2018 Maruti Suzuki Ciaz facelift first drive review
Even for a car as classically good looking as the Maruti-Suzuki Ciaz with its long, low nose and slim proportions, time moves on. Since its launch in 2014, the competition has moved on too. There's an all-new Hyundai Verna, a face-lifted Honda City, not to mention the new Skoda Rapid and the still-handsome Volkswagen Vento. There's even an all-new player in the segment, in the form of the Toyota Yaris. Maruti-Suzuki had shifted the Ciaz to its premium line of Nexa outlets earlier, but it's a good thing then, that the refresh of the Ciaz brings with it a little more than just a new face.
What's been changed?
The Ciaz Facelift gets a sleeker nose with a new grille, a new design for the 16-inch alloy wheels, extra chrome detailing, an updated design for the tail lamps and inside the cabin, wood grain inserts and a new 4.2-inch multi-information display. Most importantly, a new 1,462cc petrol engine replaces the outgoing 1,373cc petrol K14B engine. That's not all either, for the first time, the Smart Hybrid technology sees use on the petrol and even that system gets slight tweaking to offer better functionality.
How does it look?
Even more classy now, thanks to the simple black grille that stretches between the headlights. Look closely and you'll see the gloss black pins that make the diamond-grille, and the front of the car appear even wider than before. The shape of the headlights remains the same but a switch to LED projectors, a strip of LED daytime running lights and LED fog lights does make the front end look contemporary. There's a large serving of chrome around the fog lamps in front, and the reflectors in the rear bumper. Whilst not particularly creative, it does freshen the look of the car. The rear brake lights get clever LED combination detailing.
How's it inside?
Very comfortable, both in the front seats and the rear. The Ciaz is the largest car in the segment, with the longest wheelbase and it shows. Legroom is easily from a segment above though headroom is a little tight in the rear seat owing to the low roofline. The changes to the cabin are limited to a light wood grain finish for the inserts, new brushed satin silver detailing and a new 4.2-inch MID between the dials. That new screen does become a talking point when we get to how the new engine drives with the updated Smart Hybrid system.
Smart Hybrid meets petrol
The mild hybrid system called SHVS has been on select diesel cars of the Maruti-Suzuki portfolio for a while. Essentially, it consists of a secondary starter motor and battery, to assist in start-stop situations and to run the electrical systems of the car, without parasitic losses to the engine. The updated Smart Hybrid system on the Ciaz petrol employs a lithium-ion battery for the first time, in addition to the lead-acid battery. As compared to the single lead-acid battery system found on the diesel cars, the advantages are quicker and deeper charge-discharge cycles. This means quicker regenerative charging under braking and that the Smart Hybrid system can contribute (minorly) towards driving the front wheels even when the full-electrical system is running, for example when the lights are on at night. We're told the updated system will make it across the range, in time.
So, how does it drive?
The new K15B engine does lend itself to the slightly mature nature of the Ciaz very well. With revised bore and stroke figures, this engine makes 105PS and 138Nm torque, an increase of 15PS and 8Nm over the K14B in the outgoing model. We drove this engine in two variants, the smooth-shifting 5-speed manual and the 4-speed automatic. In the manual, we found a good spread of power from low-down to the mid-range. It will rev out to its redline just past 6,000rpm and it does get fairly vocal past its mid-range. Shifting under 3,500rpm seemed to get the best results in terms of smoothness and pace, with a cruising speed of 100kmph achieved in 5th gear at 2,400rpm. This left enough on tap for a leisurely overtake, though if more hurried progress is wanted, a downshift is needed.
Performance in the automatic is much more laid back, often requiring less frantic throttle inputs to get the best out of it. The gearbox is a 4-speed torque converter (same as on the previous car) and prefers smoother inputs. Speed builds more gradually and full throttle requests are met with some degree of droning. There is no option for taking manual control of the gearbox, though the '2' and 'L' notches on the lever offer settings suited to slightly more spirited driving.
As it always was, the ride quality of the Ciaz is pliant and trades side-to-side body control for the ability to soak up bad roads. On some of the more badly designed speed breakers in Bangalore (of which there are many!), we heard the bottom of the car scrape. Easing to a crawl fixed that, but we expect most cars to touch on those monstrosities. The steering, while a little heavy at initial turn-in for slow speed U-turns, weighs up perfectly for city and highway use, offering a solid feel of confidence. The brakes are perhaps too progressive and a little more initial bite would be appreciated, though there is the regenerative braking system to take account of.
Is it worth buying?
The refresh adds to what was already a dependable choice. The good thing about the face-lifted Ciaz is that the minor styling tweaks do seem to uplift the image of the car, moving it clearly towards the more premium side of the segment. The updated petrol engine with Smart Hybrid technology claims improved fuel efficiency despite the larger displacement. So if that equates to more power and more efficiency in the real world, we're sure that will make for happier customers.
See our video review of the new Ciaz below:
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Team OD | 11 Jan 2019
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