On to the highlight of the 2018 Ciaz, then. Under the hood you will find an all-new engine – a 1.5-litre K15 petrol motor developing 103bhp of power and 138Nm of torque – that’s a healthy power and decent torque upgrade over the 1.4-litre in the old Ciaz. The 5-speed manual and 4-speed torque converter, meanwhile, have been carried over from the latter. The manual, as we found out, definitely allows you to access the additional punch more readily. More on that later, though.
Coming back to the new engine, the extra displacement makes the Ciaz petrol better suited for city driving than ever before – it feels stronger at low revs, pulling the car effortlessly even with three occupants and their luggage. Post 3,000rpm there is even a bit of spike in power delivery which makes progress a little bit quicker. That being said, you need to work this engine pretty hard to get the Ciaz moving briskly but then it sounds a little harsh at high revs though it’s not something that will bother most users. Interestingly, even the petrol version of the Ciaz now comes with Maruti’s mild hybrid tech which includes a dual battery setup which assists the engine with start-stop function and generates additional pulling power, thereby taking some load off the engine and in turn reducing the fuel consumption. The start-stop function is effective – pull up, engage neutral, get off the clutch and the engine shuts off, depress the clutch pedal again and the crank turns over almost instantly. The system is similar to the micro-hybrid tech used in Mahindras, only quicker.
The 4-speed torque converter simply feels dated even for sedate driving. Although the upshifts and downshifts are quite smooth, the gearbox itself is slow to kick down and overall, is nowhere as immediate as any other automatic sedan in the same price range. There is no doubt the 5-speed manual is more engaging and fun option even if it doesn’t offer the slickest shift quality. All in all, the automatic version is ideal for crawling through the city but it’s the manual you would have if you enjoy driving.
In terms of ride quality, the Ciaz’s bump absorption is on the cushy side, with the suspension soaking up ruts and bumps without any major body movements, however, it is a little clunky over sharp-edged joints and big bumps. As for the NVH, the cabin isn’t as quiet as the Verna at highway speeds though it’s noticeably quieter than the City. On the flipside, the steering feels too vague, with no on-centre feel whatsoever.