Maruti Suzuki 2018 Ciaz test drive: Subtle makeover with a powerful heart

Does the Ciaz have the right ingredients to whip up a storm?

Maruti Suzuki 2018 Ciaz test drive: Subtle makeover with a powerful heart

In a market where buyers are mostly on the lookout for crossovers and SUVs, the sedans in the C-segment have somehow managed to not just stay relevant but remain quite sought after. Sharing space in this segment though has been quite out of the question though because space is at a premium. But it is also a space that has seen a topsy-turvy battle with Hyundai’s Verna, Honda’s City and Maruti Suzuki’s Ciaz taking turns to rule. While the Ciaz – which replaced the underwhelming SX4 – did carve out a lead for itself, recent times saw it stutter a bit thanks to makeovers from its direct rivals.

Boring as an adjective though is not what the Ciaz was going to take lying down and Maruti Suzuki has now brought in the much-awaited 2018 version which promises to keep the Verna and City at bay.

So, does the Ciaz have the right ingredients to whip up a storm?

Simple is stylish

The honest truth is that the Ciaz has never been a looker. Especially not against the Verna which, frankly, overdid the fluidic design philosophy for years. It worked for the Koreans but for Maruti Suzuki, it was always about keeping the Ciaz rather understated – and classy.

The 2018 Ciaz stays true to the design language of using minimalism to make a statement.

The bulk of the changes in how the car looks is up at the front with a front fascia that is more sophisticated than bold. The chrome grille gets small horizontal dashes with the ‘S’ badging on top and a chrome line each on the top and bottom of it. It is flanked by LED headlights on either side with LED DRLs and LED fog lights below. The fog light section too gets a C-shaped chrome outlining but it is subtle enough to keep things moving along  - visually of course, without trying too hard. The bumper has a design change as well and now runs the entire length between the fog lights.

From the side, the new version looks almost like the outgoing one barring the design change in the 16-inch alloys. That the car continues to look long – and premium – from the side means that its road presence might well be from this angle rather than any other.

The rear too is not tinkered with much and LED taillights stand out as the only major change here.

The overall appearance of the Ciaz definitely has noticeable changes but it continues to be rather conservative and that might well be its strong point rather than its Achilles heel. In an extremely image-conscious market where certain companies are going overboard in adding character lines, flares and chrome strips galore, the Ciaz would rather stand out by doing the opposite.

Cabin comfort

The focus on simplistic luxury permeates inside the cabin as well with the 2018 Ciaz making a strong case with its roomy, airy and sophisticated insides. The colour scheme is carried forward from the previous edition of the car but there is a faux wood panel added in a bid to create new appeal inside. This is a bit of a hit and miss as personal opinions regarding the birchwood trim may vary. Yet, that there is a bid to add some fresh visual appeal is a step in the right direction.

The driver seat is positioned high up which would give a commanding view of the road while the seats are well cushioned and with ample support for the back and the thighs. A color TFT MID (in petrol models only), larger infotainment screen,  start-stop button, multi-function steering wheel and leather upholstery are some of the other highlights here. The 2018 Ciaz does miss out on some other creature comforts offered by rivals like glove-cooled dashboard and a sunroof but what is offered is likely to suffice for a large majority.

The rear passengers would continue to get ac vents and a charging port but now have slightly more space to spread their legs – especially on long highway drives. There is ample room even with the front seats pushed back and four in the new Ciaz would continue to be right at home. The one in the middle on the rear seat though could be a bit cramped – especially with the rear ac vent housing eating into leg space ever so slightly. The headroom at the rear too could have been a tad better but when compared to the Verna, it manages to rise above, quite literally.

Driving duties delight

The real test of any car is in how it performs on the road and Ciaz has been a trusted horse for many. The new Ciaz takes everything it did right previously and then some more. A new 1.5 litre petrol unit replaces the 1.4 engine and the change is instantly evident.

The K15B motor puts out 106.4Ps and has torque figures of 138 Nm. And while the older version had a mild hybrid technology in the diesel variant, the new Ciaz petrol gets a dual battery set up with a lithium-ion pack charging quickly to offer better fuel efficiency, which – by the way – is at 21.56 kmpl for the manual and 20.28 kmpl for the auto (ARAI figures)

The five-speed manual gearbox is buttery smooth and ensures the car pulls ahead straight and clean while the NVH levels remain solid to ensure a pleasant experience for both the driver and the passengers.

The car gets a clean driving profile till around the 1800 RPM which means most of city traffic would not be a challenge for the Ciaz. Out on the highway too, the car remains steady but as the revs go higher, the performance dips. It may not be enough to be a deal-breaker but overtaking would require more planning than for the Verna or the City behind.

The suspension too has been adjusted slightly and this is evident in how the car fares on broken roads. Not that it was much to complain about in the older version but the minor modification to the setup in the new Ciaz would be amply evident to those who are familiar with this car. Ground clearance though remains an issue and the car would scrape against unforgiving speed breakers – especially if filled to capacity. In this review, the chassis grazed against badly-constructed speed breakers twice despite the extra caution brought into play.

The automatic version of the Ciaz too fares reasonably well and while this review mostly focussed on the manual variant, a short 30-kilometre drive on the 4-speed AT pointed to just why those with long daily commutes through pain-staking traffic would surely prefer this than that. On paper, the car is two seconds slower in straight sprints from 0 to 100kmph but that is a really minor price to pay in a car which other wise manages to keep itself well planted.

The steering on the Ciaz too feels comfortably light without compromising much on the stable feel at high speeds. A bit more feedback would have excited the enthusiasts but for others, this here does the job.

In terms of safety, the usual array of features like ABS, EBD and airbags are now accompanied by a new speed-check feature which puts out two soft beeps every 60 seconds once the car crosses 80kmph. The beeps become constant at and after 120kmph to remind the driver to slow down.

Overall then, the drive experience inside the cabin is more tuned towards comfort rather than performance and the same is true for the other four occupants as well. Better fuel efficiency, slightly improved cabin space and that new engine makes the drive and would make the journey quite comfortable – even if not out rightly thrilling.

Verdict

The Ciaz has fared well despite never trying too hard to stand out. Its looks are not jaw dropping, its list of creature comforts don’t fill up page after page. And yet, this here ticks the right boxes – boxes which matter the most to most car buyers. That it now has fresh face and that dual battery set-up under the hood with a 1.5-litre engine promises to make the 2018 Ciaz an extremely attractive option. That it is once again priced below the Verna and the City means that here is where Maruti Suzuki’s real trump card would play out. And of course, the Nexa experience – along with the option of installing the Connect telematics solution for mobile monitoring of the vehicle – could be the difference in how long a lead the 2018 Ciaz manages to carve out for itself.

Price (ex showroom, Delhi)

Petrol Sigma       Rs 8.19 lakh        Rs 7.83 lakh

Petrol Delta        Rs 8.80 lakh        Rs 8.28 lakh

Petrol Delta AT  Rs 9.80 lakh        Rs 9.43 lakh

Petrol Zeta                Rs 9.57 lakh  Rs 8.92 lakh

Petrol Zeta AT    Rs 10.57 lakh      Rs 9.94 lakh

Petrol Alpha       Rs 9.97 lakh        Rs 9.48 lakh

Petrol Alpha AT Rs 10.97 lakh      Rs 10.63 lakh

Diesel Sigma       Rs 9.19 lakh        Rs 9.50 lakh

Diesel Delta        Rs 9.80 lakh        Rs 9.94 lakh

Diesel Zeta                Rs 10.57 lakh               Rs 10.79 lakh

Diesel Alpha       Rs 10.97 lakh      Rs 11.51 lakh

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