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2015 Maruti Ciaz review, road test

3rd Feb 2015 10:20 am

Read the 2015 Maruti Ciaz review, road test from Autocar India; The Ciaz is Maruti's best mid-size sedan yet. We put it through a full-fledged road test to see if you should buy one?

  • Make : Maruti Suzuki
  • Model : Ciaz

The terms ‘Maruti’ and ‘premium mid-size sedan’ haven’t really gelled. First, the Baleno didn’t make a convincing case for itself against the similarly priced Lancer and the first-gen City. Then the SX4, though better priced, wasn’t appealing enough in an era centred on feel-good factor and brand strength. Enter,
the Ciaz – Maruti’s latest mid-sizer which aims to remedy past mistakes. Maruti has left no stone unturned this time around and ensured that its latest crack at this segment has ticked all the right boxes. It’s spacious, well-equipped, fuel-efficient and superbly priced. You can buy the Ciaz in both petrol and diesel versions and the petrol car gets an optional automatic as well. Our test car is the petrol manual which, to start with, has great pricing on its side.

Prices for the petrol version start at Rs 7.21 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) for the base VXi trim going up to Rs 9.64 lakh for the best-equipped ZXi automatic variant. There’s no doubt that the Ciaz is Maruti’s best bet yet, but is it good enough to make an indelible mark in a segment that Maruti has failed
to crack?

Maruti and fuel economy usually go hand in hand, and the Ciaz doesn’t break away from that. While the petrol engine managed a respectable 11.5kpl in our urban cycle, where it really excelled was on the highway. The Maruti’s lightweight and slippery body, combined with a tall fifth gear, allowed the Ciaz to travel a good 17.2km for every litre of unleaded. These figures translate to a combined average of around 14.3kpl, which is very impressive for a petrol sedan this size.

The Ciaz’s audio system may not look very high tech but it does get most of the features you’d like. In addition to a CD player and radio, it comes with aux and USB. There’s also the option to connect to your phone via Bluetooth to stream music or make a phone call. We found it easy to hook up our phones to the system. Maruti has also recently introduced a touchscreen operated infotainment system on the ZXi+ and ZDi+ versions of the Ciaz. It features navigation and ‘MirrorLink’ technology that can be set up to duplicate your smartphone’s screen on the display.

The first thing that strikes you about the Ciaz is that it’s a large car. Its 4490mm length and 1730mm width ensures it looks larger than some rivals. That said, the overall styling tilts towards ‘safe’, especially when compared to some of its boldly styled peers such as the Verna and the City. The face of the car follows an ‘offend nobody’ approach and the small, three-slat grille makes it easily identifiable as a Maruti. Standing out on this otherwise conservative nose are the nicely detailed projector headlamps and the faux vents at the bottom of the bumper. In profile, the flowing shoulder line and neatly executed roof look great and the big 16-inch wheels on this top-spec ZXi variant (lower trims get 15-inch wheels) complement the car’s size. What’s most striking though is the resemblance the Ciaz’s rear bears to the Honda City’s. The stretched tail-lights look like they have come from the same mould as the City’s, and from afar, it’s easy to mix-up the two cars.

Despite being the largest car in its segment, what’s impressive is that it’s the lightest too. Thanks to the liberal use of expensive high tensile steel in the body shell, the petrol Ciaz tips the scales at a bantamweight 1025kg; 42kg lighter than the SX4. Using high-tensile steel has also improved the Ciaz’s torsional stiffness, making it feel more tightly bolted than the SX4, despite its longer wheelbase.

Of course, lowering fuel consumption also got importance at the design phase with a focus on making the Ciaz as slippery as possible. Suzuki engineers spent a lot of time in the wind tunnel to get the coefficient of drag down to an impressive figure of 0.29.

The Ciaz’s wide-opening doors lead to a cabin that is the most spacious in its class. From the driver’s seat, the uncluttered, European-inspired dashboard looks elegant and important controls are within easy access. Also, the wooden trim, metallic highlights around select knobs makes the cabin look premium and the general finish and quality of switchgear is good too. Sure, some plastic bits feel a bit scratchy but overall, they don’t hurt the ambience much. That said, the Ciaz carries over bits like the steering wheel and window switches from smaller (read cheaper) Marutis and that’s an association the sedan could have done without.

We’d have also liked to see a touchscreen interface for the infotainment system on our top-spec Ciaz ZXi(O) test car. Interestingly, Maruti has such a system in the works that will be introduced on the ‘ZXi +’ version due in some months. For now, the simple black-and-white unit is all you get. It’s functional, easy to use and pairing our phones with it via Bluetooth was a breeze. This apart, there’s a fair bit of other equipment as well. The top-spec ZXi (O) gets front airbags, ABS, climate control, a reverse parking camera, keyless entry and push button start, a rear sun blind, rear air-con vents and leather seats as standard.

