Maruti Ciaz RS ZDi+ SHVS Review

Introduction

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To make more efficient use of the diesel that the Ciaz sips, MSIL decided to give it a mild hybrid system that does exactly what it’s intended to do. Called Ciaz SHVS (Smart Hybrid Vehicle by Suzuki), it drives in the same fashion as the erstwhile Ciaz diesel but gets most notably a Start-Stop system. Prices start at Rs 8.23 lakh, ex-showroom, New Delhi, for the base VDi version, while the top-spec Ciaz ZDI+ RS SHVS – the one we tested – is priced at Rs 10.28 lakhs. While the said system doesn’t just make it the most fuel efficient saloon for the given amount of money, it also makes its case stronger against rivals like the well-established Honda City.

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Apart from the slight change in internals, the RS gets an added body kit. While a 1.3-litre diesel engine isn’t going to win any races nor is that boot-mounted spoiler going to add any substantial (if at all any) downforce. But what the body kit successfully does – like on the SX4 which occupied the same space in MSIL’s line-up before the Ciaz – is that it makes the car stand out, without being too brash.

Performance and Handling

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The Ciaz is available in both petrol and diesel versions; the former uses a 1.4-litre, naturally aspirated engine (as found in the Ertiga) while the latter is a Fiat-sourced 1.3-litre engine. The diesel engine makes 89 hp and 200 Nm of torque, which might not be class-leading by a huge margin, but doesn’t feel deficient on the move. The petrol, on the other hand, makes 91 hp and 130 Nm, but has to be worked a little more to make equal progress. The real trick up the Ciaz’s sleeve is the lack of weight, which helps it in achieving both a decent performance and a great fuel economy. Talking of which, the Ciaz RS SHVS managed a real world figure of close to 18 kmpl during the test – far from the company claimed 28+ kmpl but good enough considering most runs were confined to city-limits only.

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In terms of handling, the vehicle feels a lot like the Swift, albeit a bit more reassuring – light where it’s supposed to be but stable when all that matters is, well, stability. It’s agile for its size and if you aren’t coming from a car with a very light steering, the Ciaz won’t trouble you at all. It’s certainly not the most enthusiast-oriented offering out there – keep in mind the RS moniker is a sham – but for a midsize saloon, it behaves well.

Ride and Comfort

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The ride quality on the Ciaz – even with the larger 16-inch wheels that the test car was running on – is very good indeed. You can drive with a reassurance that the vehicle won’t go crashing on potholes and unless it’s something that could possibly bring a snobbish smirk to a crossover owner’s face, the Ciaz should ideally deal with it.

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There’s a good amount of space inside, so irrespective of what your chauffeur’s height is, it’s likely to have a good amount of leg/knee room at the back. Same goes for the shoulder room. And if it’s you in the driver’s seat, there’s a good degree of adjustability available – although the driver’s seat even on the lowest setting feels a tad too high.

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The cabin’s insulated well, but the diesel noise does find its way inside. Unless you’ve been living in a Camry Hybrid it’s not a huge issue. Thankfully you’ll be making most of your progress early in the rev range, which means the engine won’t be making a lot of noise. Higher in the range it becomes a little more audible but there’s no sense in touching the redline on the diesel unit. The petrol engine on the other hand is understandably more eager to rev, and it does tend to become raspy in the higher revs.

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The quality of cabin is decent if not the best. The plastics might not be horrible but some of them certainly look out of place in a car that costs a little above Rs 10 lakh. With that said, there’s enough to like about the cabin – it’s fairly roomy, the view all around is mostly unobstructed, and the overall fit is good.

Equipment and Safety

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Buy the top-spec Ciaz and you get features like automatic climate control, a touchscreen-based infotainment system, projector headlamps, 16-inch wheels, keyless entry and go, and so on. The lesser versions make do with fewer features but on the whole it feels a notch above the Swift.

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In terms of safety, the Ciaz offers a frontal airbag for the driver on base versions while as you move up the range, a passenger airbag and ABS are also added to the list. Of course, there’s an intermediate model just above the base version that offers the mentioned features.

Conclusion

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Does the Ciaz offer the best in class features at the lowest possible prices? No. However, if you are looking at the best features at the lowest possible rates in the midsize saloon segment, then the results aren’t going to be fruitful anyway.

The Ciaz RS is a step upwards from the regular version, while the addition of the SHVS moniker means your monthly bills won’t be as worrying. If you’re considering other options in the market, the story hasn’t changed by a huge margin: the City has a better interior but is noisy (diesel), the VW Vento drives better but the service network isn’t as strong, the Linea drives the best but neither is the service as strong nor is the resale value, and the Verna, although recently facelifted, still suffers from a smallish cabin (blame the roofline!)…

The Ciaz sits at the sweet spot. The presence of a larger battery, an integrated starter generator might not make it an out-and-out greener alternative but it consumes less fuel and doesn’t compromises anywhere else. Add MSIL’s sales and service network, and the easy availability of parts, and we have a winner!

Also a tip to those who are planning to buy the car for its looks: even with the 16-inch wheels, there’s a considerable gap between the wheel and the arch. A friend who knows his Bilsteins and Konis suggested dropping the car a little or getting a size bigger wheels. While that will certainly make the Ciaz RS look much better but it will also end up losing the sweet ride and handling balance the car offers. So maybe leave it the way it is instead.