No other options were considered but I did find the Honda City to be a worthy contender.
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Post retirement me and my bud Tiny started our own venture, what was experimental work to keep us occupied did work and before we knew we ventured from local to state and were now going pan India. It was during one meeting with a banker who took us aside and kindly remarked “It’s fine you guys come up in Hawaiian shirts at times but cycles! You guys are coming for meetings with board members on cycles!”, we coming in Tiny’s rickety old first generation soft top Thar didn’t cut much ice either. There was a potent requirement for a vehicular makeover and this writeup is about the same.
Much of my work life I have travelled in 4-wheelers but hardly enjoyed the process owing to the nature of work, my mind was consumed with worries of different kinds. I do not remember a single instance when something didn’t happen somewhere which needed me to get ready and get going in a dash which made the journey more worrisome than pleasing albeit I must say the surroundings I went to were the most precious and scenic offerings in India. At fag end of my career, I was up and running in administrative work at such a pace that the only solace was the little naps in the rear seat of my official Ciaz, sometimes my trusted hand would park the car under some shade walk out and let me have the moment for myself before something urgent came calling.
I most likely break my association with four-wheelers as under:
Fun and frolic, the car had no creature comforts whatsoever, the only solace in name of luxury was a pillow the driver put on his seat in case it was a long run. The car per se was a breeze to drive, on any given surface it never faulted. It got the job done and survived harsh weather conditions, provost mechanics swear by its reliability and easiness to service. I still see service Gypsyies in pristine condition so that’s a testament to their quality.
Certain terrain did demand a stronger and tougher vehicle and that’s when the ‘Rakshaaks’ came to play, they were armoured Mahindra Commander series and were bolted to withstand the abuse, they were crampy and by nature of our work used to get thoroughly abused, bearings were strong, and it got the job done. I have had many good, bad, and horrible experiences with this vehicle but that’s not for this forum. Again, the vehicle lacked creature comforts as it was built for a very different purpose, I drove it once when we were in a very tight spot and found it utterly ridiculous.
Years later I saw the Kalyani M4. Albeit I don’t have any firsthand experience of the vehicle it does look like one hell of armoured carrier built to last.
Started with the Sumo (there is an interesting anecdote as to why I choose the name Tatafanatic written later), the Sumo was the first vehicle which had creature comforts, it was spacious and was again bolted well to suit our requirements. Had amazing times in it and loved it through the years. The best part about the vehicle was its roominess. It was also bolted to last and ferried heavy stuff with ease.
As I climbed the ladder of grades from Sumo it went to Safari and that was my first tryst with being driven than driving self, the Safari was again bolted to our suit and it held itself rather well, it was spacious, roomy, had creature comforts, and amazing rear seat comfort and drove well on all surfaces, the bonus was its commanding presence. I remember my daughter purposefully missing the school bus just to have me drop her off enroute to the office.
These were the last of my working years in uniform based in Bangalore, most of the time thanks to cities horrible traffic I would complete paperwork in the rear seat whilst being driven to and fro work, the rear seat comfort was extremely accommodating, all the creature comforts were fantastic. I am not sure if that’s why it lingered long in my memory, but I did really have a great time in the Ciaz.
We started with a modest M800, once I became Tatafanatic it’s been the Indigo Marina, Manza, Nexon 1st generation and now the electric Tigor, the electric vehicle suits our requirements as we got solar installation at home which ensures almost free charging, is majorly used for city driving by my wife. My parents who stay a block away moved from Scorpio to Dzire as ingress and egress for septuagenarians is easy. My brother stays another block away and had been a Ford guy till they shut shop, he now drives a Kia Seltos which I find neither here nor there, for me, it’s a full-blown SUV or a proper sedan.
So, coming to decision was rather a simple affair, something from the Tata stable or the Maruti Ciaz. Albeit in earlier times I was close to buying an Isuzu Highlander I thank providence for not doing so as I am majorly a two-wheeler guy, cycles are my first love and most obvious choice of commute be it anywhere and any far. I love the Xpluse I got a few months back to its core, contrary to public opinion it’s an excellent machine, well fit to purpose and extremely likeable, I have done over 12k kms in a short period of time and have never been disappointed. In going times, I eagerly await the bigger Xpluse to be launched.
To put things into real perspective, I didn’t really enjoy or had time to enjoy a four-wheeler experience so logically, I was looking for a car to be driven in. My only requirement was it needs to have a perfectly comfortable rear seat and a decently reliable engine with no fuss, the tech gobble wasn’t my need.
