Suzuki South Africa has been on a roll over the course of the past 12 months and has launched numerous products into multiple segments. The result is a small brand that's punching above its weight in terms of sales and profitability. Now there's yet another model in the lineup and this time it's the affordable sedan market that's being targeted. We spent a week with the new Suzuki Ciaz to see how it stacks up.
Suzuki is taking a bit of a risk here. Firstly, the sedan market is in a slight decline, with people favouring hatchbacks and light crossovers. Secondly, this segment is dominated by the likes of the Toyota Corolla/Corolla Quest and to a lesser extent, the Honda Ballade. In May 2015 alone, Toyota registered 1 400 Corolla/Auris/Quest vehicles, while Honda managed 168 Ballades. Suzuki mustered just 33 Ciaz... Both marques have impressive brand credibility plus resale, and it's going to take a mighty effort from Suzuki and its Ciaz to make a dent in sales.
The Suzuki Ciaz is a modern and reasonably fresh-looking sedan. While it's a far cry from the beautiful Ciaz concept we saw at the 2014 Delhi Motor Show, it still retains upmarket and semi-premium design touches. Our test unit came in a lovely shade of red, dubbed Merlot Red Pearl and had some smart 16-inch alloys which made it stand out in comparison to the usual white/silver which probably adds to this segment's blandness. Let's be honest here, sedans in this segment are purchased with a sensible head, with very little intervention from the heart. Words used to describe cars in this segment are functional, spacious, practical, reliable and perhaps most importantly, affordable.
Performance and RideKeeping a car under a certain price barrier while still offering value for money and loads of features is a skill Suzuki does very well. In this case, R200 000 gets you a spacious four-door sedan powered by a 1.4-litre engine delivering 70 kW and 130 Nm. Power reaches the front wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox and fuel consumption is claimed at 5.4L/100km. Those are the on-paper specs, but how does it drive in reality?
On the roads in an urban environment, the Suzuki Ciaz acquits itself well by offering reasonable in-town acceleration combined with a relatively slick gearbox. However, this was done with one person driving. Factor in two or three passengers plus an open road and things are less rosy.
The car, when loaded, is relatively underpowered on South African freeways and overtaking requires some planning, plus quickly gearing down. Thankfully the gearshift action is positive and slick. However, reverse gear can be a bit sticky and requires a few attempts before it slots in. The ride and handling quality was quite good, but the car did tend to be a bit crashy over poor surfaces at low speed. Braking prowess is generally good too. During its week with us, the Suzuki Ciaz returned 8.8L/100km. This is due to the engine needing a healthy dose of revs to get going.
As mentioned earlier, it's the specification levels and value for money where Suzuki does well and the Ciaz is no exception. Interior space is also highly commended with both the boot space and rear legroom being larger than expected. Interestingly, the driver's seating position is very high and even at its lowest setting, taller folk might feel awkward while driving.
Specification and Safety FeaturesTested here is the Ciaz 1.4 GLX which comes with keyless start, rear sunblind, automatic air-conditioning, CD audio system, steering mounted audio & Bluetooth controls, leather seats, rear air conditioning vents, front fog lights and a 12V charging point. As generous as this spec is, we would have preferred split/folding rear seats and ISOFIX mounts instead of something gimmicky like keyless entry.
Ergonomics and interior build quality are simple, uncluttered and solid respectively. There are some clever touches too, such as the centre console storage area lighting up when its dark. The Bluetooth pairing system is easy to use, despite the basic LCD screen. The Suzuki Ciaz has basic safety ticked with a driver and passenger airbag, ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) with EBD (Electronic Brake Force Distribution) as well as brake assist.
VerdictThe Suzuki Ciaz plunges headlong into a competitive segment and we don't think it's quite good enough to beat the established competition. In some aspects, such as specification and interior space, it wins outright, but the lack of a punchy engine is a problem. The competition all boast bigger engines and a 1.4 70 kW motor might be inadequate for families, especially at altitude. If you're on your own and don't have much to carry, it's acceptable.
On the plus side, it adds some much-needed personality into the segment and is undoubtedly the best-looking vehicle in its class. The boot at 495L is one of the more spacious and rear legroom is outstanding. There's that generous specification too, which is always welcome. Ultimately, despite these positives, the Suzuki Ciaz is not going to be top of mind when it comes to buying a sedan and we'd always look to the Toyota Quest 1.6 as the segment leader, despite the great spec and 6 airbags of the Honda Ballade.
Suzuki Ciaz Price in South AfricaThe Suzuki Ciaz retails from R179 900 for the base model. The 1.4 GLX manual tested here costs R199 900 and there is an automatic at R214 900. The price includes a 3 year/60 000km service plan as well as a 100 000km/3 year warranty. Service intervals are every 15 000km.
Test Team's CommentsNot only does the Suzuki Ciaz have a difficult name to pronounce, it's a difficult car to place. To drive it feels like a fleet car - nondescript - but then it's fitted with leather seats, a privacy blind and alloy wheels. The seats don't fold down but rear space is decent for passengers. The Ciaz then seems uncertain of which segment of the market it's aiming at, plus the Corolla Quest is cheaper and equally as bulletproof. -Ashley Oldfield
My thoughts mirror fellow tester Ashley Oldfield's. Inherently there's not much wrong here, but the specification doesn't seem right. If it is aimed at fleets, then it could lose some spec and price. If it is aimed at families, then it needs folding rear seats and possibly Isofix. Still, if you must have a sedan for whatever reason, then at least the Ciaz is a good-looking one. - Hannes Oosthuizen
We Like: Youthful looks, interior space, generous specification, low emissions tax
We Don’t Like: Underpowered if you're carrying passengers, lack of folding rear seats
Also consider: Honda Ballade, Chevrolet Cruze, Toyota Corolla Quest