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Road Test Review : Maruti Suzuki Ciaz RS Diesel-Hybrid

  • Dec 31, 2015
  • 5226 Views
The cat-and-mouse game of demand and supply is very well shown in the case of the Maruti Suzuki Ciaz. It started in 2014 when Maruti responded to the people's demand for a premium sedan which could compete against the likes of the Honda City and the Hyundai Fluidic Verna. Maruti responded to the demand for better fuel-efficiency and lower-emissions with the launch of the SHVS (short for Smart Hybrid Vehicle by Suzuki) diesel mild-hybrid variants of the Ciaz in September 2015. And now, it has given the Ciaz a bit of flair with the 'RS' styling kit. Maruti has done its part in catering to the demand - we find out if the Ciaz RS SHVS is as good as advertised. This is also our first review of the new SHVS diesel mild-hybrid system from Maruti, we have also thoroughly tested it to find out how effective it is in real-driving conditions.

Maruti Suzuki Ciaz RS SHVS Front Left Quarter

The Maruti Suzuki Ciaz RS is based on the top-of-the-line Z+ variants -  a 'sporty' body-kit on the outside and an all-black interior theme with silver-accents breaking the monotone is what you get.

We drove the Ciaz extensively during the pre-launch drive and you can read our impressions of the car here.

The Ciaz RS is a fairly good looking car; from afar it looks long and low - with bits like the chrome 4-slat grille, side-swept headlamp clusters with projector lamps, 16-spoke alloy wheels, chrome-trim on the lower windowline, stretched tail-lamp cluster, sculpted bumpers and the unmissable rear-spoiler adding character. Here's the personal thought about the body-kit: it makes the Ciaz look more hunkered down than before, though it cannot hide the fact that the Ciaz still has a ground clearance of 170mm. It still looks like a hopped-up car thanks to it's body design, it looks 'sporty' if you think of it as a rally-car than a track-car.

Maruti Suzuki Ciaz RS SHVS Right Side Profile

The Ciaz is a non-offensive, non-exciting design at best - a formula that Maruti sticks to diligently in its quest to achieve huge sales numbers. The body-kit does make some people take notice of the Ciaz though, that huge spoiler certainly helps - but most will confuse this for an after-market job and also know that this does not indicate a performance-modification. The only other bit that indicates that this is a factory fitted-kit is the 'RS' badge on the boot.

Maruti Suzuki Ciaz RS SHVS Rear Right Quarter

Fatter tyres would have certainly helped make the Ciaz RS look more sporty, but that is not exactly the highest priority for the company and what it thinks is the customer demand. Most people would (and do) happily make cosmetic upgrades to their cars to make them stand out from the hundreds of other Maruti's on the roads, and the RS fits the bill perfectly. Maruti claims that the body-kit enhances the aerodynamics of the car - we are not sure about this claim. At best, the kit is designed so that it does not become a burden and reduce efficiency because of increased drag.

Maruti Suzuki Ciaz RS SHVS Rear Spoiler

Inside, the Ciaz RS gets an all-black theme, with dark-chrome accents replacing the faux-wood trim found on non-RS variants.The Ciaz RS certainly looks more sporty inside, though there aren't any additions in terms of design or materials used - the feeling inside is no different. Because this car gets the SHVS diesel mild-hybrid powertrain, it gets some styling bits which sets it apart from the petrol variants (and the earlier diesel-only variants) of the Ciaz - the dials on the instrument cluster are blue-rimmed and give-off a nice glow when the lamps are switched on at night and a 'SHVS' light in the centre of the instrument console can be seen when the system kicks in (during coasting, when providing torque assist etc.). In the switch panel on the lower-right from the steering a new switch can be found apart from the usual buttons - a button to disable the auto start/stop function (more on this later).

Maruti Suzuki Ciaz RS SHVS Dashboard

Apart from these changes, the Ciaz RS SHVS's cabin is very much the same as before, which is a good thing. Like the exterior design, there is nothing flashy here - which does not mean it is boring. What catches your eye immediately after entering the roomy cabin is the 7-inch Smartplay infotainment system in the centre console - it is touch friendly, has intuitive controls and has a handy in-built navigation system. Unfortunately the navigation system requires a SD card (with the relevant data added) mounted into a slot just above the screen to work, which was not installed during the test - and so we cannot give you a good review of the system. The other features, including the USB/Aux-In/Bluetooth worked well. The system plays through 6-speakers placed throughout the cabin - two tweeters on the front doors and one coaxial speaker on each door - the sound-quality is quite good.

While the system seems fine, the steering mounted controls could have been placed better - the controls are placed to one side of the steering, Maruti should have placed the Bluetooth telephony controls on the right side of the steering rather than adding it like an afterthought.

Maruti Suzuki Ciaz RS SHVS SmartPlay Screen and Climate Control Panel

The Ciaz has the roomiest cabin in its segment, I had a packed day after completing the photo-shoot of the Ciaz SHVS RS (hat-tip to Rohan for the gorgeous photos, as always!). First I had to head down to the airport to pick up a friend who was shifting to the city - this meant there was a significant amount of luggage that needed to be handled and there was a tired person who needed to be pampered. Then I had to take said friend and another buddy to my place. In the evening the car would be loaded with 5 people heading towards a re-union party.

