When Suzuki dropped the Ciaz into the large ocean of similar mid-spec sedans dominated by the established name players, it could have been a case of ‘same old, same old’ where predictable, conservative and even bland styling dominate.
Instead, the replacement for the SX4 in the Asian, African and Latin American markets, brought with it a breath of fresh air and, even though local sales are not exactly setting records, it has sold more than 2-million units worldwide since it was launched in 2015.
The upgraded version, launched locally in April this year, came with a new engine offering a little more power and torque than the outgoing 1,3-litre engine – no road rocket, but enough to lift its game and make it a far more interesting car to drive.
The 1 373 cc K14B-engine made way for the 1 462 cc K15B engine with multi-point fuel injection and variable valve timing.
The new engine delivers 77 kW at 6 000 r/min and 138 Nm at 4 400 r/min, which is 7 kW and 8 Nm more than the previous model. Fuel consumption increases marginally to 5,5 l/100 km for manual models and 5,6 l/100 km for automatic models in a combined cycle.
The manual GLX variant I had on test did not quite match those numbers with the overall average coming in at 6,0 l/100 km for the test cycle.
The engine is matched with a five-speed manual gearbox or four-speed automatic gearbox, with the latter now also available in a GL specification level.
With so many gearbox options available these days, the five-speed manual seemed almost archaic and I found myself constantly wanting to hook that extra cog – and, with minimal adjustment to ratios is something that could be considered for the next generation.
Admittedly, my testing was done at sea level but there is enough perk to justify the sixth gear and this, in turn, will probably improve the overall fuel consumption.
With opposition in the market from the likes of the Toyota Corolla Quest Plus, VW Polo Sedan 1.4 Comfortline and Nissan Almera, the Ciaz is the most expensive, priced at R244 900 but it does carry more specification than its immediate opposition.
The published monthly vehicle sales statistics show the majority volume of units as ‘Dealer Sales’ and it is erroneously assumed this means private buyers where, in fact, the vast majority of sales are directly to corporate fleets or are part of a car allowance package.
Fleet business is a tough game and getting a fleet manager to reroute thinking to your product is not easy and the major opposition to Suzuki in this sector has had many years to build its customer base – so, as the cat among the pigeons, Ciaz came to market heavily loaded with specification that appealed to private users at the best possible price point.
The new Ciaz looks markedly different, thanks to a painted grille that stretches the full length of the nose between the headlamp clusters and framed by chrome inserts which, in the GLX specification level, continues on the shoulder line and door handles and terminates in a new chrome garnish strip above the number plate on the boot lid.
The grille is flanked by new headlamp clusters with automatic LED headlamps and integrated daytime running lights on the GLX model.
The lower air intake has been redesigned in the style of Suzuki’s most recent new vehicles to be larger and more aggressive. This trapezoidal intake is flanked, on the GLX specification level, by LED fog lamps in large, chrome-lined holders.
Moving to the side profile, the Ciaz features 16-inch polished chrome wheels for the GLX specification level.
At the rear, the GLX specification level adds integrated LED combination lamps while all models also feature a high-level brake light mounted in the rear window.
Inside the Ciaz 1.5 GLX is Suzuki’s new 7-inch SLDA touchscreen audio system that combines full Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink smartphone integration with modern features such as a reverse camera with rear park sensors, Bluetooth connectivity and voice commands.
There is an additional 4,2-inch colour information display in the vehicle instrument cluster. This screen displays important driving information such as range, fuel consumption and outside temperature and is standard on both specification levels.
In addition, the Ciaz GLX now offers cruise control as standard. It also has automatic climate control, electrically folding side mirrors, combination leather upholstery, integrated lighting in the foot wells, individual rear reading lights and a retractable rear sunshade. The remote central locking system of the GL models remains, while the GLX model is upgraded to keyless access with a Start/Stop button.
All models feature the same dynamic and passive safety systems. In the Ciaz, this includes crash bags for the driver and front passenger, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and brake assistance (BAS) and the addition of a high-level brake light.
All models are also fitted with an alarm and immobiliser, childproof rear child door locks and additional side-impact protection on all doors.
Its 480-litre luggage capacity is beaten only by the Almera but the downside is a smaller fuel tank (43 litres) than all but the Almera – some swings and roundabouts going on here!
Specifications are all very well but the real test is what the car actually feels like and the Ciaz is one that achieves the rarity of being truly welcoming from the driver’s seat. I put a few friends of vastly different proportions into the driver’s seat and all agreed they felt instantly comfortable.
On the drive it responds rapidly to steering and throttle inputs, has steering light enough to facilitate easy parking yet with enough accuracy and feel to squirt through the twisties with confidence – here the MacPherson struts with an anti-roll bar up front and torsion beam at the rear working well to maintain its poise.
It is not setting the local market alight – only 11 sold during May – but it should be.