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Car andamp; Bike Review: Upscale Ambitions.

Summary: Maruti-Suzuki has launched a sedan for the first time in seven years. We get a firsthand feel of the Ciaz. By Yogendra Pratap

Maruti-Suzuki maintains a stranglehold over the Indian car market but over 40 percent of its share comes from the lower end of the market. Small cars with small margins and over a period of time a slow erosion of market share. How much Maruti-Suzuki would love to offer its customers a way up above the entry-level sub-4-metre-sedans has been known for a considerable period of time. While the Maruti Esteem competed with the Honda City, the subsequent sedans of the Esteem (aka Swift) family are now in a battle of survival with the likes of the Amaze and the Xcent.

The Ciaz is Maruti's attempt to get it all right. The car on first impressions looks understated, specially when put against the show-car which was flamboyant and glamorous. Even though it has a plain looking front, its proportions and profile make it impressive, especially when seen from low-down. However Maruti does not break new grounds on the styling front with the Ciaz as it did with the Swift when it was first launched. The side profile and the rear are its redeeming angles and the large 16 inch alloys add to its sporty look.

Even though the Ciaz is not the largest car in Maruti's portfolio with the SX4 sedan being just about 10mm longer, it is in fact longer than the Honda City and the Hyundai Verna. But where it scores over the competition is that it has a larger wheelbase than even the Honda City which had the longest wheelbase in the segment. Hence, in-cabin space is significantly more than that of the SX4. Now that we have put the size of the Ciaz in perspective, the attention goes to the interiors, which are way above what Maruti has ever done in the past. Space abounds and though not in the class of the Nissan Sunny, I do not see a situation when people of any heights will be deprived of knee-room, no matter who sits in the front. A negligible centre tunnel means that the middle passenger in the rear seat will be able to sit quite comfortably. The boot at over 500-litres is large though the boot lid stays do eat into available space. Apart from that the boot is quite intrusion free.

Features though not segment-defining are well in keeping with the competition. Keyless push-button start-stop system, a first for Maruti makes an appearance on the Ciaz, and in addition there is a reverse parking camera with steering-sensitive guides, as well as climate control. However the star attraction is the Smart Play infotainment system with navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, which can be operated with steering mounted controls as well as by voice commands. The system offers radio and media playback through USB, Aux-in, Bluetooth and SD cards and video playback through USB and SD cards. The system is ready for Car Play with just a software upgrade.

In keeping with the intended positioning of the car the rear seat gets a centre armrest with cup-holders and a blind for the rear windscreen. The rear passengers also get rear air-conditioning vents and a 12V socket.

The Ciaz will be powered by the same 1.3-litre diesel engine that does duty on the rest of the Maruti diesel cars. The engine is tuned for 90bhp and 200Nm of torque and Maruti claims that at 26.21kmpl, the DDiS 200 diesel engine on the Ciaz makes it India's most fuel efficient car.

For the petrol option Maruti has again gone for fuel efficiency and local content with the K14 VVT engine that is virtually the same as on the Ertiga albeit with some improvements on efficiency and NVH. The crucial thing is that the 1.4-litre engine now runs a higher compression ratio and hence come all the benefits. Also aiding fuel efficiency is the fact that the Ciaz has been built on a brand new platform that is lighter due to the use of higher tensile strength steels but at the same time retains it torsional stiffness according to the Maruti engineers.

To drive, the diesel Ciaz feels like a capable car. The gearshift quality is good and there is plenty of torque available from the word go. On the highways, overtaking though not a breeze is not worrying. Refinement levels are high and the car fits in well with the competition. The story is quite different on the petrol engine Ciaz though. To get any go one has to scream the engine, taking it to the higher reaches of its rev range and even then there seems to more show than go. On the highways it can be a pain to keep ahead of the slow moving traffic.

However, for pottering about in the city, the Ciaz with the petrol engine, which I have little doubt will be converted into CNG, the Ciaz is fine. Steering feel is a bit vague around the centre and to give it feel, Maruti engineers have weighted the steering which feels unnaturally heavy and the exact opposite of most Maruti cars on which the steering feels unnaturally light. The ride is on the softer side with the low profile tyres on the top-of-the-line variant giving the ride a dual mode where road impact is intrusive at lower speeds. This may be better though on the small 15 inch wheels. On good roads the Ciaz will offer a plush ride much in keeping with its character. Price: Rs. 8.59 lakh (ex-showroom)

Engine: K14 VVT, 1372cc Power: 93bhp@6000rpm Max torque: 130Nm@4000rpm Gearbox: 5-spd M/4-spd auto Wheelbase (mm): 2,650 Kerb Weight (kg): 1,010 Fuel efficiency: 20.7 kmpl (claimed) Boot Space: 510 litres

TOUR REPORT The Ciaz comes with a substantially sized boot which allows for ease of storage while on a holiday. Adding to it is the long list of features handy which are sure to keep occupants happy. For the driver though a little more power would have been better.

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The interiors are nothing like any Maruti before it. It looks smart and has the features like Bluetooth telephony, rear reversing camera and the SmartPlay infotainment system

With 510 litres of boot space at your disposal, there is little that it can't fit. Plus, the boot is intrusion free.

The engine is the same 1.3-litre diesel unit that powers most of Maruti's cars

Suzuki Gixxer

The moment one says 'Gixxer', the first thing which flashes in a bikers' mind is a fully fired street rocket with tonnes of power.

The Gixxer, right from the word go, looks pleasing. It is designed for young riders so the front end looks chunky, thanks to the 41mm front forks. The headlamp unit is sleek and the overall design reminds one of the Yamaha FZ. The large tank holds 12 litres of petrol and in the rear, Suzuki has infused sportiness in form of a split grab rail and LED tail lamps. However we didn't quite like the large rear mudflap which hides the meaty 140/60R 17 inch tyres.

Get astride and the Gixxer feels rather comfortable. The wide handle bar falls to hand easily and the seat too is large and spacious. The tank offers ample space to tuck in your knees. Up front the all digital instrument panel comes in clear view.

It looks like a smart phone and offers a host of info which includes a speedometre, tacho, fuel guage and even a gear indicator.

Thumb the starter and the 155cc, 4-stroke single wakes up smoothly. The clutch feels light and progressive and the 5-speed box slots into gear with precision. At regular speeds, the Gixxer offers ample power no matter which gear you're riding at.

Having proved its mettle in city, we then took it around Lavasa to open the bike! Revved hard, the Gixxer emits a nice, meaty sound track and the setup of the chassis ensured that we truly enjoyed the twists. The Gixxer also comes with a 7-step adjustable rear mono-shock which offers the possibility of further fine tuning the suspension! The soft compound MRF tyres gripped well despite of the wet conditions and we came out truly impressed. Price: Rs. 72,000 Ex-showroom, Delhi --RAHUL GHOSH

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Publication:India Today Travel Plus
Date:Nov 1, 2014
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