Ever since the very likeable Baleno was taken off the shelves, Maruti Suzuki fans have been clamouring for a deserving successor. Having spawned off a crossover, the beefy SX4 which rode on stilts didn’t appear as something ever remotely related to the low slung Baleno, which was probably the only alternative to the legendary first gen Honda City in India.
The big Honda having finally acquired a diesel burner under the hood has comfortably regained its leadership position in the segment. And with the Ciaz, Maruti is keen on rekindling an old rivalry which somewhat got doused for a prolonged period. Let’s see, how well this latest million buck machine from the leading small car maker of the country has turned out.
Design and appeal
The Ciaz, which excited us to the bone in the concept form, has been relentlessly watered down for the production trim. While the concept exuded attitude, the Ciaz rolling off the Maruti dealerships is an exponent of safe, inoffensive, though clean design.
The biggest USP of the Ciaz is its size, which is the largest in the segment, and will naturally appeal to the Indian car buyer who loves associating size with value. The Ciaz, thanks to the real estate it covers has some road presence and looks like a car from a segment above. The City has taken the game a notch higher with its enormous size, and Maruti have responded soundly by making the Ciaz go a size up even on the City.
The wide stance and the low roof line works towards adding some attitude to the Ciaz’s otherwise humble lines. The front comprises of a chrome-drenched, though simple looking radiator grille with a quartet of horizontal slats bearing the big Suzuki emblem in the middle. The soft-cornered trapezoidal shape of the grille looks rather meek, but at the same time won’t offend any sensibilities. The angular, swept back headlamps taper inwards and feature some chrome detailing inside along with a projector unit. The design of the lamps lacks character and doesn’t leave a lasting impression. The front also features a wide central air dam with two connected faux side air vents with fog lamps housings flanking it. Just like the grille and the headlamps, the overall shape of the bumper and the integrated air-dams is clean and inoffensive, but doesn’t make you have another look.
The side profile of the Ciaz is defined by the strong beltline emanating from the tip of the tail-lamps, traversing its way through the door handles and ending its journey just before the front fender. A curvy, somewhat scooped out crease above the door sills is another important character lines. The roofline, unlike most other cars in the segment doesn’t drop towards the rear, liberating a decent amount of headroom for the rear passengers. Window sills get a chrome lining, adding a premium touch to the sides, and those 16 inch spoke wheels don’t look bad either.
At the rear, the Ciaz’s tail-lamps bear an uncanny resemblance with the City’s wide, angular tail lamps. It’d be tough for us to let it pass as mere coincidence, though those lamps are probably the most likeable components of the Ciaz’s otherwise average design. The boot deck is set high, with the registration plate recess finding a distinct pushed-inside hexagonal shape to rest within. The big rear bumper features reflectors in black housings, and just like the rest of the design, offers nothing spectacular and nothing offensive to the eye.
For an average Joe who wants a practical, decent looking sedan for his family, the Ciaz fits the bill perfectly. It would impress most with its size, and doesn’t have any unlikeable oddities that would be frowned upon by anyone.
The Ciaz is presented in two engine flavours, a 1.3 liter VGI turbo diesel and a 1.4 liter K14 engine, shared with the Ertiga, albeit in a different state of tune. The diesel engine, for a variety of reasons is the natural pick of the two. Let’s discuss the performance of the two engines in detail.
Let’s start with the diesel first. The 1.3 liter Fiat sourced VGT turbo assisted oil burner is a proven performer. On the Ciaz, it delivers 90 PS of peak power at 4000 rpm. Performance wise, the more reassuring figure is the peak torque of 200Nm produced at 1750 rpm.
This Fiat proprietary engine, in different states of tune has been doing duty on probably the most number of car models from a variety of carmakers and has been delighting customers with its performance and efficiency. It goes about business as usual on the Ciaz as well. This engine has been known to have some turbo lag, and the situation is no different here. While there some response 1500 rpm onwards, the engine starts pulling with conviction only from about 2000 rpm.
