Thanks to an all-new engine, the petrol-powered Ciaz makes more power and torque than its predecessor. It also has a new look and comes loaded with more safety tech. Here are our first impressions after a long drive in the garden city of Bangalore.
We have always appreciated the well-balanced look of the old Ciaz, but the 2018 update takes a good thing and makes it even better. Sure, you will only really notice the changes up front but they are substantial nonetheless. The front-end, in fact, now looks much sharper thanks to the new grille design and a sleeker looking pair of LED headlights with pre-facelift Octavia-like DRL strip at the bottom. The restyled fog lamps are also LEDs and add to the updated look, especially at night. Like most new cars around this price range, the Ciaz also gets razor-cut style 16-inch alloy wheels which we think look really great. Lastly, you have the updated taillights with new detailing that you will only notice when they are lit up. All in all, the 2018 model looks just right and well balanced as ever. Also, there is no mistaking its large footprint – the Ciaz is the longest sedan in its segment and it’s something that’s a hit with most buyers in this segment.
While there are no changes to the layout of the dashboard, the door pads or the seats, it’s the little updates to the trim that catch your attention. First up there’s the new dull wood grain accents plastered across the dashboard and the door pads, which actually do look good – they go well with the coherent ambience of this cabin. However, we aren’t fans of the satin chrome highlights (on the centre console and door trim) as they look too plasticky. Speaking of which, there are hard plastics throughout the cabin (including door armrests) though to be fair they do not feel cheap. It would be nice, however, to have soft-touch materials on the top half of dash and elbow touch points on the doors.
What will immediately catch your attention as you start driving is the new 4.2-inch multi information display between the dials. Similar to what you get in the Baleno, the display incudes a host of driving-related read outs. What’s new in here though is the light bar at the top which changes colour depending on how easy or hard you are with the throttle. That brings us to a new safety precaution that’s bound to raise eyebrows among many potential buyers – the 2018 Ciaz gets high speed warning alert which comes in at certain speeds. In fact, it will let out one beep each at 80kmph and 100kmph, however, once you cross 120kmph the car will constantly beep at you. Other safety features include driver and passenger seatbelt alert, ISOFIX mounts for child seat, dual airbags, ABS and EBD. You even get ESP and hill hold function for the automatic version.
In tech terms, the Ciaz retains Maruti’s popular SmartPlay infotainment system that gets both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. As always, the system is faultless when it comes to smart phone mirroring and the display itself is clear and well positioned. The sound quality from the audio system though is just about average.
It’s easy to find the ideal driving position despite the lack of reach adjustment for the steering. The seats are big and supportive with excellent lateral support. The visibility, too, is good though not as generous as the Honda City. Moving to the second row, the Ciaz has always been impressive when we talk rear seat space and comfort – although the 2018 update doesn’t bring about any improvements, it is easy to appreciate the ample amount of legroom and headroom. If you are looking to be chauffeured around, the legroom with the front passenger seat pushed forward is simply astonishing. That said, we would have like the rear seat base to be longer because the under thigh support is slightly lacking in here.
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.