The Maruti Suzuki Ciaz has reclaimed its title of the best-selling mid-size sedan with the refreshed avatar. But, is it really the best car in the segment?
Unlike the value of the Indian currency, which is only going one way – and that’s down – the fuel prices in the country are on the rise. Amidst all this, the Indian auto industry is undoubtedly taking a hit. People have begun to reconsider their purchasing decisions. And while, for a brand as strong as Maruti Suzuki, a little bump in the economy is nothing to truly worry about, it’s always a good idea to keep your products fresh and in agreement with the changing times.
The arrival of the new Maruti Suzuki Ciaz is a step in that direction. But there’s more to it. You see, Maruti had to taper production of the old Ciaz to prepare for the launch of the new one, which lead to the Ciaz losing its best-seller tag in the mid-size sedan segment. So, the new Ciaz had one more goal to achieve – reclaim its lost throne of being the best-selling mid-size sedan in the country. And to do that, the Ciaz has undergone cosmetic surgery and a heart transplant. And the result is… well, you’ll have to read on. But, to give you some perspective, it clocked 7,002 units in sales in the month of August – a significant increase indeed, considering that the old Ciaz was averaging around 4,500 units during the months leading up to its re-launch.
Now, before going forward, let’s look at some figures. The Hyundai Verna was refreshed last year, but its sales are hovering at around 3,500 units, and declining. The new Honda City was also launched last year, and it’s also on the receiving end of a declining economy – sales were down to 2,790 in August. The Toyota Yaris, a brand-new product, was launched in April, and last month it only sold 1,047 units.
Unfortunately, the future of the economy is uncertain. What is certain, though, is that manufacturers will continue to fight for market share in the mid-size sedan segment. And even though SUVs and crossovers are the hot commodities of today, the mid-size sedan segment is still crucial for the Indian market. And, so is the following question – is the Ciaz the best car in the segment just because it sells the most or is there another car in this segment that offers a better package? Well, let’s find out.
Maruti Suzuki has done a fantastic job to make the Ciaz more premium. The Ciaz is the flagship sedan for the largest carmaker in the country, and it certainly impresses with its new design and interior layout. It exceeds expectations in terms of the overall build quality and the quality of materials used in the cabin. Outside, it now has LED head and taillights, a new grille, 16-inch dual-tone alloys and chrome highlights – together they give it a dashing look and a very strong road presence. Inside, the quality levels are no less impressive. The faux wood on the dashboard is now lighter, and the 4.2-inch TFT colour screen between the two dials on the instrument panel is very attractive. The seats aren’t the most comfortable, but the cabin is spacious and airy.
The Honda City is probably the least impressive in terms of exterior and interior design, but it still has a premium air about it. The interior seems a little outdated and an advocate of minimalism. There was a time when the City was the crowned king of the segment, but the City received its last update in early 2017, and it shows. It just doesn’t feel as fresh or modern as the newest entrants of the segment. But still, there’s no doubt that it has a very comfortable cabin.
The Hyundai Verna is, perhaps, the Ciaz’s closest competitor – it’s the second-best selling mid-size sedan. In terms of overall design and styling, the Verna looks much sportier, and the overall quality is also far superior to the Ciaz. But even though it looks and feels more premium, and has better build quality, its instrument cluster lacks that wow factor of the Ciaz. The real rub with the Verna, though, is its confined cabin – especially the lack of leg and head room in the rear seat.
The Toyota Yaris, the latest model in the segment, also offers a more premium experience than the Ciaz. While the exterior design is quite sedate, the cabin is very nice. The seats are comfortable, and there’s plenty of room for all passengers. It also has very nice rear AC vents. The overall finish of the dash is simple, but it looks top-notch. The Yaris is arguably the most impressive car in terms of comfort.
The new 1.5-litre smart-hybrid petrol unit of the Ciaz is a beautiful piece of machinery. It’s very smooth and highly refined, and also incredibly quiet. It also feels considerably more punchy than the 1.4-litre motor it replaces. This 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine is good for about 103bhp and 138Nm of torque. Power comes in nice and low and really kicks in around 2,000rpm. However, as you rev towards the redline, the power does fizzle out a bit. In the city, the performance is quite impressive, and it’s easy to squeeze every last ounce of power from the engine. However, on the highway, things are a bit different – although you can reach very high speeds, it takes time to get there. The 5-speed manual, though, certainly impressed us with its performance.
The Verna is the most powerful of the lot, and features the most engaging engine and transmission setup. With a 1.6 litre four-cylinder petrol unit, pumping out 122bhp and 151Nm of torque, mated to a well-behaved six-speed torque converter, the Verna drives beautifully. Smooth, refined, and with a nice and powerful punch, the Verna pulls forward quickly and with ease. The Verna certainly offers the best engine performance in the entire segment – and the responsive transmission certainly helps its case too.
The Honda City too has a pretty powerful 1.5 litre four-cylinder engine that’s good for 118bhp and 145Nm. It’s a tried and tested unit that’s been in the City for a while now. And although it’s a nice and responsive engine, it does have the highest NVH levels of any car here. The five-speed manual gearbox is nice and has a very light clutch. The engine delivers good performance in the city and on the highway. In fact, the City’s most impressive feature is its engine.
The Toyota Yaris is only available with a petrol engine – a four-cylinder 1.5-litre unit capable of 106bhp and 140Nm, which is slightly more than the Ciaz. In our test car, the engine was mated to a 7-speed CVT – an engine-transmission combo that works very well, especially in an urban setting. As a result, driving around in traffic is a breeze. However, on the highway, the transmission mutes the power delivery somewhat. What’s cool about the Yaris, though, is that it also comes with paddle-shifters, which add a nice sporty touch – even though the engine lacks the excitement usually associated with all things sporty.
