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.
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 – 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 Suzuki’s steering is heavier at higher speeds, which helps to make the Celerio more stable. It’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 Viva’s engine sounds more pleasing and there’s less road noise to endure, which makes motorway journeys a more peaceful experience.
The Vauxhall’s vague (if light) clutch can make it tricky to pull away smoothly until you’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 – easy to do thanks to a high roof and lofty seat height – 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 car’s steering wheel adjusts for reach, although both do at least have a driver’s seat that can be raised and lowered, helping most people find a moderately comfortable driving position.
The Viva’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 – along with more modern-looking dials and readouts – 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 cars’ 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 Celerio’s rear seats drop easily but leave a big step in the floor, which is a pain when you’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 Suzuki’s wider, deeper boot – complete with a bag hook and load bay cover that opens with the boot lid (two things missing from the Viva) – 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 you’re planning on buying outright, the Suzuki’s bigger discounts drop the price down to £7849, which is £530 less than the Viva. The Vauxhall is also less effi cient, averaging 48.9mpg in our real-world True MPG tests compared with the Celerio’s 62.9mpg, the best economy we’ve seen in any small petrol city car. As a result, despite the Viva’s fractionally cheaper insurance, the Celerio will cost you £435 less to own, assuming you buy now and sell after three years.
Buy on finance and both contenders look a touch expensive. Put down £1500 up front and you’ll pay £125 per month on a three-year PCP deal, which is about the same as you’ll pay for a Hyundai i10. As company cars, the Celerio will cost you around £200 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 you’ll be able to add the £425 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 car’s screen.
Options for the Viva include rear parking sensors for a fairly reasonable £275, and a space saver spare wheel for £110, 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 ’bags to protect the heads of those in the front and back.
Only the Vauxhall gets an alarm, and while it hasn’t yet been crash-tested by Euro NCAP, we expect it to better the Celerio’s mediocre three-star overall test rating. Solid red paint is the only ‘zero-cost’ colour on the Viva, although there’s a bright palette of eight metallic paints that cost £545. Meanwhile, flat white is the Celerio’s only standard colour, and there’s a less colourful metallic range available for £430. A three-year, 60,000-mile warranty and one year’s roadside assistance is standard on both cars.
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.
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
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