Johannesburg - The Suzuki Ciaz is not the most well-known of Suzuki products, and we dare say that it is easily the most underrated.

First introduced in 2015, the Ciaz has been largely overlooked within the compact sedan segment, but Suzuki will be hoping to make some inroads with the facelifted version, which brings a fresh look, new engine and up-to-date cabin tech.

On the design front, the MY19 Ciaz remains conservative, but pleasing to the eye, and with its new grille that now flows into headlights and additional chrome elements, it is a little classier looking than before, but it’s not going to turn any heads in traffic.

Behind that inconspicuous face is a new 1.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine that replaces the previous 1.4-litre unit, with increased outputs of 77kW and 138Nm, which is 7kW and 8Nm up on its predecessor.

While the previous model’s performance was certainly tolerable - even better than the outputs suggested - the 1.5-litre unit really finds a sweet spot in this car. Effortless is the word that comes to mind here - it’s not a speed machine but holds its own extremely comfortably in traffic and on the highway, even at Gauteng altitudes, although the gearbox still needs to be stirred for sudden bursts of acceleration.

If there’s one nitpick, it’s that the vehicle feels a touch undergeared on the highway, revving beyond the 3000rpm mark as you hit the 120km/h region.

On that note, the Ciaz is offered with either a five-speed manual, as per our test car, or a four-speed autobox - which is old school, for sure, but not uncommon in the segment.

Economy was impressive, with our car averaging 6.2 litres per 100km in a highway-heavy combination of driving conditions, that also included some heavy traffic commutes.

The other big MY19 news is in the cabin, where GLX models are kitted with Suzuki’s new “SLDA” 17.8cm touchscreen infotainment system, which is compatible with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink. It’s a modern looking and user friendly system, and includes a reverse camera linked up to the rear parking sensors.

The GLX is also fitted with automatic climate control, cruise control, keyless start and leather upholstery.

The GLX is certainly well-equipped for its R244900 price tag, but there is a GL model for the more budget conscious and it’s arguably something of a bargain, at R214900. Although it does away with the abovementioned goodies, including the touchscreen, the GL does still come with the basics, such as manual aircon, a conventional Bluetooth compatible audio system, with steering-mounted controls and remote central locking.

But dare we say that both versions could make ideal UberX cabs, not only because of nice-to-have features like rear air vents, reading lights and a 12V socket, but legroom is also extremely generous. But while there is plenty of space to stretch out, headroom could prove tight for those above average size and the Ciaz is a bit narrower than C-segment sedans like the Corolla, although it’s longer and wider than the Honda Ballade and Nissan Almera.

VERDICT

Although it remains a highly understated (and underrated sedan), the Ciaz has the performance, features and practicality to please a wide range of buyers, from private to business, and it is extremely well-priced for what you get.

IOL Motoring