First Drives

24 August 2018

Review: 2018 Maruti Suzuki Ciaz

Honda City baiter goes under the knife to get a new face, and also gets a new heart

Agasti Kaulgi
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Honda City has been the forerunner in sales numbers and has established Honda's reputation in India more or else all by itself. And even after so many years and three generations, it brings in almost half of Honda car India's sales numbers. If there's been one car that has given Honda a nightmare, it's been this, the Ciaz. Known for its pliant ride, roomy cabin and backed by Maruti's ultra-strong after sales network, the Ciaz has been a real strong competitor in this mid-size sedan game.

But for many years, you may not have heard too much about the Ciaz, except that Maruti now sells it through the Nexa channel. And that's for a reason: if ain't broke, don't fix it.

The Ciaz has always had a nice, flowing silhouette. The dimensions have been nice, it's got ample presence on the road and mechanically, too, it's pretty robust and things do their job well. But like all good designs, the previous one had run out of its shelf life and the Ciaz needed a bit of freshness to the package. And that's exactly what Maruti has done with its biggest sedan.

To begin with, it's got a new face - a new grille, new headlamps and a new bumper design. The headlamps now look a bit sharper and have DRLs built in. It's the biggest differentiator from the outgoing model. The grille too has lost most of its chrome - thankfully - and now boasts a new completely new design. It makes the car look wider and gives it more presence apart from just adding freshness to design. The lines remain more or less the same and are sharp enough to compete with the likes of the Honda City and the Toyota Yaris. With the way the Ciaz has been sketched out, it makes it look longer than its chief rivals, despite not being one. The designers haven't stopped just there and have worked on the rear as well - the tail-lamps have a new design and the reflectors on the bumper now have chrome housings that add a bit of glamour to the rear. It's a facelift, no doubt, but a fairly substantial one, unlike the ones we see today that need a microscope to point out the difference.

Inside, the Ciaz always had a bright and refreshing cabin. And that continues with this model too. There's plenty of beige on the dash with a bit of black on the centre console. What's changed is the faux wood insert that runs the length of the dash. It's light brown wood finish that gives the effect of having a veneered dash like you see in premium sedans. Of course, it won't take you more than a minute to spot the faux vs real wood, but at the same time, doesn't look cheap or tacky either.

This isn't one of those mid-life facelifts that have nothing to do with the mechanical bits. Maruti has plonked its brand new petrol mill under the hood of the Ciaz. It replaces the previous 1.4-litre unit and outdoes it in terms of cubic capacity. It now displaces 1,462cc and makes 103bhp and 138Nm of torque. Pretty reasonable for this size of the car, no? Yes, we say. The engine has no surprises for you in store and piles on torque pretty predictably and gradually. There's no sudden surge of power or anything of that sort. It gives its best once you cross the 3,000rpm mark and revs without much fuss right till 6,250rpm. It's vibration free right till the top and the NVH levels are good even at high revs.

Maruti offers a choice of the tried-and-tested five-speed manual gearbox or a four-speed torque converter. Yes, it's the same AT that did duties in the previous Ciaz. The five-speed manual transmission is smooth and has short shifts. The only issue is the aged torque converter. In an era where carmakers are offering dual-clutch gearboxes and CVTs, Maruti still feels it has buyers for a mere four-speed torque converter. Sigh.

The diesel engine is carried forward from the previous model and has had no modifications before going into the facelifted Ciaz. It makes 88bhp and 200Nm of spin from its 1,248cc with the help of a VGT.

What's been on the Ciaz's side is the fine balance its managed to achieve between ride and handling. The ride is rather very good and handles the great Indian broken roads well. You can feel the hit only if you go over a really sharp bump at ridiculous speed. Rest, it's got you sorted. In terms of handling, it may not be able to look into the eyes of the VW Vento, but isn't very sloppy either. The Apollos have got adequate grip in wet and dry road conditions and there's predictability in the way it deals with bends. There's not much body roll and everything remains composed around bends. The steering, though, isn't the most intuitive of the lot. It's vague at the centre but starts to communicate as you wind it. It isn't weightless as that of the City, but not spot on like the Vento or Rapid.

With this facelift, Maruti has added a bit of safety to the package by offering ESP to the Ciaz. And what's also new is a reworked hybrid system. It's now got a lithium-ion battery that charges as you brake. It uses that energy to assist the engine when you ask for power and also runs the fan, music system and other electric bits in the car when the engine switches off at standstill.

The Ciaz starts at Rs 8.19 lakh for the petrol and Rs 9.19 lakh for the diesel. If you are looking for the petrol auto top spec, it'll make you poorer by Rs 10.97 lakh (all prices ex-showroom, Delhi). It's good pricing considering what Honda, Toyota and VW ask for their offerings. And with the way the new Ciaz places itself, it's got the ride, space, presence and now the goodness of modern design in its bag. A pretty good combo if you ask us.

Specs: 1462cc, 4cyl, petrol, 103bhp, 138Nm, 5M/4A, FWD, LxWxH: 4490x1730x1485mm, wheelbase: 2650mm, boot space: 510litres, price: Rs 8.19-10.97 lakh (ex-showroom)

Bottomline: A solid package considering cabin space, driving dynamics and design. New petrol engine is refined and punchy

Rating: 8/10

Tags: honda, city, vento, maruti suzuki, verna, rapid, yaris, ciaz

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