Suzuki Ciaz 1.4 GLX
Johannesburg - Cars in the Corolla class, or C-segment for want of a better term, have become so physically big over the years that you’d easily get away with calling them fully-fledged family cars.
Yet in the age of frugality some are reversing this trend. The Peugeot 308, for instance, is smaller than its predecessor and the next Opel Astra is also set to drop a trouser size or two.
Suzuki’s new Ciaz sedan, however, only adds to the confusion. At a quick glance, it looks almost big enough to be a C-segment sedan, but is it? According to the spec sheet it’s 4490mm long and 1736mm wide, and a quick glance at its competitor’s measurements - don’t worry, I won’t bombard you with all the numbers - reveals that it fits neatly between the B and C-segment sedans.
If there’s any size or positioning uncertainty left, this Suzuki’s pricing gives it the benefit of the doubt. At R179 900 for the decently equipped GL model and R199 900 for the luxurious GLX featured here, it actually sits at the cheaper end of the B sedan spectrum where names such as Polo Sedan, Rio, Ballade and Accent come to mind. At this price level, only the older-generation C-segment Toyota Corolla Quest offers more outright size.
‘BIG CAR’ LOOK
Whereas many of its “B” rivals look small and dumpy, the neat and well-proportioned Suzuki Ciaz has more of a “big car” look to it. Though I’m not a huge fan of the rear end after the Honda Ballade called and asked for its tail lights to be returned, it does have a bit of a mini-Kizashi thing going in the side and front views and that can only be a good thing.
Still, outright size is not as important as what you do with it, and here the Ciaz pulls a space-utilisation trump card. Plonking my average sized frame behind my usual driving position, I was amazed at how much stretching space was available. In fact, I’d be surprised if BMW’s 7 Series offers this much rear legroom. The only downside is that the roofline does restrict headroom in the back - there was only just enough room for my noggin and taller people will probably have to crouch a bit.
Your luggage won’t have to squeeze, though, as the Ciaz has a generous boot capacity of 495 litres.
That bigger-is-better theme comes to an abrupt end at the opposite side of the car as the Ciaz is only available with Suzuki’s 1.4-litre normally-aspirated petrol engine, which produces just 70kW and 130Nm.
In reality it’s not as bad as it sounds, given that this car weighs a paltry 1 040kg, and while it doesn’t exactly feel brisk during foot-flat acceleration, the overall performance it offers is actually quite decent, even at Reef altitudes. It easily keeps up with Johannesburg’s fast paced urban traffic and cruises nicely on the highway, even when faced with hills. You might have to work it a bit to overtake on two-lane roads, but ultimately this car performs as well as you could expect from a normally-aspirated 1.4 in this price range.
I still feel that Suzuki should look at offering a 1.6-litre version of this car. Given the choice I’d happily have swopped some of the GLX model’s high-end features, such as leather seats and automatic climate control, for a bit more oomph. Nonetheless, both Ciaz versions are well appointed and come with a six-speaker audio system, multi-function steering wheel, Bluetooth connectivity, rear ventilation as well as powered windows and mirrors.
ABS and dual front airbags complete the safety deal, but there are no side or curtain airbags.
The business end of the Ciaz feels solidly put together and inoffensively styled, while the GLX has various satin-look finishes on the dashboard to break up the dark grey monotony. Just don’t expect to find any touchy-feely soft textures of the kind you get in a Polo.
The pedals, gear-shift and steering all have a solid-feeling, yet easy operation that make this a comfortable car to drive.
The ride quality is cushy enough too, but not as good as it could be as there is a hint of stiffness in the suspension.
When all is weighed up, the new Suzuki Ciaz makes a really solid and rational case for itself and while it can’t quite outgun the larger and more powerful Corolla Quest in the sensible purchase war, its practicality, features and styling will make it a fine alternative for those seeking something that feels a bit more car and less appliance.
Suzuki Ciaz 1.4 GLX
Engine: 1.4-litre, four-cylinder petrol
Gearbox: Five-speed manual
Power: 70kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 130Nm @ 4000rpm
Consumption (claimed): 5.4 litres per 100km
Price: R199 900
Warranty: Three-year/100 000km
Service/Maintenance plan: Three-year/60 000km
Honda Ballade 1.5 Trend (88kW/145Nm) - R208 900
Kia Rio Sedan 1.4 (79kW/135Nm) - R203 995
Toyota Corolla Quest 1.6 Plus (90kW/154Nm) - R198 900
Volkswagen Polo Sedan 1.4 Trendline (63kW/132Nm) - R194 600