2018 Maruti Ciaz Facelift: First Drive Review
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Maruti’s flagship sedan now packs in additional tech to make it more efficient and more desirable. Is it?
The mid-size segment has spoilt us for choice. There’s the City with it’s desirable Honda badge, the Verna that promises a bucketload of tech, and not to mention Toyota’s Yaris that brings some good-old-fashioned sensibility to the table. Lest we forget, there’s the German-Czech duo of the Vento and the Rapid that offer some likeable Euro-car solidity. So, you might think there isn’t any more wiggle room left for something like the Maruti Suzuki Ciaz.
Not really. Maruti’s promising a cleaner, more efficient drive with the refreshed petrol version and reduced prices with the diesel. Naturally, there are more features added to the Ciaz’ kitty too. On paper, then, the Ciaz seems to tick the right boxes. In that case, we’ll be answering one simple question - are the updates enough for you to cut a cheque for it?
Will people know you’re driving the new Ciaz and not the old one? Valid question. The answer to that depends on the variant. For instance, the top-spec Alpha variant you see here in the pictures can be easily distinguished from the outgoing model. The others need a slightly keen eye.
It features the new all-LED projector headlamps as well as the LED fog lamps and tail lamps. Not to forget, there’s a chic new design for the 16-inch alloy wheels and some chrome embellishments on the rear bumper too. Lower down the variant chain, aesthetic changes are limited to the redesigned front grille and bumper.
The new grille is wider and connects the headlamps. We like the subtle underline of chrome as well as the mesh-like detailing. That said, it does remind us of Tata’s ‘Humanity Line’ just a little bit. There’s some added aggression in the bumper by way of a wider air dam and prominent C-shaped outline for the fog lamps.
Maruti Suzuki hasn’t fiddled around with the side profile or the rear. We’d have loved to see a newer rear end, maybe with a sportier looking bumper. Speaking of sporty, if the vanilla Ciaz doesn’t appeal to you all that much, you can tick a body kit and a spoiler on the accessories list. It definitely looks a lot racier in that avatar.
So, yes. The Ciaz looks a wee bit fresher than before. It’s not a biblical change but everyone will know you’re driving a Ciaz. And most of them will know you’re driving the new one.
Step inside, and everything around you is familiar. The layout remains identical, so there aren’t any unpleasant surprises here. You’d also appreciate how quickly you’d be at ease in the driver’s seat. All controls fall to hand easily, and more importantly, they’re placed just where you’d want them to be. Be it the interface for the climate control, the switches for the power windows or even the boot release button.
From the driver’s seat, you’d quickly notice the new additions to the feature list. The new dials (with blue needles, no less) as well as the 4.2-inch coloured MID grabs attention. This display is similar to the one we’ve seen on the Baleno. And while the Power and Torque pie charts seem gimmicky, we still manage to crack a smile while looking at them.
Second, the right-hand side of the steering wheel is no longer blank. It houses buttons for a feature the Ciaz cried out for — cruise control. The eagle-eyed bunch will also quickly spot that the finish of the wood inserts is now significantly lighter. It’s now finished in a shade Maruti likes to call ‘birch blonde’.
If you’re being chauffeured around, you will appreciate the sheer kneeroom the Ciaz has to offer. It’s right up there with the Honda City and can house two six-footers one behind the other without a hiccup.
What should make that journey a tad more comfy is the added adjustable headrests at the rear. Frustratingly, it’s limited to the top two variants only. Also available on only the Zeta and the Alpha is the rear sunshade that should keep you cool when the sun’s bearing down.
As we’d expect from Maruti, the basics are done right. The floor hump isn’t too tall, the window line isn’t too high and there’s a fabric/leather elbow pad. What could be better though, is the headroom and the underthigh support. Sadly, these snags have been carried over from the outgoing generation along with the good stuff.
Also, much like the outgoing generation, the Ciaz seems properly well-equipped for the price. Features on the inside include automatic climate control, a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system (with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay), rear-AC vents, and a reverse parking camera. The luxury factor is upped by the leather(ette) upholstery, front and rear armrests as well as the leather-wrapped steering wheel. An addition like the sunroof would’ve sealed the deal, but Maruti Suzuki has surprisingly chosen to stay away from the fad.
Summing up, the cabin of the Ciaz is equipped well enough to keep the millennial happy, and spacious and comfy enough to make sure Papa bear doesn’t complain either. Thumbs up.
With the update, the Ciaz gets a new 1.5-litre petrol engine paired with Suzuki’s mild-hybrid tech. Fire the motor up and it sputters to life with a mild thrum that quickly disappears. And, for the most part, the motor is happy being the quiet kid. It’s only when you poke it quite a bit does it get vocal. But that raspy engine note is oddly enjoyable.
