Suzuki’s Vitara SUV is now smaller, funkier, cheaper to own, but also built to a price
Suzuki Ciaz Review: Thai Fighter
SINGAPORE — The Suzuki Ciaz RS is something you might not have heard of, but then the Japanese carmaker isn’t renowned for its saloons in Singapore; remember the Baleno, Esteem or Kizashi? Probably not. But the Ciaz stands a better chance of sticking around in the public’s eye than they did. Read on... What’s a Ciaz? Think Toyota Vios or Honda City — a compact four-door saloon built in and for ASEAN — but done by Suzuki, and you have a Ciaz. It’s made in Thailand, and sort of an alternative to a Swift if you like four doors instead of five.
Why “RS”? That’s the version with bodykitting (check out the sideskirts and the tail and chin spoilers), which is a bit racy to look at. It’s the only version the factory has made available to Singapore for now, but a non-kitted, plainer (and cheaper) version should eventually make it here.
Anything under the bonnet to complement the racy RS stuff? Well, no. Instead there’s a humble 1.4-litre and a four-speed auto. It’s hardly cutting edge, but it should be reliable. 92 horsepower is a humble endowment, but think of it as a thousand bucks per horsepower and you might feel better. OK, it’s no high-performance saloon, but what do you get for the money? Plenty of metal, for starters. People think Suzukis are small, but this one is longer and wider than the City and Vios. At 2,650mm long, the wheelbase is pretty much class-leading, and it translates into rear legroom that someone flying Scoot might kill for. Headroom in the back isn’t abundant, but otherwise the cabin feels broad and roomy. The big windows fill it with light, too, and you can see out well.
Classic family car, then. So how big is the boot? It’s a hitman’s delight, as a matter of fact. At 495 litres it’ll actually hold more stuff than, say, a Volvo S80’s boot, and that’s not exactly a shoebox. There’s even a full-size spare in there.
Alas, you can’t fold the rear seats down to expand it. That’s one way the Ciaz has been built down to a cost.
Is it decently equipped, though? Actually, you do get some frills. There’s keyless entry and engine starting, for one. The air-con is automatic, and you can control the sound system with buttons on the steering wheel. A third-party touchscreen entertainment system adds Bluetooth phone connectivity, a reverse camera and even GPS navigation.
Are there others?
Well, it’s a budget car and it does feel that way in some areas. There are only two three-point seatbelts in the back (the middle person has to make do with a lap belt), and though there are plenty of bins and cupholders, none of them are lined. Things you put in them will rattle. The dashboard is covered in pretty hard, cheap-feeling plastic, too.
The latter is a pretty slow-acting and fiddly to use, but at least it’ll get you where you want to go. But will you have a decent time of it on the way? Actually, it’s behind the wheel where the Ciaz feels pretty satisfying. The engine is tuned for decent mid-range muscle, and while there’s little point revving it hard (unless you like engine noise) it’s got enough poke to let you keep up nicely with traffic. But it’s the chassis that is the car’s best attribute.
Apart from a lack of steering feel just off the straight-ahead, the handling experience is pretty satisfying. You can hurry into a corner like you’re trying to escape a horde of zombies and the Ciaz reacts with enough poise to encourage you to do it again, only harder.
There’s something about skinny tyres and light weight that make a car feel playful. Just try not to get carried away — there’s neither traction control nor stability control. But there are two airbags if it all goes wrong.
Touch wood! But who buys a car like this to attack corners in?
Well, you’re right about that. Overall the Ciaz is built to be easy to manoeuvre and park, and if you’re light on the throttle it’s very frugal. After a day in mixed conditions we averaged 5.6L/100km, just shy of the claimed figure of 5.4L/100km, but done with an engine still tight before running in. There’s a calm ride over bumps, too, making the Ciaz decently refined.
Answer me this, then: why would I buy this over something like, say, a Korean rival?
Good question. Some people still trust Japanese nameplates more than Korean ones, of course, and among the “ASEAN specials” the Ciaz hits a sweetspot: better than the Mitsubishi Attrage, but cheaper than the Honda City and Toyota Vios.
Traditionally, Suzuki saloons haven’t sold well here, but this is the first time the Japanese company is trying the made-in-Thailand route, so maybe the Ciaz will crack the market. Besides, unlike Suzuki’s cars, tradition is overrated.
NEED TO KNOW Suzuki Ciaz RS Engine 1,373cc 16V, in-line four Power 92hp at 6,000rpm Torque 130Nm at 4,000rpm Gearbox Four-speed automatic Top Speed 180km/h (limited) 0-100km/h 12.4 seconds Fuel efficiency 5.4L/100km (combined) CO2 128g/km Price $90,900 with COE Availability Now