Normally, choosing a long-term car from our fleet is easy. Unless there’s a new car I haven’t driven enough, I naturally gravitate to what’s fastest and most fun. But not this month. The combination of a stiff lower back and Mumbai’s bombed-out monsoon roads had me searching for a car with a good ride and a supportive driver’s seat.
Tata’s Zest and Maruti’s Ciaz are pretty neck and neck when it comes to ride, especially at low speeds. The Maruti, however, clearly has the nicer seat. It holds you quite well over the bumps, lower back support is spot on and it is reasonably wide too. The cushion is a bit hard, but that’s only something you notice initially.
What I’ve also discovered over the weeks I’ve been driving it in and around Mumbai, is that Maruti’s engineers seem to have done everything in their power to improve the ride at low speeds. The big tyres help, there’s plenty of compliance in the springs and this allows the Ciaz to put down a layer of cushioning between the wheels and the road. What I now also find, now that my back is slightly better, is that the Maruti Ciaz remains flat over the bumps even if I up the speed. And the suspension works really silently too, which means I now barely slow down for the regular bad patches I encounter on my daily route to office.
The other area Maruti engineers have done a good job is with the bottom-end responses of the K14 engine. The engine is tractable and vibration-free, and pulls cleanly from as low as 800rpm. Throttle responses are crisp — there’s no hesitation if you tap the throttle here. Short shift up early into third, and it doesn’t complain either. So at times, I find I can get by using only 800rpm to 1,500rpm in traffic, without feeling a lack of power. And this is also helped by the short gearing.
What also helps is the fact that the gearbox throw is quite short and switch-like. You need a bit of a firm shove at times, but otherwise, first to second and second to third are just a quick pull and push away. So the petrol Ciaz, as a result, feels right at home in the city and, importantly, is easy to drive in an efficient manner.
What I’ve also discovered, quite by chance, is that the Bluetooth pairs with your phone quickly only when you start up. Miss that window, however, and it’s difficult to do it via the cryptic menu. The best way to do it then is to switch the car off, start up the Bluetooth on your phone and then restart the car — a bit long-winded, but at least it works. Call quality, however, is very clear and the system is quite quick and responsive.
So, while our Ciaz feels a bit nervous and out of its depth at highway speeds above 120, it clearly is well-suited to the city.