When I first saw photos of the Suzuki Ciaz, my first impression was "Promising". While not late to the B-Segment party with the Swift Dzire, the Ciaz struck me as a more serious entry with its more formal (or normal) looks. The curiousity grew when the other members of the team took it out for a first drive in Batangas and was impressed by its room, performance and fuel efficiency.
Now comes the real test however: real world driving. Will it be as good as it looks? Suzuki handed us keys to the top-spec Ciaz GLX to find out.
As I mentioned, I do like the look of the Suzuki's baby. I was a fan of the Kizashi's looks and it would appear they applied some elements of their (not-so) midsize sedan to their B-Segment contender. The round front end blends with the steeply raked windshield and nicely finished off with a high rear deck. Overall, it looks a lot more cohesive than the Swift Dzire. Seeing it in the metal, it looked rather large for its class but that's because it is, in fact, the longest in its segment, measuring in at 4,490 mm.
Inside, I would rate the ergonomics good with every switch and dial exactly where you expect them to be. The leather wrapped steering wheel, although a bit on the thin side, boosts cabin feel as well as the leather trim. Breaking the dominantly gray interior was silver trim on the dash and door panels. With its larger than average dimensions, it was a rather cozy place to stay.
One look at the dash however and it is on the conservative side with soft lines and angles throughout. No “floating” screens, piano black trim or double layer dashboards here. Reminding you that you are indeed in a B-Segment car is the presence of hard plastic throughout. Still, Suzuki added a bit of upmarket feel with softly padded door armrests. Being large for its segment, rear space was rather impressive, getting close to some C-Segment sedans in terms of legroom.
This being the GLX model, it also came equipped with an Android powered infotainment system with smartphone mirror linking. The infortainment was easy to use although it sometimes takes a few attempts to be able to “press” the desired command. It was a little bit on the slow side too but one check at the memory space, it had consumed a large chunk of internal storage. Perhaps to keep it running smoothly, it would be better to use an external memory card so not to tax the system's processing speeds.
Connectivity is another major plus point in the Ciaz as the system can hook up online and allow internet browsing as well but please don't surf and drive. As a bonus, it even has Waze, perfect for folks who are challenged with directions, myself included.
Under the hood of the Ciaz is the Swift (and Ertiga) derived 1.4 liter VVT engine. The motor puts out a rather humble 92 PS and 130 Nm of torque. It's the lone engine option and, while not class leading, it's adequate for its class. In an era of CVTs, DCTs and 6-speed automatics, it was perhaps a bit odd that Suzuki stuck with a 4-speed automatic with no manual mode. Antiquated? Perhaps but a week on the road will answer that question.
Out in the city, the Ciaz is a quiet ride, the steering is light and offers loads of visibility, making it a good urban warrior. The ride was relatively pliant with the occasional judder making its way to the cabin. Its seats provided ample cushioning but a little more lumbar support would be nice. Also, the lack of a telescopic wheel made it initially difficult for me to find the proper driving position. Thanks to height adjusters, I did manage to find the best position.
To my surprise, the 4-speed automatic was, well, just right. It shifted early, keeping the revs below 2,500 rpm but had enough grunt for stop and go traffic and accelerates to city speeds with no problem. Turn off overdrive and it does its best to emulate sport mode with later shift points and giving you slightly sharper throttle responses. There are limitations to the 4 speed though as I did experience shift shock from time to time. Another odd quirk with the Ciaz was the rather light accelerator pedal. Simply perch your foot on the pedal and it sinks rather quickly. Still, it is a rather capable city runabout.
Despite being a B-Segment sedan, the Ciaz is also a competent highway cruiser. Wind noise was kept to a minimum and crosswind stability was good. The 1.4 liter mill is adequate and stays relatively hushed at high speeds and transmission response is perhaps best described as “alright.” Not quick but certainly not laggy. For better overtaking, it's best to take it out of overdrive.
The Ciaz was also a relatively fun steer too, perhaps no surprise since it is based on the Swift. Steering response is quick and maneuverability is one of its key points. Drive it in a spirited manner and it is rewarding for a B-Segment sedan. Perhaps more steering feel would make it a more engaging drive. As for fuel economy, I got a low of 8.5 kilometers per liter in heavy city traffic and 16.2 kilometers per liter on the highway. Light traffic meanwhile yielded a commendable 12.3 kilometers per liter.
Of course it has its faults. It needs a little work in the NVH department and the transmission can run smoother. One thing about the Ciaz that made me think of it as a serious contender is the amount of space it offered not just for passengers but also cargo. On an airport run, it easily took in a large stroller and two backpacks with space to spare. You could think of the Ciaz as the car for people who need loads of space but don't want the hassles of having to park a big sedan. It's relatively light on the pocket too.
The reason why I said it was relatively light on the pocket is because this particular Ciaz starts at Php 888,000. It's a little high up the price spectrum but consider the amount of standard kit and space the car offers. With most C-Segment sedans at the 1 million peso mark, it is perhaps worth considering this car as a viable alternative thanks to its size and features. After a week with the Ciaz, I could say that Suzuki has an impressive package on its hands.