In general, there is nothing to complain about the engine, though on single carriageways, and in stop start city traffic you may have to shift down a cog a bit more frequently than you desire. As a reference point, the City’s diesel engine astonishes with its linear power delivery and response at the lower end of the rev band, but it’s noisier and gruffer too.
The Ciaz diesel needs some revs to spool up and offer reassuring grunt, but once on song, it delights with its punch. Keep the engine between the 2000-3000 rpm band and it would offer you enough spunk to let you travel swiftly and make light work of overtaking manoeuvres. It gets a tad noisy post 3500 rpm, but stays well within the boundaries of acceptability.
The engine is mated to a 5 speed manual gearbox, which is a smooth, fuss-free unit to operate. The reverse is engaged by moving the stick forward, next to first gear unlike the more conventional position below the fifth. No complaints whatsoever with the transmission on the diesel variant.
The 1.4 liter petrol engine appears to be a tad feeble for a car this size. The specs read 92PS @ 6000 rpm and 130 Nm at 4000 revs, which isn’t very impressive for this class of cars. Engines on the rival cars boast better figures.
What you see on the paper is reflected on the road in the car’s performance as well. The response isn’t very strong below the 2000 rpm mark. The engine also doesn’t rev very smoothly and there is some degree of coarseness to the noise it makes, deterring you from taking it all the way to its redline. From slow speeds the Ciaz in the petrol guise would take some time to build momentum unless you decide to shift down a cog or two.
Performance in the higher band of the rev range isn’t particularly strong either, and on open highways, with the car fully loaded with family and luggage, the small engine should show its limitations, especially when you wish to travel at a swift pace.
Having said all that, it’s an engine you can live with without any major gripes, but it isn’t the kind of velvety smooth, responsive unit that makes you get behind the wheel at every opportunity you get. For some strange reason, the transmission, too, on the petrol engine wasn’t as smooth as on the diesel variant.
The Ciaz comes with 16 inch wheels, and during our test stint, loaded with 4 occupants the dampers felt a tad bit on the stiffer side. The Ciaz, strangely seems to ride better with less load on, and it’s evident from the difference in ride quality between the lighter petrol and the heavier diesel variants. The diesel variant feels more stiffly sprung as compared to the petrol version which handles the broken patches as slow city speeds better. Overall, the Ciaz tackles the broken city roads well at slow speeds with one or two occupants, than when fully loaded. The ride improves with speed, though the overall composure at higher speeds isn’t as sorted as the German trio of Vento, Rapid and Linea.
The Ciaz handles confidently for a family sedan, offering good straight line stability and reassuring composure around bends as well. Sure there is some body roll, and some understeer can be experienced without making much effort while cornering hard on a tight curve, but it’s all well within acceptable limits and shouldn’t be something to bother about, unless you want this car for sheer driving thrills. And you’d be looking the wrong way if you do. The Skoda Rapid and the VW Vento handle much better than the Ciaz. Braking is good for the segment, and the Ciaz offers enough bite and feel at all speeds.
The Ciaz, overall, offers a reassuring, well insulated ride and handling package. An average buyer shouldn’t have any complaints with the Ciaz’s dynamic and absorption related qualities.
Interior and features
The interior of the Ciaz is very neatly laid out. Maruti have managed to create a simple, functional, fuss-free, yet appealing ambience for the Ciaz. The blokes at MSIL have refrained from using too many elements and have succeeded in giving the cabin an uncluttered, feel-good aura. The two tone, black-beige dash is split in two by wood inserts, which are a tad too dark for our liking. Unless you look closely, you may end up mistaking them for piano black, which beats the whole purpose of having a distinctive garnish. The black color of the dashboard reflects prominently in the front windscreen and somewhat hinders a clear view of the road ahead, especially in the afternoon with the sun right over the head.
