What is it?
Maruti has unveiled the production version of the Ciaz, which will go on sale by mid-October. Bigger, sleeker and far better equipped than the SX4 it has replaced, the Maruti Ciaz is a big step forward and puts Maruti back in the mid-size segment game.
Built on an all-new platform, the Ciaz has been conceived from a clean sheet of paper to take on the likes of the Honda City and Hyundai Verna. Maruti is also pinning its hopes on the Ciaz to take its image upmarket by making it a credible alternative to the more premium brands.
How does it look?
The Ciaz bears no similarity to any other model in Maruti’s range, but you can tell it’s a Suzuki thanks to a certain family look characterised by the small, three-slat rectangular grille and the conservative styling of the car. Like most Suzukis, the Ciaz doesn’t immediately grab your attention and though the styling is clean and uncluttered, it’s unadventurous as well, especially when you view the car in side profile. What adds a bit of spice to the look are the superbly detailed projector headlights and the large rectangular tail lights, which bear more than a passing resemblance to the Honda City’s cluster.
Making up for any lack of visual drama is the sheer size of the car. The Ciaz has the largest footprint of all mid-sizers, and sitting on 16-inch alloys (only available on the Z+ variants), it looks like it belongs in a higher segment. There’s no doubt that the Ciaz is a handsome, well-proportioned car and the chrome finish on the door handles and the rear boot lid do give a premium touch.
You would expect the large Ciaz to be rather heavy, but it’s quite the opposite. The all-new chassis is constructed with high-tensile steel which, apart from giving rigidity to the body, has kept weight down. Tipping the scales at 1010 and 1105kg for the petrol and diesel versions respectively, the Ciaz is remarkably light for its size.
What’s it like inside?
Maruti sedans are typically associated with cramped cabins, but not the Ciaz, which turns this perception on its head. It’s fair to say that the Ciaz is the most spacious mid-size car and the feeling of space is enhanced by the large glass area and light interiors.
The back seat has an incredible amount of legroom and is wide enough for three adults, the flat floor being a help. However, the seat cushions are a touch firm and under-thigh support could be better.
Again, in terms of design, the dashboard is quite straightforward with simple lines and an uncluttered look. The centre console is dominated by a large 7-inch touchscreen which has an easy-to-use interface. However, this infotainment system is only available on the Z+ variants.
The instrument console houses a pair of small but easy-to-read dials which are again completely new. However, you can spot bits from other Suzukis, like the power window switches and door locks which are shared with Swifts and Dzires. Plastic quality is the best we’ve seen on any Suzuki – the fit and finish is very well executed. The wood-finish accents work quite well too and don’t look tacky, as is the case in most cars at this price point. A lovely detail is the chrome surrounds for some of the buttons, which gives a premium feel.
Where the Ciaz scores is on practicality with lots of storage space. You get 1-litre bottle holders for all four passengers and lots of cubby holes for odds and ends. While the glovebox is not that big, the 510-litre boot certainly is – it’s large enough to swallow four big bags. However, the rear seats don’t flip forward to create more space.
Maruti has packed the Ciaz with lots of equipment, and expectedly, it’s the Z+ versions only that get goodies like 16-inch alloys and SmartPlay Infotainment. However, the lower trim levels are not badly off, except for the absence of safety features like twin airbags. Maruti should have offered driver and passenger airbags across the range as standard.
What’s it like to drive?
The petrol Ciaz is powered by the 1.4-litre K-series motor that first debuted in the Ertiga. It’s been upgraded further for the Ciaz and comes with a higher compression ratio, a tweaked ECU for better response and other mods to lower frictional losses.
First impressions are that the 1.4 petrol, which develops 91bhp, is more than adequate for the Ciaz. It’s quick off the line and quite responsive too, accelerating briskly to make light work of overtaking slower cars on the Delhi-Jaipur highway. However, this K-series engine doesn’t offer the manic thrust of a Honda VTEC motor. Instead, what you get is a linear and almost flat power delivery which isn’t exactly exciting. You do need to wring the engine to get the most out of it and it’s not very quiet either, taking on a coarse edge at the rather conservative 6,200rpm redline. This motor feels best at moderate speeds, and for normal, everyday driving, has sufficient poke to keep you ahead of the traffic.
It’s the Fiat-sourced 89bhp 1.3 diesel that actually impressed more, possibly because we weren’t expecting too much from it. This higher-powered version of this ubiquitous engine is known for its turbo-lag. However, in the Ciaz, it felt like a different animal altogether. No doubt, at low revs, there is still a bit of lethargy until the turbo spools up, but this engine doesn’t feel asleep like in the Ertiga. Again, Maruti has worked on lowering the frictional losses, and has recalibrated the ECU for better low-end response. Drive the Ciaz on part-throttle and it feels far from sluggish, which makes it quite competent for normal city driving. It’s only when you want to get a quick move on and floor the throttle that you feel a hesitation that lasts till 1800rpm, after which there’s a strong kick to the dizzy (by diesel standards) 5,200rpm rev limit.
Ride comfort is where the Ciaz truly scores, and Maruti engineers have arrived at a suspension set-up that works brilliantly on our roads. Tuned on the softer side, the Ciaz feels best at lower speeds, soaking up cratered roads with ease. Up the pace, and the Ciaz tends to pitch a wee bit on uneven surfaces, but again, bump absorption is superb and passengers are left unruffled. On smooth highways, the Ciaz feels well-planted and secure, allowing you to cruise effortlessly at some serious speeds.
The Ciaz feels best in a straight line and it’s not particularly eager to dive into corners. The steering, though nicely weighted, has a numbness about it and there’s a bit of a dead zone around the straight-ahead position.
The docile dynamics of the Ciaz make it a car that’s best for comfortable commuting and not for the enthusiast.
Should I buy one?
If you are looking for a comfortable car that’s well-equipped and easy to drive, the Ciaz fits the bill perfectly. It’s not a car for enthusiasts, but for someone who wants fuss-free motoring with the peace of mind that only Maruti can offer. Factor in a very competitive starting price of Rs 6.99 lakh for the petrol model and Rs 8.04 lakh for the diesel version (around Rs 26,000 and Rs 40,000 cheaper than the respective base Honda City’s) and it’s safe to say that the Honda City faces its most serious rival yet.
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