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Exclusive: Maruti Suzuki Ciaz Automatic First Drive Review

What is it?

In our best efforts to offer you an exclusive review, we took the time out with Maruti’s Ciaz in its petrol automatic disguise. Maruti Suzuki proposed to India with the Ciaz in October 2014 with a lot of apprehension. This was mainly due to their segment predecessors, the Baleno saloon and SX4, whose downfall does not really need any specific introduction. However, the Ciaz became a popular buy in the segment and even outsold the Honda City for some time. Honda actually had to get a second shift running at their Rajasthan plant to reduce waiting periods and counter the competition.

Glance at the Ciaz and your intuition will tell you immediately that this saloon is big. Huge actually (segment wise). Most would even agree, to the naked eye, that it looks bigger than most competitors. It’s something we Indians demand for with the least amount of money we split with. Sure it doesn’t set your pulse racing, but does emit some charm in the subtle lines all across and besides; it is a Maruti! When seated in the Ciaz, it becomes evident without looking at the brochure that Maruti has spent some wise time blending a car that is palatable to our Indian tastes. It is spacious, bright and airy, feature rich and is reasonably priced. We take a closer look at the Ciaz petrol automatic version and see if it can cater to that lazy left limb of yours..

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How is it on the inside?

There are no specific changes made to the interiors, other than the gear shift lever, and everything is just like the other stable mates. What hits you in the face, once seated, is the spacious nature of the cabin. Owners will appreciate the uncluttered dash and all the controls are accessible without stretching your muscles. The dual tone colours that are splashed across the interiors drag along some elegance and extra virtual space to the overall appeal. We really felt that the wooden inserts, silver accents around the switches, vents and gear lever lend a premium feel. That said, parts like the power window switches and steering look like they have come off the Maruti hatches. Though it works well, car makers need to find their way around this as it tends to dampen the user experience. 

The front seats are quite comfortable with adequate levels of support for the back and thigh. We felt that the visibility over the hood is something you will never have to struggle for. Vertically challenged owners will also have all the means to knit themselves onto a desirable driving position with the adjustable driver’s seat. Maruti has worked well in making the rear section of the cabin applaudable. Even though the headroom in the rear could have been better, the seat is spacious enough to handle three people in reasonable comfort. Thigh support is great and the seat back is accurately raked. If you are mostly chauffeured around, the amount of legroom you get when the front seats are pushed all the way is astonishing. 

Automatic Ciaz’s come equipped with keyless entry, power windows, auto air-con, height adjustable driver’s seat and electric mirrors as standard. Also available is a multi-information display, illumination control, rear ac vents, tilt steering and an audio player with bluetooth and USB along with steering mounted controls. Standard safety features include ABS, two airbags, rear defogger and a reverse parking sensor. Buyers can also opt for features like leather upholstery, push button start, alloys, electric folding mirrors and a rear parking camera through the available variants.

How does it drive?

Maruti’s petrol Ciaz comes with the K14B VVT petrol motor that makes 92bhp at 6,000rpm and 130Nm of torque at 4,000rpm. This is not a performance oriented motor and barring the weak mid-range, it does satisfy the needs for most commuting and highway adventures. It is when the engine is pushed to the limit that the true nature of this subtle performer is revealed. With the four speed automatic, little throttle inputs is all you need to get off the mark. The car picks up speed in a very linear way. Though these speeds happen in an unhurried manner, the power delivery is smooth and the shifts are performed in a non-spiky manner that imparts an element of refinement. Though this is an old school ‘box, we noticed that it makes driving the Ciaz a breeze.

Slot the lever into D and the car happily covers urban land with no fuss. When floored, both ‘D’ and ‘OD’ (over drive) mode lets the gearbox shift from the 1st gear post the 3000rpm mark but it is in the OD mode that the acceleration feels quicker. Also, when in OD mode, the gearbox holds a lower gear (higher rpm) when you drop down to lower speeds. This is done so that it stays in the power band to shove in more power when you need it so that it compensates for the weak mid-range. This is unlike the D mode which picks a higher gear and lower rpm when slowing down. Maruti claims the automatic Ciaz will return 19.12kmpl and it is reasonable considering the claimed mileage for the petrol manual is 20.73kmpl.

The ride on the Ciaz is pliant and buyers will enjoy the softer overall setup that this suspension offers. Regardless of whether you drive fast or slow over a potholed road, it does not throw you about. It almost always feels comfortable. Even if you hit a sharp undulation unknowingly, the forgiving suspension takes it easy and only delivers an acceptable portion to the occupants in most situations. What we also admired was the way the suspension silently went about its job and only the harsher road imperfections dispersed some decibels into the cabin. The steering assist feels best when driven within city limits. Handling is predictable most of the time but step on the gas and the steering has a tendency to not offer much feedback. This means that even though there’s enough grip you wouldn’t be enticed to drive spiritedly around bends.

Why should I buy one?

 

Maruti’s Ciaz rakes up enough sales to be the second best seller in the segment right behind the Honda City. It is not a surprise as it offers an impeccable package of great space, acceptable build quality, good driveability and a pliant ride. Oh, and didn’t I mention there’s always the Maruti after-sales service to fall back on. Prices for the Ciaz automatic versions range from Rs 9.02 lakh to Rs 10.08 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi). And you will understand that it’s very competitive especially when you factor that Honda retails its CVT versions between Rs 9.89 lakh and Rs 11.50 lakh. If you’re not looking for more power and an exquisite brand image, the Ciaz fits the bill as a practical choice very well. With the advent of the automatic, your left foot woes and stress levels while driving in stop-go traffic can now be given a pass.

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