PS – I and my driver are from the same service, and we can read maps really well, he is a couple of notches above me so on a road trip to Goa he found an amazing route through the forest which initially we were only one driving through but strangely the cars behind us started to follow and little did we know later they thanked us for finding this route… beat that google lady!
The house of Tata’s – Must say even in a tiny city like mine the Tata’s experience is very different to what it was decades ago, the staff is more knowledgeable and courteous, and they do not skim on test rides. I loved the Safari, loved the Harrier more so as it was a bit smaller in dimensions to the Safari so parking in tight spots, I guessed would be easier. I am truly amazed at how far Tata Motors have come in way of design and quality, the cars look appealing, interiors are modern with simple tech for even a dud like me to grasp, the driver’s position commanding and rear seat comfort exquisite. Loved the ride, for a vehicle of their dimensions they handled easily albeit the truck-like feeling remains initially and in places cost cutting comes out evident, I was keen to go ahead with the Harrier (Green color is soothing) but decided to hold till I checked the Ciaz.
Horror tales come from regular Maruti showrooms maybe more so as we look at Maruti along the same lines of SBI and Post Office, something generic, however, the Nexa experience was rather amazing.
The new Ciaz has more creature comforts in terms of cruise control etc, the leather seats of the top end Alpha variant were excellent, the automatic transmission felt more at home than it felt in the Tata cars, the manual S MT (sports version) came in maroon which instantly gathered my attention but was rather disappointed to know the same could be discontinued any time owing to dwindling sales. The tech was not rocket science and display etc easy and not confusing. It didn’t drive as spirited as I expected but again, I was looking for something to be driven in and not self-drive much of the time.
The build quality of the Ciaz is nowhere close to Tata’s, they feel like a tank, but I was Ok with that, the SHVS tech I was told would be frugal as well. Coming from the commanding position of the Tata twins sitting in the Ciaz is quite opposite of the feeling but again it is the rear seat that I was more concerned about and on that front it was excellent. It had better legroom, better knee room, better under-thigh support, the rear AC vents were good option, the rear window blind also did its job well and per se I loved it, sadly the Ciaz is not available in maroon! Wonder why it isn’t considering the XL6 is and looks amazing in it too! Now what really closed the deal was it gobbled my cycle in its entirety all I had to do was push down front seat and stretch it as ahead as possible. Even in the Tata cars that did not work and putting a cycle in was a task (this was not the criteria for purchase but when it happened, I felt happy).
I closed the deal on Alpha ‘Prime Celestial Blue’ as ‘Opulent Red’ which is Maruti’s version of Maroon is a joke!! Sadly, was told there would be 6 weeks of waiting for the automatic version but in reality, I got the car in 10 working days as some gentleman had not honoured his commitment to purchase.
No other options were considered but I did find the Honda City to be a worthy contender, there are many amongst my friends who drive and swear on it in its entirety, but truth be told I am comfortable with the tried and tested, it’s always the Colgate toothpaste immaterial my dentist keeps telling me to go for Sensodyne!
PS – I did test ride the VW Virtus, which is an excellent handler, but as I said Colgate toothpaste for life.
Now coming to the Ciaz
During a recent family trip to Goa, till we emptied the boot my folks had no idea I had packed my decathlon folding cycle which was easily gobbled in the boot amongst other luggage easily.
Decent Engine, Ride and Handling
The 4-speed AMT mated to 1.5Ltrs engine is a breeze for city driving and the occasional highway. My driver comes from uniform services, he gave a good 18 years driving those army trucks which he really had to push to perform, he keeps saying the Ciaz reminds him of those trucks even when pushed hard it lazily moves ahead, I imagine the tunning is done for fuel economy but as we do not do three-digit numbers fitment to purpose is fine.
For a car of its proportions, it steers quite comfortably in the hills where I reside, we have bought a cabin in the woods which I regularly visit over the weekends self-driving and uphill or narrow roads or even broken ones are done sans any drama, yes, the ground clearance is a bit low but I haven’t really seen any tall sedans barring the Tata Zest. It steers well too, haven’t experienced moments where tackling narrow lanes was an issue.