The fit-finish, materials used and the overall workmanship inside the cabin is above satisfactory, if not delightful. Satin silver inserts have been used as a highlight element across the cabin – on the rectangular A/C bezels, on panels demarcating controls on the center console and around the base of the gear shifter. Chrome has also been used in places like the gear knob, the internal door pulls and on the steering wheel spokes.
Instrument console is rather simplistic – in a European fashion, it employs black dials with white markings in a subtle font. Central screen on the instrument console includes a trip computer which offers very useful data, including stats related to fuel efficiency. The steering wheel is adjustable for rake and feels decent to hold, though it isn’t leather wrapped. Also, the mounted controls are stacked on only one side, with the audio related functions on the left spoke and Bluetooth / telephony controls mounted behind the hub between the left and the bottom spoke. They need to be pulled, unlike normal buttons which you push. The position of these buttons is a bit odd for intuitive use and may require some getting used to.
Seats are big and comfortable with ample thigh and back support up front. One of our 6 foot plus colleague couldn’t stop raving about the headspace this car offered.
The seats at the rear could have done with a bit more thigh support though, especially knowing the extra leg-space the Ciaz has. Storage spaces come aplenty with both front door panels housing space for a big water bottle and documents.
Even the rear door panels have space for a big water bottle and more.
In addition, you get two cup holders ahead of the gear shifter, a small storage under the flip-open front arm-rest, good for a couple of cellphones or wallets, a glares holder and two cupholders in the rear central armrest.
Other small spaces include a crevice on the dash to the right of the steering wheel, a small pocket on the shoulder of the front passenger’s seat, magazine holders behind the front seats and a another small crevice below the rear A/C vent.
Full size spare wheel, though no alloy wheel
Boot space stands at 510 liters, which is one of the largest in the segment.
There is no sound / vibration deadening insulation under the boot lid
The space at the back is astonishing. The Ciaz boasts the highest leg and shoulder room for the class and is an extremely comfortable car for the rear passengers. The backtrest has a comfortable angle and a flat floor spells even more convenience and space for the feet. The rear seats are not foldable, though. Nor are the rear headrests adjustable, and may result in a whiplash injury for the backseat passengers in case of rear collision.
A rear A/C vent is the order of the day and the Ciaz does not skimp on the feature.
On the top ZDI / ZXI variants the features list is quite generous. The Audio unit is equipped to operate with inputs from CD, USB, Aux, radio and Bluetooth. Playability of SD cards will also be offered via a seven inch touchscreen infotainment unit, which is currently unavailable. ABS and twin airbags are the two important safety items. Rear blinds come as a nice value add. Adjustable seat belts, dimmable RVMs, parking sensors, an RVM integrated rear view camera and electric folding ORVMs are a few other goodies.
The cabin is well insulated from ambient noise. A bit of road and tyre noise intrudes the cabin, though. Overall, the Ciaz’s cabin is a well-insulated, comfortable place to be.
For someone looking for a value for money, spacious, decent looking family car with loads of features, the Ciaz is almost a no brainer. It comes with the Suzuki emblem plastered on the grille, which that invariably adds to a mainstream car’s appeal to an average buyer. The petrol engine isn’t the most apt unit for a car this size, but it isn’t unacceptable either. There’s nothing that the Ciaz does particularly wrong for its segment. A big car, at a great price, with the dependable sales and service network of Maruti Suzuki backing it makes the Ciaz a compelling option for the segment. It’s a very well rounded package and you can’t miss out on taking a test drive, if you’re willing to buy in the segment.
Ciaz Vdi: 8.04 lakh
Ciaz Vxi: 6.99 lakh
Ciaz Vdi+: 8.63 lakh
Ciaz Vxi+: 7.55 lakh
Ciaz Zdi: 9.45 lakh
Ciaz Zxi: 8.24 lakh
Ciaz Zdi (Optional): 9.80 lakh
Ciaz Zxi (Optional): 8.59 lakh
Ciaz Vxi+ (Automatic): 8.65 lakh
Ciaz Zxi (Automatic): 9.34 lakh