Hatchbacks, small 4x4s and motorcycles: all three synonymous with Suzuki.

Here was a brand that excelled in producing both four- and two-wheeled transportation. Suzuki plans to update that notion with the introduction of a new B-segment competitor in the form of this: the 2016 Suzuki Ciaz.

Taal Volcano

To gauge and see how the Ciaz performs, Suzuki Philippines recently invited us for a ride and drive in their new subcompact through the hills and mountains of Cavite, down to the scenic bends of the Batangas coastline.

Aimed squarely to compete against the likes of the Toyota Vios, Honda City and Hyundai Accent, Suzuki Philippines' new B-segment car will offer 'space, elegance and comfort' in one package. But why you may ask is Suzuki extending their lineup with a new sedan when they already have the Swift Dzire?

According to SPH General Manager for Automobiles Shuzo Hoshikura, they originally tackled the subcompact segment with the Dzire. But then, they realized they needed something bigger and better equipped to compete with the lucrative segment. He addressed the issue to his superiors in Japan and after a few years of designing and developing, the Ciaz soon became a reality.

Specifically designed for the Asian market, the Ciaz veered away from the traditional formula of a fleet-compatible car and instead took a different route. With a size akin to certain compacts in the market, SPH plans to deliver very comfortable and spacious ride comfort for those that want a mini lounge on wheels.

When launched, the Suzuki Ciaz will be one of the biggest B-segment sedans being offered in the market. Dimension-wise, it measures 4,490mm long, 1,730mm wide and 1,475mm tall. It even offers ample interior space thanks to a 2,650mm wheelbase. Based on our previous size up, the Ciaz dethrones both the Honda City and Nissan Almera in terms of length and wheelbase. In addition, the Suzuki Ciaz also offers deeper trunk space.

Suzuki Ciaz at Total Sucat

As for the unique name, Suzuki PH cited the phrase "City, from A to Z" from which the amalgam of Ciaz was formed, referring to an extensive city car that takes you further than A to Z. Other Suzuki insiders say it stands for Comfort, Intelligence, Attitude, and Zeal. Suzuki handed us the "keys" (keyless remote) to the 2016 Suzuki Ciaz GLX to see how extensive their upcoming B-segment sedan is.

Suzuki Ciaz front and rear

Based on the 2013 Authentics concept, it looks unlike any model the company has made. With an overall sophisticated finish, the front fascia sports wraparound headlights that carry projector halogens. The chrome grill and circular foglights provide that extra flair for the Ciaz. The side looks fairly simple save for the addition of chrome door handles, a distinct beltline, and chrome fixtures on the side windows. Angular taillights, uniquely-shaped trunk and faux rear air vents with reflectors provide the final air of sophistication for the 2016 Ciaz.

Suzuki Ciaz dashboard

Open the doors and hues of gray and black envelope the cabin. Hard-wearing plastic is mostly used but there are some neat contrasts like the soft-touch plastic and accents of silver and chrome trim that can be found on the center console and door trim. Even when occupying the same car with taller passengers, its long wheelbase allows for plenty of leg-, head- and elbow room. The rear even has a center armrest and integrated cupholders.

Unique to the Philippine-spec top-trim Ciaz GLX is an 8-inch Android-based touchscreen infotainment system that Suzuki installed. It comes standard with wireless connectivity and preloaded apps like Waze, Facebook, YouTube and Gmail. According to Kenny Adia, Suzuki's Product Supervisor for automobiles, the Thailand-sourced units arrive to the country with no head units. The GL variants will also be equipped with Windows CE based touchscreen units with navigation. They could have sourced the infotainment systems from its country of origin but ultimately decided that there are better choices here in the Philippines.

Suzuki Ciaz engine

With a push of a button, the familiar 1.4-liter K14B inline-four is brought to life. If the engine sounds familiar, it is the same motor that powers the Ertiga MPV and 1.4-liter models of the Swift. It delivers 92 PS @ 6000 rpm along with a torque pull of 130 Nm @ 4000 rpm. It is then connected to a 4-speed automatic gearbox that drives the front wheels.

Off the line, it generated decent power and the automatic gearbox was silky smooth when changing gears. It is not exactly built for speed but the powertrain does deliver a steady flow of power. Platform-wise, it sits on the same underpinnings of the Ertiga and Swift albeit wider. In addition, it also gets the same suspension components from the previously mentioned vehicles.

Even with a hatchback-derived platform, it soaked up road imperfections fairly well, except when roling over the more poorly maintained streets. Side lateral movement was kept to a minimum as well, while occupants remained planted to the leather-clad seats. There was also little or no body roll and taking bends was a breeze.

Noise, Vibration and Harshness (NVH) was also given attention as there was no engine or transmission noise even when cruising at highway speeds. Further sound deadening could be improved however on the doors with the use of thicker door jambs. But do remember that this is still a B-segment car.

Suzuki Ciaz rear running

With an average speed of 45 km/h cruising through town roads, it was able to return to 11.5 km/l of fuel. The 2016 Ciaz also did remarkably well along highways after it was able to average 18.7 km/l of fuel with an average speed of 95 km/h. Mind you, we were three in the car and were also carrying a fair amount of luggage.

It is not all perfumes and roses however as the 2016 Ciaz did have some gripes. First off, the accelerator pedal vibrates when pulling away on first gear. It does dissipate when it shifts to second gear though. Ride comfort at the back was good but the front, however, was firm. Interior panel fit also needs attention as there are some uneven gaps that can easily be spotted. When it comes to overtaking, there is a delay in the transmission's kickdown, but given that the units were brand new, the powertrain may not have yet been 'broken-in' yet. And like the Ertiga, when switching from Drive to Neutral, the transmissions lets out a shift shock which can be quite noticeable on a long drive.

If you remembered our coverage of last year's Bangkok International Motor Show, the Ciaz debuted in Thailand with the smaller K12B motor that is mated to a CVT. Indian versions, on the other hand, can be equipped with a 1.3-liter diesel for those that prefer an oil burner. So why we do we get the 1.4-liter with 5-speed/4-speed transmissions?

It all comes down to positioning the Ciaz with just the right amount of power. Hoshikura-san added that most customers find that subcompacts with 1.5-liter engines are not fuel efficient while 1.3-liter variants are too underpowered. They stuck with the K14B as they consider it a middle-ground engine that will deliver ample power and fuel economy. In addition, both the TH-spec and IND-spec models are tailored specifically for their markets and emission laws.

Aiyanar Anilao

With an emphasis on delivering a leisure ride in a subcompact package, the Suzuki Ciaz is something that will give the staunch players in the segment something to look out for. With a Swift-derived chassis, proven powertrain, and longest wheelbase in the B-segment, the Ciaz will certainly be quite the contender.

Available hues for Suzuki's newest model are silver, gray, black, brown and white (at no extra charge). Suzuki will be launching the Ciaz sometime around April but if you want to get a taste of things to come, display units of the new subcompact will be arriving soon at authorized dealerships nationwide.

Ciaz GL MT – PhP 738,000

Ciaz GL AT – PhP 773,000

Ciaz GLX AT – PhP 888,000