Rear Seat Comfort
It’s well documented across reviews, I have a funny tale to put matters in perspective, my sister-in-law came from the US, I was assigned to pick her up from Chandigarh airport. It was a day after a rather long cycling run with buds so in no time I dozed off through the entire journey. On entering home I told my wife “I slept with your sister for the last three hours”, my sister-in-law quipped to my wife “If that’s how he sleeps then I do pity u a lot” Bottom line the rear seat is indeed heaven.
Even with my driver’s initial heavy foot driving it turned 18kmpl to 20kmpl on highway runs, in city premises, we touched 13kmpl, with sedate driving which we did on way to Goa we crossed 22kmpl but that could be once a blue moon scenario (all are with AC tank to tank calculations).
My daughter says Apple car play is preloaded and I got to use it, the driver says the Cruise control is a blessing, wife says keyless entry is amazing tech as she has a habit of misplacing keys, brother says “wow you got rear reading lamps” (he’s a lawyer so I assume he does a lot of reading to and fro work), father says that’s Auto AC is way better than one in his Dezire, I say “Thanks guys”.
PS – BTW the Decathlon folding cycle is at best a leisure item, it’s not for regulars and long-distance cyclists.
The ‘Hyped’ Not Goods
Yes I might say that’s partly true, while driving to Goa there were moments when a fully loaded car with soft suspensions means some rough surface moments get transgressed to all passengers, however as I said it’s not a deal breaker, I assume every sedan has softer suspension set up v/s an SUV by design.
Reminds me of a funny incident – Dilly and Dally were SAS drivers and communications guys whose job was to pick us up from a remote location where we’d disappeared for a weeklong exercise. This was in the middle of cold and unforgiving British winter, in no time we started I assume Dilly lost his way and yelled “Dally you (expletive), where is the right turn, we’d to make? Dally said “lemme check sarge but “The Bell” is right around the next corner”. Point is tech is as meaningful as the user desires, Dally had the best map-reading tech at his disposal that night!
Ciaz has what I need and that’s that.
That is how the economy works, rationalization is fine, but costs have over the years logically risen and so have remunerations and emoluments.
Typical Maruti rattling sounds
Yes if one cares to fault finding but I have felt the cabin to be peaceful and very good on NVH levels.
Subjective to what performance is expected than what it means, for me comfort matters and in that area the Ciaz shines. It does not feel lost at high speeds as well and can crunch miles sans drama.
The Only Not Good
Built and Safety
In 2022, there were 1,55,622 deaths due to road accidents registered in India and 59.7 per cent of fatalities occurred due to over-speeding. That demands the car to be solidly built like the Tata ones which can withstand damage, in that matter and that matter alone Ciaz seems lacking, we don’t do triple digits, and we avoid night runs but that doesn’t mean Maruti can get away with such build quality mainly as I see many Ciaz taxi’s which do ply in nights and are driven fast.
Two Interesting Anecdotes and some photos
Dimapur and Driving
I was posted in Dimapur and soon realised that I had not really set my hands on a four-wheeler, two wheelers were my forte, so one day as I shared this predicament with my superior his eyes suddenly lit up, he invited me to dinner at his place saying he had a perfect solution to my problem.
As I found out his sister-in-law a freshly minted doctor had come over to enjoy much-needed holidays and was driving him and his wife nuts with continual rants of boredom, she knew how to drive, he believed keeping her occupied teaching me would shift the receiving end of her rants from them to me.
This does sound cliché but the moment I saw her I said to myself “to hell with driving I am marrying this girl’, it’s been 28 years of togetherness since.
PS – My wife still complains that I was a poor student who had to be reminded many times it is the road that needs attention and not the tutor’s face!
Mizoram, the birthplace of ‘Tatafanatic”
Those days we were issued standard Gypsy to ferry around however one day a Tata Sumo was made available as the Gypsy had gone for servicing, on a rainy day we were driving to base when something hit us from behind, it hit us so hard that the vehicle swirled twice before coming to a screeching halt, quickly following ambush protocol we awaited action but nothing, we waited for some more time but nothing, cautiously we got to the vehicle for inspection and it occurred that a huge animal had bashed us from behind.
The impact was so hard that the entire back part was mauled, had it been the Gypsy none of us would have lived to tell the tale, but we didn’t recollect passing a wild heard so after a bit of search all we found was a lone Mithun (Bison) chewing grass lazily in the bushes, did he hit us, maybe he did maybe he was their version of a Maroon Beret who said “Chaalo aaj kuch toofani karate hain”! But that day I became a Tatafanatic.
Do I recommend the Ciaz – most definitely yes if chauffer driven.
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