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2018 Maruti Suzuki Ciaz Facelift: First Drive Review

  • Aug 30, 2018
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The petrol-powered 2018 Ciaz is more expensive than the outgoing model. But it’s also more fuel efficient and feature loaded. Is it still worth your money, then?



Maruti Suzuki introduced the Ciaz in India in 2014. And in the last 4 years, it has managed to carve a niche for itself amongst established players like Honda City and Hyundai Verna by offering an inviting cabin, promising low running costs and delivering value for money. To hide its wrinkles and to remain in contention until the new generation arrives, the Ciaz now gets a new face, more features, a new petrol engine and mild-hybrid tech. Are the changes enough to keep the package appealing then? Let’s find out.


Exterior


The 2018 Ciaz gets new front and rear bumpers, a new front grille, new headlamp internals and LED light guides in the taillamps. Its 16-inch alloy wheels now have lesser number of spokes.


Changes are limited but impactful



The Ciaz facelift only gets a handful of exterior changes, but you will still be able to distinguish it from the older model. At the front, the new grille now meets the headlamps, so it doesn’t appear to be a part of the bumper anymore. That makes the 2018 Ciaz look wider than the pre-facelift model. For 2018, the headlamps now get LED DRLs, something that many of us wanted to see in the Ciaz. At the rear, the tail lamps get LED light guides as standard. So whether you see it from the front or the rear, you will be able to differentiate the new Ciaz from the older model.



Sadly, the lower variants get the older headlamps. But..



We drove the top-spec Alpha variant of the new Ciaz which gets the LED headlamps and DRLs. The Sigma and the Delta variant, however, get the same headlamp internals as the one on the pre-facelift model; these continue to be powered by halogen projectors though. Since the headlamp design is the same, retrofitting the new headlamp units should be possible on the lower variants as well. Rejoice! The chrome strip that runs just over the front grille is also standard, so even the Sigma and Delta variants will look quite upmarket post the mod.


Interior



Changes inside the cabin are even fewer and, therefore, easy to miss. The faux wood trim is now done in beige and sports a matte finish. It looks upmarket and makes the cabin appear cheerful. The petrol-powered Ciaz also gets a new instrument cluster with coloured MID borrowed from the Baleno. The MID looks chic and reads out a lot of info, like fuel saved by auto start/stop, instantaneous power and torque output, range and time (clock). It also displays real-time engine and battery usage, much like it is on stronger hybrid cars. Rear passengers now get adjustable headrests -- a feature that was sorely missed on the Ciaz’ otherwise inviting backseat.



Room for improvement


Since the Ciaz has always had a comfortable and spacious cabin, there was very little for Maruti to fiddle with. But some of the smaller but almost insignificant issues, since these won’t impact the buying decision, could have been addressed with the facelift.


 


Things like a missing pull-strap on the rear armrest, inconsistency of backlighting on the instrument console and steering-mounted buttons, non-sliding and relatively small front armrest, no USB port for rear passengers and others are all minor add-ons but could have added significant value to the package.



The 2018 Ciaz would still remain one of the top picks when it comes to backseat comfort but we would have liked some more under-thigh support on the rear bench.


Engine & Transmission



The 2018 Ciaz gets a new 1.5-litre petrol engine paired with SHVS tech. That makes it the first petrol-powered mild-hybrid Maruti. Apart from the obvious advantage of high fuel efficiency, it makes a world of difference to the low-speed drivability by offering torque at low engine speeds.



Until now, Maruti offered the SHVS with a diesel engine only, which already delivered abundant torque at low revs. So, the effect of SHVS almost went unnoticed. But the SHVS’ actual benefit probably comes across when you drive the 2018 Ciaz petrol. Not only does it easily pick up pace from standstill, it does so with just a gentle tap on the accelerator and minus any sign of power loss in the process.



The new petrol engine is available with a 5-speed manual transmission and a 4-speed torque converter automatic. The 1.3-litre diesel engine is carried forward and is available with the 5-speed manual transmission only, like before.


