Maruti is ready to drop another bomb in the market, and it's called the Ciaz. And although the pricing isn't announced yet, keeping in mind that we're talking about Maruti Suzuki here, it will be competitive, to say the least.
On the outside, it's bigger than the existing offering from Maruti, the SX4. It looks more muscular but chiselled, unlike the SX4, which - designed by Giugiaro - was more curvy. It's almost 4.5m in length, which along with the width of 1.73m, makes the Ciaz well proportioned. The design is striking, and although the rear is very similar to that of the new Honda City, there will be no mistaking the Ciaz for anything else on sale at the moment except the rear, which the keen eyes will be able to differentiate, nevertheless.
On the inside it's adequately premium for the segment, and the dashboard layout is reminiscent of what Maruti uses in its other cars like the Swift and the erstwhile premium offering Kizashi. But what really matters in a car in this segment is the leg space, and the Ciaz has lots of it: the rear leg room is something that make Ciaz the choice of chauffeur-driven clientele. Another luxury (or probably an essential feature in a car, if you want to see it that way) is the presence of window blinds, which will let the rear passengers have a little more privacy and protection from direct sunlight. An a/c vent is also present at the rear in the Ciaz.
While the car isn't targeted at enthusiasts, its light weight build helps the 1.3-litre diesel and 1.4-litre petrol engines propel the car without breaking a sweat. The lack of weight helps in an improved fuel economy too, which stands at 20.73kmpl for the petrol and 26.21kmpl for the diesel: both figures being ARAI certified, and very impressive indeed.
And the icing on the cake will be the projector headlamps, automatic climate control, and a touchscreen-based entertainment system. The equipment list will depend on the variant you choose, but Maruti Suzuki isn't likely to risk a lot here as well. Also, in terms of safety, you do get ABS and airbags on all variants except the entry level 'V' variant.
All that looks good, and there's always Maruti's vast sales and service network to back things up. So how interesting does the Ciaz look as a market proposition? If you ask me, it's rather brilliant. There are a few things which could have been better, but on the whole, it should work well with the Indian market, provided that the company prices it right.
That aside, we know that this is going straight to the C-segment of cars, so the likely competition is going to be from the new Honda City, the recently updated Hyundai Verna, the Volkswagen Vento (it must be noted that both the Vento and Skoda Rapid will undergo a few changes soon), Fiat Linea, and the Ford Fiesta (which was updated recently too). It would be interesting to have a look at how the Ciaz compares with each one of them.
Taking things one step at a time, let us start with the exterior design and dimensions first.
The Ciaz might look like a good compromise between an outright bold look and what you would pass off as a regular family saloon, but the the competition is strong too. The new Honda City has just got a massive update (keeping the overall shape similar, but the design is new), so it's very fresh, and has been received quite well in the market. The Verna too is updated, but the changes are simple, but the design works wonders for Hyundai. The Vento is ready for an update, but that is likely to bring small changes, and not to forget, the Vento's no-nonsense styling is charming. The Linea, which has already been deemed beautiful by many sports a revised look and so does the new Fiesta.
In terms of external size, a quick glance at the figures suggest that the Ciaz is easily segment topping, almost. The wheelbase is the longest among the class, which should give it extended stability. The Ciaz's length of 4,490mm is only trumped by the FIAT Linea, while both the Linea and the Fiesta are wider than the Ciaz.
The Ciaz not only has an upmarket interior, it's roomy as well. The use of light colours helps, and looking beyond that, there's a lot of space. The dashboard layout is very decent, and so is the fit and finish. Jump into the Honda City, and you'll notice the blue-lit instrument cluster (it's very subjective, but I find it distasteful), the touch controls for the AC, and ample space as seen in the Ciaz. The Hyundai Verna's interior looks smart, and has a good amount of equipment, but the sloping roofline does tend to make it less roomy at the rear.
The Vento is well put together, and while, like the exterior, it's very simple but doesn't feel claustrophobic. The dashboard is very well built, but it looks bland, especially in front of rivals like the new Ciaz. Coming to the FIAT Linea, the new version sports a much better quality interior than what was offered before; it now easily matches others in terms of quality, and looks and feels impressive! Lastly, the Fiesta continues with its phone like keypad and a small screen on the centre console, which might look a bit odd at first but grows on you quickly.
The Ciaz draws its power from power units that might sound humble in comparison to others here: a 1.3-litre FIAT-sourced 89hp diesel engine and a 1.4-litre 90hp petrol unit. Given that the car weights just about a tonne means that neither the engines have to work too hard nor will the performance/efficiency suffer. The Honda City uses two 1.5-litre engines: one's a 117hp petrol and the other is a 99hp diesel. The Verna gets two 1.6-litre engine options: a 121hp petrol and a 126hp diesel. The Volkswagen Vento customers get to choose between a turbocharged 1.2-litre 103hp petrol (mated to a brilliant dual clutch gearbox) or a 1.6-litre 103hp diesel.
The Fiesta is a diesel only car now with a 1.5-litre 90hp engine under its hood. And the FIAT Linea; the car that has three engine options, a 1.4-litre 88hp petrol, a turbocharged version of the same petrol motor with 112hp, and a 1.3-litre diesel that it shares with the Ciaz but develops a slightly higher 92hp. On paper, the Hyundai Verna wins hands down, with the most powerful engines available. Yes, the Ciaz will get an automatic gearbox too, but if you're in for one, we would suggest going for the VW Vento. Apart from that, it's the FIAT Linea T-Jet (one with turbocharged petrol engine) that is bound to be the most driver-focussed.
It's nearing the launch, and the jury is out. So what works in favour of the Maruti Suzuki Ciaz? Well, a lot of things. To start with, it looks good, has a spacious interior, and drives decent too. To top it all, the fuel efficiency figures are quite high, and that alone should help MS garner a lot of customers.
And what doesn't work?
The safety kit isn't great, especially with the entry level versions skipping ABS as well. Look, we aren't talking about an Alto here. It's a C-segment car, for crying out loud! And as far as enthusiastic driving goes, it will not excite customers the way the SX4 did or a lot of rivals still do, and that's a downer.
But all that aside, Maruti does have a commendable product ready for the market. And when priced right, this will certainly make up for whatever the brand has lost without a properly competitive c-segment vehicle.