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At the airport, the understated looks of the car did not enthuse a response from the friend but the large spoiler did cause a chuckle. The huge 500-litre boot easily accommodated all the bags and knick-knacks he could carry on the plane ("25Kg limit on Air India, Bro! I should have brought more") though the high loading-lip meant a bit of huff-and-puff as I tried not to scratch the bumper. By the way, the boot can be opened via a button on the remote for easy access and to wow people - you can also use a soft-button on the boot to open it . The cool-black interiors, the very comfortable and accommodating front seats with the ergonomically placed centre arm-rest, and the soothing tunes from the infotainment were given top marks. We headed to the next friends' place - he's a gentle giant who is 6 feet (and something) tall and usually hates sitting in my 2004 Zen. He was quite happy with the Ciaz though; the wide-opening rear doors meant ingress was easy, the low sill prevented stumbles, the rear bench is comfortable but short on thigh support, the view out the large windows was nice, the rear A/C vents kept the cabin fresh while the rear manually operated sun-blind kept the afternoon sun out, and there was enough leg-room and knee-room for him even when he was seated behind me (5 ft 7, likes to push back the seat for a a relaxed driving style), the soft-padded centre armrest added a luxurious feel - his only gripe was the sloping roof which forced him to mind his head.

Maruti Suzuki Ciaz RS SHVS Right Side Profile Dynamic

Later in the evening, almost everyone in the (now full) car was happy - three people were comfortably sitting side-by-side at the back without grumbling, the good music kept the spirits high, the suspension soaked up the surprise undulations and potholes on the road without any complaints, the 1-litre bottle holders in all the doors were put to good use.

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Well, almost happy. This is not a drivers' car - the Ciaz. Getting into a comfortable driving position should be easy for most - the driver's seat adjust for height while the steering-wheel can be adjusted for rake. The seats aft-and-fore range is quite good, shorter drivers will find the seat's height-adjust a great boon - though the rake-only adjustable steering may be disliked. The view out from the driver's seat is amazing - the large windows, and the thin A-pillars provide exceptional frontal and side views. The ORVMs could have been a bit more wider, and that huge spoiler at the back greatly reduces the view out the rear - thank goodness for the rear-view camera and the rear-parking sensors, but then these can only help when you are parking the car. The spacing between the pedals is very good, you won't have to be dainty-footed to operate them - the left-foot rest (or the dead-pedal) should have been more substantial - it is just a rubberised pad on the floor.

Maruti Suzuki Ciaz RS SHVS Engine Bay

The engine is a familiar unit - it is the 1.3-litre Fiat-sourced DDiS 200 motor developing 90PS @ 4,000rpm and 200Nm @ 1,750rpm. It is not very responsive before the 2000rpm mark; mash the throttle and there's a lag in between 1000-2000rpm, after which the car takes off. The engine revs cleanly till just after 5000rpm after which the power trails off and there is not much progress for the noise generated. Though the shove associated with the 1.3-litre engine is evident - especially when the turbo begins to work its magic - the progress after that is modest at best. The car will speed up to 100 km/h and above without too much of a hassle, but it won't feel very fast doing so. The Ciaz diesel is best enjoyed when cruising, the engine barely audible and wind-noise kept to a minimum - tyre noise does creep in though. Overtaking maneuvers at higher speeds will require a downshift at most times - the engine has enough grunt to not require a shift to the first gear even at crawling speeds though. The gearshift quality is great, short and precise.

Maruti Suzuki Ciaz RS SHVS Front Cornering

The steering is another reason why the Ciaz is not a driver's car; at lower speeds it is light enough to maneuver the car and it weighs up nicely as the speeds increase - but there is no feedback through it at all, a by product of it being an electrically-assisted unit. The suspension too is setup for comfort than handling - this is clearly in contradiction to the car's sporty exterior-kit and the big 'RS' badge at the rear. This is not to say that suspension is wallowy in nature - it has a nice compromise between being comfy and being stiff - but it does not inspire enough confidence to chuck the car around under normal states of mind. The long wheelbase is also detrimental to sudden directional changes.

Now lets get to the main reason why this car has been given a second look on the reviews section of Gaadi.com, the SHVS mild-hybrid system. SHVS stands for 'Smart Hybrid Vehicle by Suzuki' - it employs a larger alternator, a higher capacity lead-acid battery and an intelligent start/stop system to increase the ARAI-certified mileage of the car from 26.21 km/l of the earlier diesel-only car to 28.09 km/l now. How is this achieved?

Maruti Suzuki Ciaz RS SHVS Tail-lamp in Focus

The SHVS system shuts off the car when it comes to a standstill and the driver puts the car in neutral - in situations such as when the car stops at a traffic-signal or when stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, this system can save a lot of fuel. The engine automatically restarts when the battery can no longer power the A/C or the other electrical components - so there is no danger of the battery depleting at longer stops. The engine is also restarted when the clutch is depressed, and allows for clean getaways from the lights. The larger alternator and high-capacity battery also means that the system can take the loads of constant starts and stops much better. The alternator also charges the battery when the car is coasting - Suzuki claims that the alternator can provide a bit of assistance to the engine using the energy recovered earlier - this reduces the load on the engine, and thus improves efficiency and reduces emissions. This power-assist by the electric motor was not noticeable to me when I drove the car, maybe more experience is needed to feel the difference.

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The best efficiency I could muster out of the diesel mild-hybrid system was of around 19 km/l - the result of a rushed day of shooting, and usually driving it with a full load of people or luggage or both. My drive did not include much of in-city, bumper-to-bumper driving, but did include long stints on the highway with speeds around the higher limits. We have the car in our long-term fleet, which should give us a better idea about the car - if it really comes close to how it is advertised.

Maruti Suzuki Ciaz RS SHVS Front Left Quarter Sexy

For me, the Ciaz RS SHVS is a sensible car that is good-looking, spacious, comfortable, fairly luxurious and very economical. It is no Restless Spirit (yep, that is what the 'RS' badge stands for), however hard Maruti tries to convince me. I would buy it if I needed a family car that did not look bland - the small difference in price between the ZDi+ and the RS (of about Rs. 10,000 ex-showroom Delhi) makes this a better option to go for.
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