The new Maruti Ciaz is a big deal. Is it revolutionary, unique or even game changing? Maybe not so much in the segment it operates in wherein you already have the likes of the new Honda City and the Hyundai Verna but for Maruti Suzuki, the Ciaz is all this and more… Here’s why? Now, this isn’t a new segment for Maruti; it has had the SX4 in the past. But, even with its large wheels and ground clearance, roomy interior and a big boot, the SX4 struggled. The reason: perception. No one wanted a full-fledged C-Segment car from a maker of small, affordable hatchbacks and compact sedans. But now with the Maruti Ciaz, Maruti finally has a product to draw you and me away from the Honda Citys and Hyundai Vernas of the world. This should be interesting.
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.
With all that size on the outside, the cabin too is large and generous, resulting in ample amount of space for both front and rear occupants. But first, the dashboard, it’s a new refreshing unit and looks quite appealing with the use of wood, silver and of course beige. This cabin does use a lot of beige for that airy feeling and it works. The dual tone dash is nice to look at with the only sore point being the the parts which come from cheaper Maruti cars, like the steering wheel and power window controls. Talking about the steering, the placement of Bluetooth controls could be on the right spoke rather than between the first and second spoke for ease of use. Quality inside the cabin is good with not much to fault but build quality isn’t as good as its rivals, we could hear some rattling from the dashboard on our test car which had done slightly more than 5000 kms. The seats are comfortable but finding the perfect driving position isn’t as easy as the driver’s seat is quite high, even when you adjust it to the lowest position. Even the rear seats lack on the comfort front, they just don’t have enough cushioning to keep you happy over long journeys. However, when it comes to rear legroom, the Ciaz is simply fantastic and there is so much space that even the tallest of people won’t have any room for complain. Headroom though, is in short supply, specially for tall people. The boot is big although it’s not the best shaped due to the protruding wheel wells. The electromagnetic tail gate opener isn’t the easiest to operate and sometimes you do have to push it twice. The Maruti Ciaz has a generous equipment list and the car comes with ABS, dual airbags, climate control system, Bluetooth connectivity, keyless go, push button start, easy to read multi-information display, projector headlights, rear camera, reverse parking sensors, leathers seats and touch-screen infotainment system (gets navigation and MirrorLink) which is offered on the Z+ trim while our test car was a ZXi (O), making do with a non-touch based audio system that has CD, USB, AUX and Bluetooth audio options. This system doesn’t display the song name on the screen which is surprising as that’s a basic feature seen on most head units. Some nice touches include a rear windscreen sunblind and plenty of storage bins including large door pockets. The car gets side lights at the rear, thereby having a cabin light for each occupant but there is no vanity mirror on the sun visor. One thing we did not like about the keyless go is the cheap rubber button the door handle that just feels like it will come off. That said, the Ciaz makes for a fine car to be chauffeur driven in, the AC works well and the rear aircon vents do a good job too. ENGINE AND
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.
Besides styling, lack of features was also one of the reasons the SX4 failed to bring in good numbers. The Maruti Ciaz address this, and how! It has nearly every feature in the book pertaining to this class of cars. From alloy wheels, steering mounted controls, climate control system and ABS and front two airbags to a high-end touchscreen audio system, navigation, electric ORVMs with auto fold, reversing camera and a retractable blind for the rear windscreen, the Maruti Ciaz in this Z+ trim has it all. It also gets rear AC vents, keyless entry and start, central rear armrest with cup holders and crucially, Bluetooth telephony. What we did miss are adjustable rear head rests and reach adjust for the steering.
DRIVING DYNAMICS ;
Maruti Suzuki had a very clear agenda when designing the Ciaz, it wanted to woo the family audience with this car. Thus, the vehicle’s set-up is such that most people will like the way it drives, handling is neutral, ride quality is fantastic and the brakes work very well too. The vehicle features a rear anti-roll bar and the chassis in typical Suzuki fashion is stiff, thus the suspension has been kept soft for a terrific ride quality. After driving on almost all kinds of roads, we simply were left praising the car’s ride, it just deals with the imperfections of our roads brilliantly. Even high speed stability is very good. However, for enthusiasts, there is some disappointment in store. We have been driving Suzuki cars since a long time now and the Swift is one of the best handling cars in its class, the Ciaz doesn’t stay upto that promise. It simply doesn’t handle like a Suzuki car should, there is plenty of body roll and the steering doesn’t have much feel or feedback. At low speeds, the steering is a bit heavy and doesn’t weigh up accurately as you get to triple digit speeds. Grip levels are good thanks to the wider tyres on the Z trims. That said, most buyers would be happy to trade off the handling for the amazing ride quality of the Ciaz. The ground clearance is ample for our roads and we didn’t scrape the underbelly even on the worst of speed-breakers.
The Ciaz also managed to delight us with its ride quality. The stiffer chassis and the suspension set up gives the right mix of rigidity and compliant ride quality. Straight line stability is excellent. Though we cant quite comment on cornering ability after the short test drive we had, it would be safe to say that the Ciaz would match segment benchmarks. We feel that Maruti Suzuki potentially has a better premium sedan in the Ciaz than some of the competition. Features like the rear sunscreen, SmartPlay infotainment system sand personal reading lamps for the rear occupants are big pluses for buyers in the segment. We have to wait for the launch for the price announcement, but a Rs. 8 lakh to Rs. 10.5 lakh range will possibly leave the competition palpitating.