The 1.5-litre petrol unit of the Ciaz feels as smooth as silk, but what impressed me most about the car is its ride quality. The suspension setup, along with the wide tyres, offer a very comfortable and pliant ride. It’s set up to be soft and really absorbs every bump to ensure a smooth ride. The steering requires little effort, which is great in the city. But the positioning of the driver’s seat is not to my taste – it’s a little high, which means headroom for tall drivers is compromised. And since the steering column only adjusts for height, and not reach, finding the perfect driving position can, at times, be a little difficult. But, on the whole, driving the car requires little or no effort, and even on long trips it continues to be comfortable.
Once again, it’s the Hyundai Verna that really shines the brightest. From behind the wheel, you can tell that this is a high-quality machine. The ergonomics ensures your comfort and everything else – from the steering wheel to the gear knob – falls perfectly to hand. The driver’s seat can be brought down very low, almost allowing you the feel of a sports car. The engine’s performance is simply brilliant, and the suspension setup is superb. As a result, the handling is a little more direct compared to the handling of the other cars here. The Verna is certainly the most fun car to drive in the entire segment.
The Yaris too has a very comfortable ride, but there’s simply no involvement or excitement from the engine or the steering. Much like its styling, the driving experience of the Yaris fails to make any kind of real impact.
The Honda City may have a powerful engine and a very nice manual gearbox, along with a comfortable driver’s seat, but it’s now starting to show its age and overall lack of character. You can certainly use the power, but the steering lacks feedback and the suspension doesn’t seem as compliant as some of the newer cars here.
So, which one then?
Every car in this segment has something to offer – they all have different strengths. But, the short answer is that the Verna is the best car in the segment. In terms of everything, except comfort, the Verna is the clear winner. Now, let’s look at the longer version of the answer.
Not everyone wants a driver’s car. Most people who buy a mid-size sedan look for practicality, value for money, space, comfort and other features. And most people also look at after sales and servicing costs.
The Ciaz is the most affordable car of the lot, and therefore offers the best value for money. Apart from being the best looking and the largest, it also has an impeccable ride and a brilliant new petrol engine that has really breathed new life into this model. So, the Ciaz is worth every single penny. The fact that it has the glorious Maruti Suzuki badge on it explains why it’s the king of the sales charts.
If you’re purely looking for a premium car to be chauffeured around in, and you want space, comfort, great features and the best safety, then the Yaris is your best bet, which also happens to be the most expensive car here. A Toyota badge also goes a long way, but because it’s expensive, it hasn’t fared as well as Toyota may have hoped thus far.
The Honda City once ruled the segment for years. And because of its history and the reliability associated with the brand, the City still sells – and in impressive numbers. But, the City looks and feels dated now, especially in a segment that’s rapidly moving forward. Overall, the Honda City is still a very capable mid-size sedan. And while it lacks the verve that it once had, it retains its premium badge and dependability.
The Hyundai Verna is in a league of its own in terms of driving dynamics, engine performance and a premium feel. Hyundai has done a phenomenal job in recent years to improve the engineering of their products. Hyundai’s cars have grown in terms of reliability, quality and performance. And the Verna is a perfect example of how far Hyundai has come. In order to compete with a brand as dominant as Maruti Suzuki, you need to be better than good and stand above the rest. And the Verna does exactly that. But, it’s tight rear seat just isn’t family friendly – and, with the latest update to the Ciaz, Maruti has ensured that it’s poised to remain at the top of this segment. Plus, they’ve played their trump card and given the Ciaz some smart-hybrid tech to further improve fuel economy and even give you a vague sense of hybrid bragging rights – which is a very clever move indeed, and one that should ensure that the Ciaz remains at the top of the charts for the foreseeable future.
- Maruti Suzuki Ciaz
- Toyota Yaris
- Hyundai Verna
- Honda City
Engine: 1,462cc / 4-Cylinders / DOHC / Smart Hybrid
Transmission: 5-Speed Manual / Front-Wheel Drive
Power: 103bhp @ 6,000rpm
Torque: 138Nm @ 4,400rpm
Price: ₹8.10-10.90 lakh (Ex-showroom)
X-factor: You get everything you want from a modern mid-size sedan at the right price.
• Attractive design
• Great performance
• Comfortable ride
• Seats could be better
Engine: 1,496cc / 4-Cylinders / VVT-i
Transmission: 7-Speed CVT / Front-Wheel Drive
Power: 106bhp @ 6,000rpm
Torque: 140Nm @4,200rpm
Price: ₹9.29-14.07 Lakh (Ex-showroom Delhi)
X-factor: The most comfortable car here.
• High-quality components
• Comfortable cabin
Engine: 1,591cc / 4-Cylinders / DOHC
Transmission: 6-Speed AT / Front-Wheel Drive
Power: 122bhp @ 6,400rpm
Torque: 151Nm @ 4,850rpm
Price: ₹9.80-12.66 lakh (Ex-showroom Delhi)
X-factor: Offers you the best of both worlds – a premium feel and sportiness.
• Best engine performance
• Great ride
Engine: 1,497cc / 4-Cylinders / SOHC
Transmission: 5-Speed MT / Front-Wheel Drive
Power: 118bhp @ 6,600rpm
Torque: 145Nm @ 4,600rpm
Price: ₹8.77-13.75 lakh (Ex-showroom Delhi)
X-factor: With the City, you get a premium and comfortable car with Honda’s dependability.
• Great engine performance