which all come as standard equipment on the Suzuki.

Still, from January 2016 youโ€™ll be able to add the ยฃ425 Intellilink system to the Viva, and with that you get a 7.0in colour touchscreen complete with all of these features (except a CD player) plus a Mirrorlink system that lets you operate apps from your phone directly onto the carโ€™s screen.

Options for the Viva include rear parking sensors for a fairly reasonable ยฃ275, and a space saver spare wheel for ยฃ110, neither of which are available on the Suzuki. However, both cars get electric front windows, remote central locking, a multi-function steering wheel, an immobiliser and six airbags, which include curtain โ€™bags to protect the heads of those in the front and back.

Only the Vauxhall gets an alarm, and while it hasnโ€™t yet been crash-tested by Euro NCAP, we expect it to better the Celerioโ€™s mediocre three-star overall test rating. Solid red paint is the only โ€˜zero-costโ€™ colour on the Viva, although thereโ€™s a bright palette of eight metallic paints that cost ยฃ545. Meanwhile, flat white is the Celerioโ€™s only standard colour, and thereโ€™s a less colourful metallic range available for ยฃ430. A three-year, 60,000-mile warranty and one yearโ€™s roadside assistance is standard on both cars.

Our verdict

It's a close call because both cars are easy to drive and great value for money. However, the fact the Celerio has more standard equipment, a more spacious and versatile interior and is even cheaper to own gives it the win.

Yes, it's a bit low-rent inside compared with the classier-feeling Viva but, all things considered, the Suzuki does a more complete job without you needing to raid the options list, which you'll almost certainly want to do if buying the Vauxhall.

1st

Suzuki Celerio 1.0 Dualjet SZ3

For Impressive economy; generous kit; versatile interior

Against Engine noise; cheap and dated dashboard; safety rating

Verdict Practical, efficient and cheap - all you could expect at this price

2nd

Vauxhall Viva 1.0 SE a/c

For Quiet engine; classy-feeling cabin; good resale values

Against Poor standard infotainment; mediocre space and practicality

Verdict Decent enough, but not as cheap or as spacious as the Celerio

Suzuki Celerio

Engine size

1.0-litre petrol

Price from

ยฃ8499 (list)

Power

67bhp

Torque

66lb ft

0-60mph

12.9 seconds

Top speed

96mph

Fuel economy

62.9mpg

CO2

84g/km

Vauxhall Viva

Engine size

1.0-litre petrol

Price from

ยฃ8490 (list)

Power

74bhp

Torque

70lb ft

0-62mph

13.0 seconds

Top speed

106mph

Fuel economy

48.9mpg

CO2

104g/km