Maruti Suzuki Ciaz vs Honda City: Comparison

By Abhishek Chaliha | on June 13, 2019

Is this really the end of the road for diesels? After all, Maruti Suzuki just slotted a brand-new diesel motor into the engine bay of the Ciaz. In this test, it takes on Honda’s all-aluminium i-DTEC engine. 

Almost six years ago, when Honda’s 1.5-litre Earth Dreams diesel engine made its market debut in India, a lot was riding on its shoulders – for the simple fact that it was the first time ever that the company was introducing a diesel mill in our market. Don’t forget that this was a time when our market was witnessing unprecedented demand for diesel passenger cars. 

To be honest, though, even back then, Honda’s Earth Dreams oil burner fell a bit short of our expectations – considering that it was all-new, with an aluminium head and engine block. After all, it had a heavy clutch and high NVH levels. Over the years, though, Honda has developed the 1.5-litre i-DTEC powertrain to make it the most refined diesel in its class in their most recent model – the WR-V. 

When this engine was introduced in the then new Honda City, a little over five years ago, it did feel considerably more refined than it did in the first model of the Amaze diesel. Today, however, it feels like its ageing – especially when you compare it with Maruti Suzuki’s brand-new motor. 

New Maruti Suzuki Ciaz Diesel Rear Right View

So, it’s clear right from the very beginning which of these two emerges as the winner. But, instead of doing a traditional comparison, I’d like to take a more analytical approach for this test. 

Silky smooth
For the purposes of understanding the evolution of diesel powertrains, let’s look at how different these powertrains feel from one another. Both engines displace 1.5 litres, both have four cylinders and both units are mated to a six-speed manual gearboxes. 

The Ciaz’s new engine feels far more refined, in terms of noise, vibrations and harshness (NVH), as this engine is very quiet by all standards, whereas the City’s engine comes to life and to rest in a slightly gruff manner.

Maruti Suzuki Ciaz Ddis225 Engine

Step on the clutch pedal in the Ciaz and you’ll notice just how incredibly light it is. Slotting the gearbox into first will simply leave you amazed at how light it is as well. Then there’s the matter of the powertrain’s linear driveability, which negates turbo lag so well that under normal urban driving conditions, you never become fully aware of the turbocharger’s boost coming into play at 1,500rpm. This, combined with the light clutch and gear shifts, makes you feel like you’re driving a naturally aspirated petrol car instead. And there’s no higher praise for a diesel car!

Of course, once you apply more pressure on the long pedal, you do feel the boost from the turbo come in nice and strong, with peak torque of 225Nm staying strong until 2,500rpm. A point worth noting here is that, even under hard acceleration, turbo lag remains well masked below 1,500rpm. 

But, if you think that’s impressive, wait till you get past the midrange of this engine, for unlike any other diesel engine in this class, Suzuki’s new 1.5 DDiS just loves to rev. And where other motors run out of steam at about 4,000rpm, the Ciaz’s engine provides a solid punch at 4,500rpm and continues to propel the car with a strong surge all way to 5,000rpm – it’s only here that power begins to taper off. 

New Maruti Suzuki Ciaz Six Speed Gearbox

To push it further, we repeated this exercise – but, this time, with a full load of passengers and its huge 510-litre boot packed with our heavy camera equipment. And I’m very happy to report that performance was no different – the engine continued to rev to 5,000rpm with plenty of grunt, which is mighty impressive for a 94bhp diesel engine that makes its max power at 4,000rpm on-paper. 

There’s just one problem that I faced with the Ciaz’s powertrain, and it’s concerning the gear lever. For this engine, Suzuki has developed a new six-speed manual transmission, which has a lift-to-engage reverse gear operation. But every¬ time you shift into a forward gear, there’s a noise from the spring loader for the reverse gear, which is a little disconcerting. This insignificant, but annoying, issue aside, it really is hard to fault Suzuki’s new engine. It’s a seamless powertrain through-and-through. 

2018 Honda City Rear

Age is a factor
The Honda City’s diesel engine has considerably higher NVH through its entire operating range. Unlike in the Ciaz, where most of the time you won’t even realise that you’re driving a diesel car (especially when you have the stereo on), in the City you’re always aware of the diesel engine under the hood. Plus, the clutch and gearbox require more effort than the Ciaz to operate. And, then, there’s the matter of turbo lag, which is very evident under 1,800rpm – especially under hard acceleration. So, you’ve got to work that clutch and gearbox to keep this motor, which makes 99bhp at 3,600rpm, on the boil to extract the maximum performance from it. 

And it’s not just in terms of its powertrain that the Ciaz feels more convenient to drive. Even in terms of ride comfort, the Ciaz’s suspension is very pliant and cushions abrupt road undulations beautifully. The City’s ride quality, on the other hand, isn’t as great – although it isn’t exactly uncomfortable either. 

The City has a more planted stance in terms of handling, but its narrow tyres break traction far sooner than they should, given the capable chassis. Neither of these cars is a corner carver, but that’s because they’ve been set up for the sole purpose of comfort and practicality. 

2018 Honda City Interior

The Honda City is now beginning to show its age, and the next generation model of the City, coming our way next year, is bound to make it considerably more comfortable to drive. 

Although Honda’s aluminium engine will always result in more engine noise in comparison to a cast iron engine block, the resulting benefits of a lighter engine block in terms of drive dynamics and fuel efficiency cannot simply be ignored. The City diesel has an ARAI-rated efficiency figure of 25.6km/l. But, here again, Suzuki’s newer engine comes out on top, with a rating of 26.82km/l.

As expected, then, the laws of evolution in the world of engineering are more than apparent here. But what’s truly surprising is the huge mechanical progress that’s evident here between two powertrain systems developed just a few years apart. The question that remains now, however, is whether these diesel cars will survive post the BSVI norms kicking in next year. Given how advanced Maruti’s diesel has become, it would be a shame if its lifecycle were to be short lived. Our guess is that Maruti will have this motor comply with the new norms – giving it plenty of time to show off its newfound prowess.   

  • Maruti Suzuki Ciaz Alpha DDiS 225
  • Honda City VX i-DTEC

Engine: 1,498cc / 4-Cylinders / 16-Valves / Turbocharged

Fuel: Diesel

Transmission: 6-Speed Manual / Front-Wheel Drive

Power: 94bhp @ 4,000rpm

Torque: 225Nm @ 1,500-2,500rpm

Price: ₹11.38 lakh (Ex-showroom, Delhi)

X-factor: The most refined, comfortable and fuel-efficient mid-size diesel sedan on the market.

Pros           
• Refinement
• Linear power delivery
Cons
• No mild hybrid system

Engine: 1,498cc / 4-Cylinders / 16-Valves / Turbocharged

Fuel: Diesel

Transmission: 6-Speed Manual / Front-Wheel Drive

Power: 99bhp @ 3,600rpm

Torque: 200Nm @ 1,750-2,400rpm

Price: ₹12.88 lakh (Ex-showroom, Delhi)

X-factor: The Honda City name still commands respect, not to mention a high resale value.

Pros           
• Brand value
• Seating comfort

Cons
• High NVH
• Expensive

Also read  - Maruti Suzuki Ciaz Long Term Report: May 2019

Maruti Ciaz vs Toyota Yaris vs Hyundai Verna vs Honda City: Comparison

Tags: Honda City Maruti Suzuki Ciaz Maruti Suzuki Ciaz diesel Honda City diesel

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