Anton Andres / John Barney Biscocho | January 18, 2017 12:28
Basic done right
In the past, base models were as bare as they come. Don't bother looking for power windows and alloy wheels. You'd even be lucky if your car came with a tachometer or even painted bumpers. With consumers demanding more for their money, the base model had to step up its game. Enter the Suzuki Ciaz GL.
Last year, we tested the top of the line Suzuki Ciaz and came away impressed with its great value proposition, as well as its clever interior packaging and fuel economy. Will the entry-level model still score high in our book? I drive one for a week to find out.
Better proportioned than the Swift Dzire, the Ciaz adapts the look of the discontinued Kizashi D-Segment sedan. While based on the Swift, Suzuki did a good job in giving the Ciaz its own sheetmetal with the front section blending in well with the steeply raked windshield. The window line then sweeps upwards into the high rear deck, giving it a subtly handsome look. You would struggle to spot the differences between the entry-level model with the range topper. The only clue you have are the smaller 15-inch alloy wheels. I was also surprised it came with fog lights.
Despite the base model tag, I was pleasantly surprised to see a touchscreen installed on what's supposed to be a bare car. Also, the seat covers had me fooled for a second, mistaking it for imitation leather trim. The steering wheel however is notch down from the range-topping GLX model as it is finished in polyurethane rather than faux leather. Also missing is the automatic climate control system but at these prices (which we will get to later), you're practically splitting hairs when it comes to equipment. Still, it retains the silver-gray inserts seen in the GLX, somewhat lifting the cabin ambiance.
Exploring the infotainment system, the Ciaz GL's touchscreen isn't there for the sake of having one. It comes equipped with Bluetooth, Auxiliary-in, USB and even a partition for a navigation system. Now how many base models come with that? The GL's interior amenities are not what you would call a downgrade. Also owing its roots to the Ertiga, the Ciaz offers loads of legroom, both front and rear, although taller passengers might have to slouch a little at the back.
All models of the Suzuki Ciaz are powered by the 1.4 liter VVT engine, internally known as the K14B. If the engine sounds familiar, that's because it's the same mill found in the Ertiga and 1.4-liter Swifts (now discontinued). In the Ciaz, it puts out 92 PS and 130 Nm of torque. This being the entry-level model, it is saddled with a five-speed manual transmission.
Having driven the Ciaz in the past, it was like talking to an old friend. Steering feel is light, if overboosted, but the smaller wheels actually helped improve ride comfort. The GLX was already a comfortable car to begin with but I found the ride better in the GL. As a driving experience, the Ciaz won't stir the soul but it will be comfortable car to sit in for hours on end. A little more lumbar support would be helpful though. An odd quirk I experienced with the car was a lot of glare from the windshield. The glass area is generous and offers a lot of visibility all around.
As for the manual transmission, it feels a little notchy although clutch action is light with a high engagement point. Those driving manual for the first time will find it easy to adapt with its long travel pedal. I did notice that the gearing is a little on the long side and you will need a fair amount of revs to get going. It's not that it's underpowered, power is actually adequate even with passengers znd the air conditioning on full blast. It actually pulls well from a standstill thanks to 130 Nm of torque but with only 92 PS, you might have to wring out the engine if you want to go faster. As a city runabout, the Ciaz has more than enough power to deal with the daily grind.
Out on the highway, accelerating on to a ramp requires a swift downshift. Keep the revs up and it will reach highway speeds with little effort. At cruising speeds, the Ciaz keeps its composure by keeping wind and engine noise to a minimum. I did however note more tire noise when compared to the top-spec model. The long gearing does have its benefits on the open road. At 100 km/h, the engine revs were kept at a relatively low 2,500 rpm which is good for mileage.
Speaking of mileage, the manual transmission equipped Ciaz was significantly better than the automatic transmission model. In varying city conditions, gridlock traffic included, the Ciaz averaged 12 kilometers per liter. Highway economy meanwhile was an impressive 18.1 kilometers per liter. The automatic Ciaz GLX I tested in the past managed 8.5 kilometers per liter in heavy traffic and highway cruising netted 16.2 kilometers per liter.
Like the top of the line GLX, the base model Ciaz GL M/T serves up a good value proposition. At Php 730,000, it is priced lower or similar to 1.3 liter models of its competitors. While some of its rivals are cheaper when it comes to base models, the Ciaz boasts of an impressive equipment package that is difficult to match. It isn't lacking in safety features too, with anti-lock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution and dual front airbags.
With its size and room, it's even worth considering the Ciaz GL over a C-segment sedan. It's spacious, well equipped, easy on fuel, comfortable and at less than Php 750,000, a segment bargain.