Up until a few years ago, when you would think Maruti Suzuki, chances are that a hatchback would come to mind. Something, that clearly stresses a lot on fuel efficiency and tries to be as cost efficient as possible. Clearly, that formula has worked wonders and the company has been unbeatable in the hatchback segment in the country. So, it was time to look at the higher segment – Sedan. It started with the Maruti Suzuki SX4 and the company, in that segment, is currently represented by the Ciaz. Interestingly, the Ciaz also has a clever hybrid system variant that promises to deliver fuel efficiency unlike any other offering in the segment, making it probably one of the best value for money sedan in the country. There’s also an ‘RS’ variant which looks way sportier than other models. So, we got our hands on the Maruti Suzuki Ciaz SHVS ZDi variant to find out how it fares
The design of the Ciaz is based on the Suzuki Authentics concept which was showcased first at the 2014 Shanghai Motor Show in April and then shown in production form as the China-spec Alivio sedan. It gets an aggressive front fascia with a trapezoidal front grille that features ample amount of chrome. The sweptback headlights and the elongated hood further enhance its street presence. The side profile is a rather conservative affair but one that works for Maruti Suzuki. It features delicately flared wheel arches, chrome door handles and a strong shoulder line which works well with the forward leaning stance of the car.
At the rear, the Ciaz gets the standard wrap around tail lamps which lend the car a premium look. The rear bumper is large and includes integrated reflectors. There’s also a lip spoiler and chrome badges across all variants.
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
The Ciaz gets a choice of two engines one each of petrol and diesel. The petrol engine is the K14 VVT mill that is already available in the Ertiga and in almost the same state of tune. But, Maruti engineers say that there has been considerable amount of weight reduction work that has been done to the engine. The Ciaz itself also features an increased use of lighter weight, high tensile steel that keeps the kerb weight of the petrol version to just above one tonne (1,010 kgs).
The 1,372cc petrol engine delivers a peak power of 92.5PS at 6,000 rpm and a peak torque of 130Nm at 4,000 rpm. The engine, as we all know by now, is a refined unit that is inherently quiet and of low vibration. During our test drive of the Ciaz, the most likeable aspect of this engine was the amount of low-end torque available. During slow speeds, below the 20-30 kmph levels, the engine almost behaves like a diesel.
The diesel engine is the more familiar DDiS engine that is originally the multijet from Fiat. This is the 1,248cc diesel burner that is available across many models from Maruti and even Tata and Fiat models. This engine felt familiar during our test drive too and continues to surprise with its remarkably refined performance even in the Ciaz. The mill delivers 90PS of power at 4,000 rpm and 200Nm of torque at a low 1,750 rpm.
There is a bit of turbolag initially just like it is in other models with this engine, but there is enough pulling power just past 1,200 rpm. Both the engines are paired with a 5-speed gearbox. The petrol engine version also gets a 4-speed automatic, which was available for a test drive. What is missing in the smooth shifting manual transmission is a bit more shift feel. The cabin is quiet in both the petrol and diesel versions, with extensive use of sound deadening and noise dampening aids.
The improvements to the engines and the weight reduction measures manage to make the Ciaz one of the most fuel-efficient sedans with a claimed mileage of 20.73 kmpl for the petrol and 26.21 kmpl for the diesel (ARAI rated).
RIDE AND HANDLING
Now if you like driving, the Ciaz might not be the car for you. It has a precise steering and you eventually learn how much steering input to dial in but it isn’t great on feedback. It just isn’t in the same league as the Volkswagens and the Skodas. But, if you are looking for a comfortable long distance cruiser, you will like the Ciaz’s easy nature. Good straight line stability and potent braking, is of course an added plus.
The Maruti Ciaz rides well too. It has been setup for comfort over all else and it’s evident in the way the car rides. It’s softly sprung, so at slow speeds and over broken roads, it remains comfortable. However, at higher speeds and particularly over undulating roads and with load, the Maruti Ciaz does tend to wallow.
The Maruti Suzuki Ciaz was launched with high hopes and it manages to live up to it. This car doesn’t try to be everything, it is aimed at comfort and delivers that in good measure. Yes, it’s not a handler and the looks aren’t going to make you stop and take notice either. However, for most buyers in this segment who want a well specced car with acres of room, fantastic ride quality and frugal engines, the Maruti Ciaz is difficult to beat. When you factor in the pricing, which is a good Rs. 1 lakh plus cheaper for certain variants over the segment leader Honda City, you realise that the tradeoff in brand image might be worth the money saved for some. The Maruti Ciaz doesn’t come across as exciting but is certainly a very practical choice in the overcrowded C-segment.