New engine, same character


The 1.5-litre petrol engine replaces the 1.4-litre unit and is around 12PS more powerful. The power increase is minor and the difference isn’t appreciable as well. And like the smaller outgoing unit, even the new engine doesn’t show any urgency to pick revs. So if you’re looking for a performance-oriented compact sedan, the Ciaz still isn’t the right choice.



It may not be a pocket-rocket, but the new engine does everything else just right. There’s grunt in the low- and mid-range and that keeps things lively within the city. The manual transmission has tall ratios that perfectly complement the engine; you can drive the Ciaz all day in the city in just the second and the third gear. But out on the highway, you will need to drop a gear to pick pace almost every time. The only consolation is the fact that the exhaust note isn’t disappointing. That said, the engine is quiet otherwise and you won’t hear it inside the cabin until it’s revved hard.


The old-school automatic



The 2018 Ciaz continues to get the 4-speed automatic transmission. While it’s an old gearbox, it does its job right. It isn’t lightning quick at dropping gears but it isn’t slow either. It has an inherent nature of shifting up quickly, so it makes use of the engine’s low- and mid-range well. However, since it’s a 4-speed gearbox, it keeps the engine at relatively higher revs when cruising at high speeds, which can affect the fuel efficiency figures on a long drive negatively.


Apart from lower ratios, which will be missed specifically on the highway, the transmission has another downside -- it doesn’t allow you to manually change gears. Some may miss the option of manual intervention when there’s a need to drop a gear for overtaking at high speeds.


Ride & Handling



The Ciaz’ ride and handling manners complement its drivetrain, so while it isn’t the most eager at taking the twisties, we don’t dislike it either. The ride quality is supple at both high and slow speeds and the Ciaz doesn’t do anything that will annoy passengers. The steering is light when driving slow and weighs up to inspire confidence as speeds increase. If you’re looking for a sedan for regular commutes and relaxed highway drives, the Ciaz gets a thumbs up.


Which variant to pick?


The Ciaz is available in four variants: Sigma, Delta, Zeta and Alpha. While the manual transmission is available in all four variants, the automatic can not be had in the Sigma. The prices of the petrol Ciaz start from Rs 8.19 lakh and go up to Rs 10.97 lakh (ex-showroom).


If the Ciaz does everything that you want from your petrol-powered compact sedan, then we’d advise you to pick the Sigma variant if you’re on a budget and need that big-car experience. The Delta variant packs in all the basics that you’d want in a modern budget compact sedan, so it’s a good value for money proposition; particularly ideal for those who want the petrol-auto drivetrain in a compact sedan but don’t want to spend a fortune. We won’t recommend the Zeta variant as it doesn’t justify the price increment over Delta. More importantly, the top Alpha variant is only Rs 40,000 more expensive than the Zeta and offers more value.


Safety features


Whatever safety-related features Maruti had to put in the Ciaz, it has given in right from the base variant. There are two airbags for the front passengers, ABS with EBD, seatbelt pretensioners with force limiters, ISOFIX anchors, rear defogger, day/night IRVM, parking sensors, seatbelt reminder and speed alert system. While the standard safety net is decent for a compact sedan under Rs 10 lakh, we would have liked to see six airbags, at least in the top two variants, given the focus on backseat. One key missing feature has to be the telescopic steering.


Verdict



The 2018 Ciaz looks more striking than the outgoing model and is more feature loaded too. The petrol variants are Rs 36,000 to Rs 65,000 more expensive than the outgoing model. In return, there is a more fuel efficient engine on offer and new features across the lineup too. The 2018 Ciaz has gained enough to justify the price increment and is still a value for money package. The only chink in the armour we see is that Maruti have gone for a more ‘defensive’ update, doing just enough to refresh the package. The 2018 Ciaz is better equipped than before but it doesn’t stand out in its segment as far as features or technology is concerned.


We never expected the Ciaz facelift to break any new ground, but it could have played the catch-up game better by offering a better safety net and some aspirational features like sunroof and telescopic steering in the top variants. That way, the lower variants would have continued to be attractive for budget buyers while top-spec variants would have become even more aspirational without compromising the value for money proposition.

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