The new engine produces 105PS of power and 138Nm of torque. Quick maths will tell you that’s 12.5PS and 8Nm extra over the outgoing 1.4-litre motor. So, we weren’t really expecting it to kick us in the guts to begin with. And quite expectedly, it didn’t. To drive, it's more or less similar to the outgoing engine. It isn't particularly exciting in any manner. At the same time, it doesn't feel inadequate at any point either.
The highlight here, much like the older car, is its drivability. Let go of the clutch and the Ciaz makes quick progress. Also, the engine doesn't mind being lugged a bit. So, you don't have to downshift to first every time you spot a speed breaker. Second gear should do just fine. It’s almost diesel-like in the lower gears. You can manage to get a clean start from 0kmph in second gear without the engine knocking. We tried! In fact, the city feels like the home turf of the Ciaz. You can amble about town all day long and still not feel tired at the end of it. There’s peace of mind inside the city, then.
On the flipside, you might get slightly annoyed out on the highway. Don't think the Ciaz lacks power or can't cruise comfortably at triple-digit speeds - no. It can do that without breaking a sweat. It only stutters a bit when you want to go in for that quick overtake. Even in their top gears at 100kmph, cars such as the Verna and the City need nothing more than a dab on the throttle to gather speed. That's not the case with the Ciaz. You will have to work the gearbox, downshift and get it into its sweet spot to get anywhere in a hurry.
If you’re keen on the petrol-powered Ciaz, Maruti Suzuki will let you choose between a 5-speed manual and a 4-speed torque converter automatic. We’d pick the manual since you don’t really need to shift gears very often. Plus, the gear action is smooth and the clutch is feather light too. The automatic definitely adds a dose of convenience. And if you want nothing more than a relaxing drive to work and back, this old-school AT won’t let you complain. While it isn’t snap-your-finger quick in terms of responsiveness, it gets the job done if you drive with a light foot. The auto ‘box tends to upshift early (usually under 2000rpm), and you’re in top gear before you know it. That said, we’d have loved to see a more modern torque converter (with a dedicated manual mode) or better still, a CVT.
SHVS - What is it?
Suzuki’s mild hybrid tech makes an appearance on a petrol Maruti for the first time ever. Maruti Suzuki has gone the extra mile here and equipped the Ciaz petrol with an additional lithium-ion battery. Paired with an integrated starter generator, the SHVS switches off the vehicle when it’s in neutral and brings it back to life once you depress the clutch. As we’ve seen in the S-Cross, this does help the real world efficiency by a whole lot. So, while Maruti Suzuki is claiming 21.56kmpl (AT = 20.28kmpl) on paper, it might not be vastly different for everyday driving. On our quick first drive, the automatic hovered around the 16.5kmpl mark, whereas the manual delivered north of 18.5kmpl.
Ride and Handling
If there’s one word that describes the Ciaz’ ride and handling, it’s ‘predictable’. There’s absolutely nothing here that seems out of line for a sedan its size, and nothing that’s extraordinary either.
Over the smooth roads leading out of the Bangalore airport, the Ciaz felt nice and composed. As the speeds build up, it feels planted enough to inspire confidence in the driver. That said, at triple-digit speeds, rear seat occupants will feel some vertical movement as and when the car goes over or an expansion joint or an imperfection in the road surface. Low-speed ride, too, is comfortable. Ground clearance isn’t an issue either, and the Ciaz managed to tackle non-existent roads well. Expect some side-to-side rocking through really bad craters, though.
As far as the handling goes, it’s clear that the Ciaz is tuned to make the drive more relaxing, and not engaging. Steering weight, for example, is feather-light at city speeds and reassuringly heavy on the highway. Chuck it into a bend, and the steering is reasonably quick to respond. Don’t expect bucketloads of feel and feedback, though. It will leave you guessing a bit, especially if you’re hustling it hard.
While we sincerely hoped rumours about the Ciaz featuring six airbags were indeed true, that’s (sadly) not the case. It soldiers on with dual front airbags, anti-lock brakes (ABS) and ISOFIX child seat mounts, which are offered as standard. Additionally, the sedan also gets a seatbelt reminder for both the front passengers as well as a speed warning alert.
The Ciaz continues to get the basics of space, ride quality and ease of driving spot on. This alone, in our books, are enough reasons to seriously consider buying one. Then there's the fact that the new engine brings with it a bucketload of efficiency and also solves the automatic’s drinking habit to a fair extent. Yes, it still doesn't have the wow factor of a sunroof or other flashy features like a hands-free trunk release or ventilated seats. The only real miss here is the lack of side and curtain airbags.
Given its price tag, the Ciaz makes for a value package. What sweetens the deal further is the fact that the lower variants come well kitted too. That means you don't get a step-motherly treatment for being on a budget.
If outright performance and driving dynamics aren't the most important parameter on your list, and you just need a comfy, spacious sedan to drive to (or be driven in) to work and back, then the Ciaz makes a stronger case than ever.