The Ciaz is Maruti’s third attempt at cracking the mid-size sedan segment — an area that is not its traditional forte. Over a decade ago it brought the Baleno, which felt dated from the start. A few years later, the SX4 materialised — a sedan made out of an existing compact SUV— and faded away.
Ciaz, however, is an all-new car, designed from scratch and riding on a new platform. But competition in the segment has intensified a few notches. The heavyweight is the Honda City, now armed with a potent diesel powertrain; the Hyundai Verna remains competitive. And there are the Vento and Rapid cousins as well. Does Ciaz have enough chutzpah to defy history? Let’s take a look.
DESIGN AND STYLE
The Ciaz first surfaced on the global stage as a concept at the Delhi Auto Expo this year, and it looked like a car that belonged to a higher segment. The production version is a much watered down iteration. The highlight is the long wheelbase, which makes it look much larger than its competitors. Aesthetially, it is a well-proportioned and balanced without being outlandish. The chrome grille with the swept back headlamps and large fog lamp cluster give it a stately feel, but you can spot similarities with some of the cars already on the road. The lines flow cleanly to the sloping roof that culminates in a high stance rear facia. The wrap around tail lamp is premium, but very similar to the one in Honda City. It does not have the flair of the Verna, but will go down as one of the better designed cars from Maruti.
The interiors of the car give a premium feel and the black and beige colour theme comes straight from the bigger Kizashi. The dashboard layout is neat and uncluttered and it gets a touch screen infotainment system that is quite cutting edge. Like most smartphones though, it is not glitch-free.
Space at the back is abundant, upstaging even the City. The seats are comfortable with lots of leg room; three adults won’t find it a squeeze. Boot space is best in class and at par with the City. What’s disappointing is the telltale signs of cost-cutting, which may not go down well with a consumer of this segment.
PERFORMANCE, RIDE AND HANDLING
Ciaz retains the powertrain of the outgoing SX4, and comes with 1.3-litre diesel and a 1.4litre petrol engines which have been retuned and refined to match the requirements of a modern sedan. The diesel engine has been used in a host of other Maruti cars from the Swift to the Ertiga, and yet its performance in the Ciaz surprises. Power delivery is linear and turbo lag a minimum. It is also lot less coarse than the City. The petrol, in comparison, feels a trifle under powered, mostly because the City is so potent. Ride quality is decent, but it is clearly not made for slaloming, and handling is not quite its strength. It is better than Verna and at par with City, but not in the same league as the Vento or Rapid. On the open highway, the Ciaz will serve you well but hit the hills and it would give way.
The Ciaz is by far Maruti’s most serious attempt at cracking a segment that is outside its comfort zone. It is a well-designed product, though competing in a segment crowded with welldesigned cars. The interiors, with its space and attention to detail, is a big attraction and so is the diesel engine and the high fuel economy.
Yet, the build quality is not up to the mark, and especially with the petrol model, performance is lacking. Pricing is aggressive, which tilts the balance towards Ciaz to an extent. But in a segment where consumers often value the badge and refinement over value for money, Ciaz does not really push the envelope.