It used to be called the Suzuki Alto, now it's the Suzuki Celerio.

Why the new name? Because the Japanese feel that significantly improved products deserve a new name. This is contrary to the Australian way of thinking; we like to hold onto car names in a loving manner. Though, of course, we expect the designers and engineers to work on courses of constant improvement.

Changing from Alto to Celerio is a move that's probably unpopular with the Australian importers, though they are too polite to say so. They will have to work hard to let people know how good the newly named model is – fortunately this will not be difficult.

Virtually all-new from the ground up Suzuki Celerio is bigger, smoother and quieter than the Alto. Indeed in many ways Celerio feels more like a car from the next class up. Rather than feeling like a $12,990 driveaway car it edges into the market segment occupied by cars with price tags starting at $16,000 plus on-roads. 

During the local launch of the Celerio we carried out a full day's driving in Brisbane, involving heavy city traffic, seemingly endless suburban shopping strips and (thankfully) a bit of motorway work to relieve the tension of constant traffic. Suzuki Celerio worked well in all areas.

The shape of the Suzuki Celerio reminds us of the all-new BMW i3 electric car. An odd statement? Let me explain: one of my pet hates is that too often fashion takes priority over function in car design. Thankfully, Suzuki and BMW designers have broken away from this with Celerio and i3. Rather than being forced by management to squeeze people inside a fashionably sleek body, the stylists began with a large, spacious box then, smoothed out the edges and corners to give their cars something reasonably pleasing to the eye. 

Designers putting function ahead of fashion. Love it! 

You wouldn't exactly say there's stretch-out limo-like comfort for four adults in a Suzuki Celerio, but try for yourself and you will find it comes closer than you might expect. The doors are large and open wide so even those who are getting on in years will find ingress and egress simple.

Boot space has been trimmed to 254 litres in capacity to make space for exceptional rear legroom, but it will still take a medium-large suitcase. The low loading lip makes for simple loading. Naturally, the rear seat backrests fold down to give added room. With everything down and the Celerio loaded to the roof there's just over 1000 litres on offer.

Celerio's power comes from a 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine developing just 50 kW of power, and 90 Nm of torque at 3000 rpm. Obviously this is a long way from being a sporting hatch, but the outputs are enough to push along a car weighing a mere 830 kilograms of car (add 60 kg if you specify the auto) along briskly enough to keep up with the traffic.

Six speeds would have been nice but keep in mind the ultra-low price. 

Hills and heavy loads require that you keep working at the five-speed manual gearbox or Celerio struggles. Six speeds would have been nice but keep in mind the ultra-low price. 

The automatic is a CVT with all that means in the way of added efficiency because it can keep the engine at optimum revs all the time. The auto adds $1500 to the price. 

The manual is so easy to use, and the enjoyment in buzzing the little three-cylinder unit well into the rev range is really good fun.

Ride comfort is generally good, though big bumps and dips can catch Celerio out at times. Handling is competent, with light steering and the car having a tight 9.4-metre turning circle. The body has a tight feeling that's almost European, something that's not easy to do in a light vehicle of this size. Suzuki has long been regarded as a global expert in small cars, Celerio takes it one step further. Impressive.