The Ciaz facelift has been in the works for a long time now and after a multitude of spy-shots and brochure leaks we finally got the opportunity to drive it. The Ciaz has been one of the strongest sellers in the C-segment and this despite the Ciaz being the only car to have not been updated. The City and the Verna have jumped a whole generation, the Skoda Rapid and the VW Vento have received their facelift too and the Toyota Yaris, well its just debuted in the Indian market scene. Maruti needed more than just a facelift to take on its fresh and updated competition. How have they managed Lets find out.
The Ciaz has been around for almost four years now and with all the fresh competition around, it was starting to look a little long in the tooth. With the update, Maruti has made a bunch of changes to make the Ciaz more upmarket. Starting with the front, the Ciaz gets a new grille that connects both the headlamps. There are chrome strips adorning the grille since we are a chrome loving janta. The new headlamps look fantastic and are now equipped with LED projectors and day time running lamps. The fog lamps are LEDs too and they too get a chrome garnish.
The sides remain the same barring the new dual tone, 16-inch precision cut alloy wheels which give the Ciaz a very sporty stance. The rear gets LED combination lamps and more chrome. Overall, the Ciaz definitely looks more contemporary now and this shot of Botox has given it at least two more years before Maruti Suzuki can bring in the next-gen Ciaz.
While Maruti has retained the basic layout on the insides, it has made subtle changes that make quite an impact. For starters, the dash gets a new Birch blonde wood grain insert that runs across the dash and the doors. While most wooden finishes end up looking tacky in everyday cars, we must say Maruti Suzuki has a done a great job. It looks and feels premium and matches well with the black and beige combo.
The other major change is the instrument console which looks fantastic and gets a bunch of new features. The most important addition is the 4.2-inch multi-information coloured TFT display just like in the Baleno. The screen shows various read outs like the hybrid drive operation, average fuel economy, total driving and idle time, acceleration and brake graphs and more. The new-look tacho and speedo with the black background looks good and is easy to read too.
The infotainment system remains unchanged and is one of the easiest to operate in the business. A host of connectivity options along with Apple CarPlay and the Android Auto make life extremely easy. The music system however leaves a lot to be desired especially if you are an audiophile.
The front seats remain unchanged which is a good thing because they are extremely comfortable with good support all around. The legroom at the rear continues to be the highlight, but we still wish for better under-thigh support for more comfort over long journeys. Maruti has done a good job with updating the interiors and the Ciaz feels much more welcoming than before.
The biggest change in the new 2018 Ciaz is the inclusion of the new K15 petrol engine (the diesel DDiS 200 remains unchanged). At 1.5 litres, it's got more displacement (up by 100cc), more power (up by almost 10bhp) and more torque (up by 8Nm). So adding it up, the new motor puts out 103.2bhp and 138Nm. The K15 is an all-new motor and now comes as a mild hybrid across all variants. However the definition of mild hybrid has changed.
The Smart Hybrid technology now gets a Lithium-ion and a Lead battery set-up. As a result the system is enabled with an idle start stop which isnt a big deal but the next two features are. The Hybrid system importantly gets a Torque Assist Function wherein the energy stored in the Lithium-ion battery assists the petrol motor during acceleration and this can be seen in a graphical way on the new TFT screen. Since the Lithium-ion battery is utilized for better performance, it needs to be charged as well. And that is where the Brake Energy Regeneration comes into play. Stepping on the brakes or coasting keeps charging the battery. The cycle continues thereby aiding performance and fuel efficiency.
But does it work Well for starters, the bigger engine does have better performance on tap. For the automatic variant Maruti have retained the four-speed torque converter gearbox which frankly falls behind compared to the more modern gearboxes on offer. However for the short distance we drove it, it feels just about adequate in city confines but with just four speeds on offer, it does tend to sap power and falls behind when you really ask for performance. The CVT from the Baleno would have made for a better choice, but would have escalated costs so as a result Maruti has stuck with the old gearbox. But in its favour, the gearbox is extremely smooth and still works better than any AMT around.
The five-speed manual offers a better window to the K15 motors increased performance. While we did not notice a big jump in outright performance, drivability has definitely improved. However, do not expect this to be a performance oriented motor. Above 3000rpm, the engine starts getting thrummy and if you rev it further, the engine starts taking a coarse note. What also did not help are the speed warning beeps at 80 and 100kmph which got buzzing like an alarm clock post 120kmph. While we are sure these can be turned off from the settings, what was clear from the beeps and the engine note is that the Ciaz does not like to be pushed. At relaxed speeds, the engine turns lazily at just over 2500rpm with 100kmph on the speedo and that is where the Ciaz feels in its element.
Talking about ride and handling, the Ciaz soaks in the bad sections quite well and is extremely absorbing on the highway sections too. The steering though leaves a lot to be desired. It feels vague and is extremely disconnected. The Ciaz makes no bones about it not being an enthusiasts delight but as a comfortable car to commute in, we have nothing to complain.
Like we mentioned before, the Ciaz has always been a big seller in its segment thanks to its value for money factor, plenty of space and good fuel efficiency. The new car keeps all the above traits and yet takes things further with better equipment levels and slightly better performance as well. Maruti has played the pricing game right too. The Ciaz is priced between Rs 8.19 lakhs to 10.79 lakhs, ex-showroom Delhi. Compared to the older car, the price of the base variant has gone up by Rs 36,000, however, the top-end model has gotten cheaper by a whopping Rs 72,000 and according to Maruti, its the top end variant that is most in demand which makes the new model even better value than its predecessor.
While enthusiasts might have to give this one a miss, the Ciaz with its updated design, bucket-load of features and a hybrid tag to play with, is an ideal family car that will keep everyone happy. The Ciaz will continue to take on its main rivals, the Honda City and the Hyundai Verna. All three have been playing it pretty close with the likes of the Toyota Yaris, the Skoda Rapid and the VW Vento following. Watch out for a road test and comparo coming up soon!