Maruti has it easy in the small and compact car segments. But India’s top carmaker hasn’t been able to hit the sweet spot in the midsize sedan category dominated by the tasteful rides from Japan, Korea and Europe. Now, in what could be a do-or-die effort, Maruti is once again vying for the wallets of C-segment buyers with an all-new car –the Ciaz. Ciaz not only ups the ante on what have historically been Maruti’s lackadaisical attempts to crack the midsize segment, but has developed into a resilient contender among its feature-laden competitors.
Maruti cars have never been stylistic standouts but the Ciaz is absolutely more assertive than anything else from its maker’s stable. The four-slat chrome grille looks neat, so do the large dual headlamps with projectors. Remarkably, all variants of the Ciaz will get projector headlamps. The well-molded bumper adds some zing to the front, however, the chrome accents around the fog lamps as seen on the concept car would have made it sportier.
In profile, a strong shoulder line rises from the front fender to the taillights to give the car a well-balanced appearance. Dark grey, multi-spoke alloy wheels, blacked out B pillar and chrome beltline grab your attention when viewed from side. The tail lamps are unmistakably inspired by the 2014 Honda City, but are bolder and more rounded. A sleek chrome strip connects the taillights and you might also like the black inserts on the rear bumper.
The Ciaz certainly has commanding road presence and an uncluttered design. While it might not be the best-looking car in the segment for in some eyes, it is undoubtedly the most impressive design Maruti has ever brought to India.
Maruti has crafted the interior of the Ciaz in such a way that it elevates a value-oriented brand to the top tier of premium midsize sedan manufacturers. Ciaz’s cabin is simply styled in a coherent, elegant way, and is also crammed with an array of standard equipment. The soft-touch plastic, dual-tone dashboard with faux wood inserts and the light coloured leather seats are top notch.
The centre console is dominated by a 7-inch SmartPlay infotainment system offering audio, navigation, rear camera and Bluetooth functions. The screen is split into four sections, giving instant access to all the functions without having to fiddle around much. The driver can control most of the functions using steering mounted switches and also via voice commands. However, this feature is available only on the top of the trim ZXi+ and ZDi+ variants.
A small digital monitor on instrument cluster displays instant and average consumption figures, distance to empty, trip metre, outside temperature and odo. The leather wrapped and adjustable steering wheel is good to hold and offers plenty of grip. Driver seat is height adjustable and the car thus offers spot-on driving position.
The centre console has enough storage space with cupholders and is neatly covered with a soft closing lid, a feature seen only in luxury cars. Then there are nice touches like rear sunshade, reading lamps for rear passengers, a small pocket on the front seat where rear passenger can keep mobile phone, footwell lamps, electric bootlid opener, all adding to the Ciaz’s upmarket feel. The only eyesore is the Swift-inspired door panel and the ORVM switches that don’t gel with the rest of the design.
Ciaz has the longest wheelbase (2650mm) of any other car in its segment and the result is cabin space you’d expect to find in the class above. Even with the front seats completely pushed back, there’s generous legroom at the rear. Headroom and shoulder room are equally impressive. Seats are very supportive and comfortable, perfect for long distance driving. Rear seat comfort is further enhanced with rear AC vents standard on all variants and armrest with cupholders. The boot space is also a liberal 510-litres – same as the Honda City and more than the Hyundai Verna. Overall, the interior ambiance is that of a larger, more upscale car.
The petrol Ciaz is powered by the familiar 1.4 litre K-Series engine tweaked to develop 92.45PS at 6,000rpm and 130Nm of torque at 4,000rpm. The engine has enough shove to keep you moving in traffic and on the highway, but it won’t smoke the tires or awaken the driver in you. The 1.3 litre diesel, on the other hand, is already a much-loved engine and revised ECU and throttle mapping have further enhanced its responsiveness. The engine delivers 90PS at 4,000rpm and 200Nm of torque at 1750rpm. Turbo lag is noticeable until around 2000rpm and then there’s the sudden surge in torque, which is strong all the way till 4000rpm. The diesel Ciaz accelerates swiftly up to cruising speeds of 160kmph and the engine will certainly put a smile on your face.
Both engines are mated to a 5-speed manual transmission and the petrol gets 4-speed automatic variant as well.
It’s important to note that Ciaz has been developed on an all-new lightweight platform that adopts Suzuki’s Total Effective Control Technology. Use of high tensile steel across the body panels and the chassis ensure a lighter but more durable body, weighing at just 1,010kg for the petrol and 1,105kg for the diesel. Although the performance figures are lower than most cars in this segment, Ciaz has the lightest kerb weight of them all, which makes it as agile and more fuel efficient than all of them.
India’s most fuel-efficient car
Maruti has been India’s mileage masters for many years but was dethroned by Honda last year. The Ciaz wins the title back in style with an impressive ARAI figure of 26.21kmpl for diesel. The petrol variant returns 20.73kmpl, making it the most fuel-efficient petrol car in the C segment. During the test drive, the diesel Ciaz delivered 22.7kmpl, which considering some high speed testing involved, is really praiseworthy.
Ride and Handling
The suspension has been tuned with passenger comfort in mind and it shows. Remarkably smooth on rough road conditions, the Ciaz even stayed composed over some rumble strips. It rides on 195 section tyres that offer good grip around curves, although some bodyroll is noticeable under hard cornering. The car’s steering effort is on the heavier side, but it isn’t cumbersome in city traffic and inspires good confidence at speed. However, steering precision and feedback isn’t the best around. High-speed stability is peaceful and braking confidence-inspiring, with decent pedal feel.
Even though the cabin is well-insulated from road, wind noises and suspension thuds, engine noise badly creeps into the cabin in both petrol and diesel variants.
The Ciaz may be a light car, but that doesn’t mean safety is compromised. Suzuki’s Total Effective Control Technology has helped the Ciaz achieve a light as well as rigid body. Moreover, ABS and driver airbags are standard across all but the base variant. Top variants get passenger airbags, too.
Maruti Ciaz has all ingredients to gratify a premium midsize sedan shopper. A seamless design, most spacious and feature-filled interior coupled with a comfortable ride make the Ciaz a strong contender against the segment leaders. However, considering the reputation and goodwill of Honda City and Hyundai Verna in the segment, it won’t be a cakewalk for Ciaz. Yet, Maruti’s strong brand image, after sales support and more importantly the best-in-class fuel efficiency give Ciaz edge over the rivals. Also, it is very unlikely that Maruti will mess up the pricing of such an important car. So, if any car has been central to the revitalization of Maruti’s premium segment, this is it.
Prices will be announced in October during the launch