Ever since its launch in 1998, the Honda City has ruled the Indian midsize car segment. Every one of its competitors has tried to dethrone the City and thanks to diesel engines, some had a fair chance at it too at one point, but the City has always clawed its way back to be the segment leader. These days, it defines the class so much that people refer to it as the ‘Honda City segment’. And now the City will come face to face its toughest competitor yet – the Maruti Ciaz. We got to sample the car in Jaipur, months before its actual launch here.
For a start, the Ciaz feels like it belongs to a segment above. The sheer size of the car makes quite an impact when viewed in profile. There are some obvious Maruti elements and while the styling isn’t entirely to our tastes, there is not much to complain about either. The headlamps, the chrome grille and the well formed front bumper make it look distinctive from the front. The tail lamps have a passing resemblance to the ones in the Honda City, but this shape was first seen in the Suzuki Authentics Concept two years back and Suzuki can take credit for the originality. 16 inch wheels fill up most of the wheel arches, which owing to the generous proportions of the car, still feel small somehow.
The interiors are the Ciaz’s biggest selling point. It is a great cabin and huge glass area makes it look airier than it is. The dashboard has a very smooth minimalist design that will appeal to everyone. Plastic quality is as good as any of its competitors, while wooden, chrome and aluminium accents add to the expensive look. The dials are simple yet elegant, the touchscreen infotainment system has great screen resolution and there are storage spaces all around the cabin. The rear seat has substantial legroom and width, which combined with the flat floor makes for three abreast seating.
The Ciaz gets the same petrol and diesel engines as the Ertiga with minor changes. As a result, 1.4 litre petrol engine is now more efficient and the 1.3litre diesel, more drivable. The petrol engine, with its 91bhp, is not a very fast motor, but good mid range makes it feel adequate in day to day driving. It pulls well from low revs too, but rev it higher and it feels thrashy. It did deliver stellar fuel efficiency during our drive in Jaipur. The 90bhp diesel on the other hand, has great refinement, especially compared to cars like the City diesel. It pulls better than in the Ertiga, delivering a firm shove after 1750rpm. Good ECU calibration and clever gearing makes it stay in the powerband more of the time.
Maruti has also got the suspension setup right for this car. It is comfortable soaking up bumps as it is doing high speeds. The suspension is fairly soft, but not so much to spoil the handling. The Ciaz is quite stable at high speeds and has none of the skittishness most people associate with Maruti. What it lacks in sharpness and outright handling, it makes up with good highway manners. The steering feels direct and the brakes are reassuring.
In a nutshell, the Ciaz has all the right ingredients for a perfect family mid sizer. Maruti has dominance in almost all the segments it is now present, except for this one. The Ciaz aims to do just that. It will go on sale by Mid October and Maruti aims to price it competitively. It is only a matter of time to see if the replacement for the SX4 can do what its predecessor couldn’t.
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