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Smarter, plusher and more capable

S Muralidhar | Updated on August 23, 2018 Published on August 23, 2018

Maruti’s Ciaz gets a face-lift that gives it sharper looks, an improved cabin and a smarter mild hybrid system

The Ciaz brought Maruti Suzuki back into the reckoning in the sedan segment. After the relatively gawky SX4, the Ciaz was a refreshing change and represented the car-maker’s more evolved design capabilities. It debuted in 2014, but the Ciaz was moved from Maruti’s Arena sales channel to the premium Nexa dealership network only in April 2017. The Ciaz trailed behind competitors such as the Honda City, Hyundai Verna and the relatively new Toyota Yaris in the perceived quality of its cabin. The Ciaz’s attractiveness was also blunted when the Government withdrew the FAME scheme incentives for mild hybrids. So, a refresh and repositioning of the Ciaz was overdue.

Earlier this week, Maruti unveiled a face-lift with its 2018 model and it is noteworthy that despite the change in policy, instead of discontinuing the mild hybrid system, has decided to go ahead and make it more capable. Company officials say that they want to use the experience of developing the new smart hybrid system to hone their skills for launching electrics within the next few years.

Design

The new Ciaz’s facelift is not significant in that there are no changes to the body panels, yet it delivers a lot of impact in terms of how much more desirable it looks. The exterior changes are mostly only cosmetic and focus on changes to the electrical and plastic parts. But, the new headlamp configuration with LED daytime running lights (DRLs) and LED fog lamps combine to deliver a white light signature at the front, which is very much like in a luxury sedan. The new bonnet grille with its 3D design and chrome elements is the other change. In fact, there are a lot of chrome additions, including the oversized garnish around the fog lamps in the new fender. More accented skirts in the fender and other changes give the new Ciaz a sharper, more aggressive front fascia.

 

Most of the changes to the exterior design of the 2018 Ciaz focus on giving it a bigger sedan look. The chrome strip that runs down the window beltline and the new multi-spoke cut alloy wheels contribute to that impression. At the rear, the new tail lamps see the addition of LED tubes, though they continue to feature the same basic design. More chrome garnishes attempt to add premiumness to the rear of the new Ciaz. The rear fender has been carried forward except that the top two variants get the addition of chrome or silver ornaments around the bumper reflectors. Many of the changes to the lights and accents are only available in the top two — Zeta and Alpha — variants. But given that nearly a half of all Ciaz sales is the top-end trim, most buyers can expect to see these changes as part of the package.

Cabin

One of the Ciaz’s weaker points was a lower perceived quality of the cabin compared to the competitors in its peer group. The issue has been largely dealt with and addressed in the new face-lifted Ciaz. My test mule was the top-end petrol Ciaz; it sported creamy beige-coloured leatherette seats and a dual-tone dashboard in dark grey and the same creamy beige. But, to break the monotony of the plastic panels, the dashboard and door trims also featured satin chrome strips and highlights. Also running across the length of the dashboard is a new Birch blonde wood grain accent in a low-gloss finish, which adds a touch of sophistication to the cabin.

 

The cabin also features the 4.3-inch multi-information coloured display unit at the top of the centre stack. The steering wheel also gets infotainment controls and the addition of cruise control. The instrument cluster gets a minor modification in layout and display pattern; also gets eco-illumination, which changes colour based on the driving pattern. The Ciaz’s cabin was always quite spacious and there is no change there. The boot volume is also a sizeable 510 litres. There are a few safety regulation-based changes that Maruti has taken the lead to implement in the new Ciaz ahead of schedule. They include audible warnings for preset speed limits, driver and front passenger seat-belt reminders and reverse parking sensors. These and ISOFIX child seat restraint system, dual airbags and ABS with EBD are all standard across variants. The speed warning beep can be quite annoying since it rings non-stop after the car crosses the 120 kmph mark. The feature cannot be deactivated and is mandatory by law in all cars after April 2019.

Smart Hybrid

The new Smart Hybrid system in the 2018 Ciaz is a substantial change over the simple start/stop system of its predecessor. The new system gets a compact lithium-ion battery and more capability. In addition to the standard mild hybrid functions like idle, start/stop and brake energy regeneration, the new smart version features a 2.5 kW electric motor that offers torque assist also. Behaving essentially like a parallel assist system, the battery-driven motor offers additional boost to the torque delivered by the engine. Maruti officials say that it is difficult to put a number on the exact amount of assistance offered. But the motor helps deliver a cut in the emissions during the initial combustion cycle and also helps boost mileage marginally.

The new compact Lithium-ion battery is said to be capable of longer service life and also handles quicker charging-up and discharge cycles better. It enables the motor’s torque assist when it has a minimum charge of 30 per cent. The other electricals continue to be powered by a regular maintenance-free lead-acid battery. The mild hybrid power management system is designed to allow regenerative braking to charge up the lithium-ion battery first and the spill over if any to also juice up the regular battery pack. The smart hybrid system is standard across all variants and for both the petrol and diesel powertrains.

Performance

Maruti had organised a test drive of the 2018 Ciaz and the only powertrain made available was the new 1.5-litre K15 petrol engine paired with the five-speed manual and the four-speed automatic. I didn’t get to drive the 1.3-litre DSiS diesel engine, which doesn’t see any change in its performance parameters, except the addition of the torque assist function.

The new K15 petrol engine is essentially the same basic platform of the previous model’s K14, but now gets a larger bore and stroke (74 mm x 85 mm) to offer a 1,462 cc capacity. This engine combined with the smart hybrid system delivers 77 kW of peak power and 138 Nm of peak torque, both of which are up 13 per cent and six per cent respectively over the predecessor.

The K15 engine feels peppy and free-revving in the manual gearbox variant, with the smart hybrid motor’s torque assist probably helping in marginally improving acceleration from slow speeds. But, the four-speed automatic does feel more laboured and louder before expected levels of acceleration can be experienced. There is no manual, sport or triptronic mode in the auto gearbox, but there are two low gear ‘L’ and ‘2’ modes, both of which are expected to help handle high-rev, high torque demand such as during a hill climb, and the transmission stays in the first gear and second gear respectively.

Bottom Line

The new Ciaz is a substantial improvement over its predecessor. The ride quality was never a sore point and it continues to be good in the 2018 model. The steering is over-assisted and expectedly light, tuned for the city. With assistance from the smart hybrid system, the powertrains are also rated to deliver a mileage of 21.56 kmpl and 28.09 kmpl for the manual diesel and petrol variants respectively. Ex-showroom prices for the new Ciaz range from ₹8.19 lakh to ₹10.97 lakh.

Published on August 23, 2018
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