Speaking of the seats, the driver’s seat is fairly comfortable but even in its lowest setting, feels a touch too high. Taller drivers may have to fiddle around a bit to find a comfy driving position. The Ciaz’s strength, however, lies in its spacious rear bench; something that the chauffeured lot will appreciate the most. There’s almost as much legroom here as in some cars a class above and even with the front seat pushed all the way back, most people won’t have to worry about their knees touching the front seatback. Headroom isn’t great but what hurts comfort is that the rear seat itself isn’t very generous – the smallish seat squab is largely to blame here and feels a bit stingy on thigh support. It’s not that the seats are uncomfortable, it’s just that in this airy and spacious cabin, the seats could have been plusher.

Everyday practicality hasn’t been overlooked though. All four doors get a 1-litre bottle holder and there are lots of cubbyholes for small items as well. The boot is large too, but the wheel wells do eat into space and make it less useable than its 510-litre capacity would suggest.

While the Ciaz doesn’t get an entirely new motor, it does get a fairly reworked version of Maruti’s own K14 petrol unit found on the Ertiga. The tweaks to the engine focus on improving driveability and maximising fuel economy. To achieve that, Maruti has modified the cylinder head to raise the compression ratio from 10:1 to 11:1 and the revised head design allows for a better tumble of airflow at low speeds. Also, the air inlet track has been lengthened to further improve low-end torque. To counter heating problems and engine-knocking, issues that are typically associated with higher compression motors, long reach spark plugs and a more efficient oil pump have made their way into the motor. Despite all these changes though, peak power and torque figures have pretty much stayed the same.

On the face of it, the petrol version doesn’t come across as enthusiastic since a power output of 91bhp (at 6000rpm) is a pretty ordinary number for a mid-size sedan. However, in-gear timings are good – the Ciaz is pretty responsive and has a nice urgency about town. The engine pulls quite well from
low revs and you don’t have to work the gearbox much; and even when you do, the light clutch and slick shifting ’box (albeit not as nice as the Swift’s) takes away the effort from city driving.

But find an open stretch and explore the K14 motor’s powerband, and you soon realise the power delivery is pretty flat. The mid-range isn’t particularly strong; this engine doesn’t like to be spun hard and gets pretty noisy as the tachometer closes in on its modest 6,200rpm redline.

Flat-out performance is fairly decent, with the dash to 100kph taking 12.02 seconds. However, it’s the unenthusiastic way the Ciaz picks up speed that makes you feel that it’s not as quick as the numbers suggest.

The Ciaz uses a conventional (as far as mid-size sedans go) suspension setup with independent MacPherson struts in the front and a non-independent torsion beam arrangement at the rear. However, a stiff chassis and the inclusion of an anti roll bar in the back means the engineers had the leeway to opt for a softer overall setup.

Drive the Ciaz over a broken patch of road and it copes admirably well. The ride resists becoming choppy on most surfaces and even sharper edges are dealt with quite impressively. At higher speeds, the Ciaz feels like a larger, heavier car with vertical movements being well contained. The Ciaz also flattens minor imperfections such as expansion joints well, and goes about its business quietly. Ground clearance also stands at an impressive 170mm, which means, despite its long wheelbase, you don’t have to worry about scraping its underbelly on a speed breaker.

What we don’t like much though is its steering. While it is well weighted, it feels numb and unexciting once speed builds up. The steering also doesn’t self-centre too well at lower speeds. Handling, on the whole, is safe and the chunky tyres on this top-spec car offer great grip, but don’t expect the Ciaz to thrill you on a twisty road.

Simply put, the Ciaz marks a massive step up for Maruti. It's a car with pretty much everything you would want from a mid-size sedan. It's spacious, the cabin feels nicely put together and you get most of the equipment you would want. It's pretty decent from behind the wheel and rides well too. The engine is peppy enough for urban commutes and the good fuel economy means petrol bills won't burn a hole in your pocket either. Add to this Maruti's excellent after-sales and you get more than enough reasons to give the Ciaz serious thought. But as convincing as the Ciaz is on paper, it still isn't the first car that will spring to mind when talking mid-size sedans. The simple fact is that the Ciaz lacks a bit of sparkle and even borders on blandness. However, it more than makes up for its somewhat lack of desirability by being the most sensible premium mid-size sedan you can buy today.

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