The latest Honda City challenger comes from the Maruti stable. The Ciaz as Maruti calls its newest baby, has replaced the SX4 and how! All of you who thought that the SX4 was a faddy-daddy, the Ciaz surely changes your perception of the latest entrant in the A3+ segment, as it is defined.
The design cues are shining here, and after a 42-month design time, they better. In the front, you have large angular headlamps, flanking a large chrome grille. The projector headlamp inside makes a strong style statement and gives a feeling that this vehicle is premium in its own way. Smartly recessed fog lamps in a purposeful looking front air dam add to the character. The 195 section tyres running on neat looking 16” alloys also look good.
The ZXi + and the ZDi+ are the top loaded variants, and the amount of equipment on offer shames many bigger cars. Maruti seems to have taken a leaf out of Hyundai’s books here and the Ciaz is loaded to the gills – especially in the top models. On the sides, you find chrome treatment on the door handles and the obligatory button for the Keyless-Go.
The rear side of the Ciaz is also very smart and features uniquely designed tail lamps, reminiscent of a luxury car manufacturer. The rear bumper is quite shapely and features rear parking sensors and reflectors embedded on either side in a black plastic mesh, giving a good feel.
The interiors are where Maruti has worked most of its magic. This is the first Maruti vehicle I have seen with such an amazing interior finish, and a good choice of materials. A black anti-reflective surface tops the dashboard, which is quite smooth to the touch. You also get excellent beige plastic below and sandwiched in between is dark wood – overall a very classy combination. The air-conditioning vents look very cool as well. Naturally, on the higher models you get a full climate-control system.
What however amazes most is the sound system. This intelligent piece of In-Car Entertainment (ICE) developed in conjunction with Nippon is a stellar unit amalgamating Bluetooth, Navigation, CD, USB/Aux-in inputs and even a mirror-link for connecting your smartphone through a cable, whether Android or iOS.
It’s a full touchscreen system, and can be voice-controlled as well. We could not test out much of the voice-activation thingy, but a few commands were responded to very well by the system, which incidentally can also read out your messages.
There is a separate controller for the telephone and voice-activation, which however is placed rather awkwardly below the steering wheel. An automatic dipping internal rear-view mirror is standard, but a light for the vanity mirror in the sunshade has gone missing! Interestingly, the vanity mirror is only on the left side, I guess it is assumed that women do not drive!
The front seats are quite comfortable, but the rear is not bad either. The rear seats are very comfortable, and there is a nice centre armrest, featuring twin cup-holders. There is a dedicated set of air-conditioning vents at the back, along with another 12-volt power socket for charging your phones, tablets etc. Maruti it seems has pulled out all stops to make the interiors classy, comfortable and useful.
Engine and Gearbox
The powerplants are now more optimised than ever before. In the petrol versions, you get the same 1.4-litre K14B engine, which gives you an output of 95ps and 130Nm of torque. Further tweaking of this already efficient powerplant has resulted in significant gains in fuel economy. The diesel is from the same 1.3-litre MultiJet family of Fiat, with a power output of 90ps and 200Nm of torque, now worked out even better.
Both petrol and diesel get a 5-speed gearbox; the former also gets an archaic 4-speed automatic transmission. This I personally feel is a downer, because there is no way that a 4-speed auto tranny can match the efficiency of the manual, and as a result, the car buying public will not be favourable to the convenience. Maruti could have developed a better box, or better still fitted a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) at least…
Performance and Handling
Let us start with the petrol. The petrol Ciaz feels very powerful and makes lots of noise, but progress is not very brisk. It will keep up with traffic and will actually take you to three-digit speeds when pushed, but the drive does not feel very special. The petrol sipping Ciaz will return 20.7 kilometres to every litre you put in.
The suspension on the other hand is very well set-up, and potholes and other crevices on road are dispatched with a distant thump of the suspension. Body control is vey good also, and the 170mm of ground clearance, makes sure that you do not hit that speed-breaker every time.
The diesel engine on the other hand is quite a stonker. I do not recall many times in the past, when I have praised a diesel engine’s power delivery over petrol, but this time my heart goes totally to the diesel. The torque spread is fantastic, and the engine is also very quiet – competitors please note – and the power delivery is very linear.
This engine is also very fuel-efficient and Maruti engineers have coaxed 26.2 kilometres out of this fuel sniffing engine, making it India’s most fuel-efficient car, a claim held by Honda so far for its City.
This is one area, which is still a little grey in India. So while standard side-impact bars are fitted to the doors, crumple zones have been factored in and other active safety tickets have been put in, the Ciaz still gets only two airbags in its top spec models.
No side airbags or curtain bags are provided in the Indian spec car. There is of course anti-lock braking system (ABS) along with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) on select top end models.
The Ciaz has many competitors, but the most important are Hyundai’s Verna, Honda’s City and Volkswagen’s Vento. Out of these, the biggest threat ofcourse comes from the new City, which has been launched just about a few months back and is doing extremely well in its segment.
Hyundai has also beefed up the Verna with many new features like projector headlamps, daytime running lights (DRL) and many other gee-gaws and is giving serious competition to others. Both vehicles are loaded very well with gadgets, but the Ciaz has an edge in terms of both looks and interiors.
The Ciaz from Maruti is a brilliant vehicle. It is built well, built solid and exudes a class, which cannot be matched by any of its competitors. Maruti has managed to offer a tempting price too. Just as well, because the Ciaz has all the ingredients to make it a real winner.