Let’s get one thing right. The new Maruti Suzuki Ciaz SHVS is not a hybrid vehicle like the Toyota Prius or the Camry Hybrid. While the latter are parallel hybrid vehicles (and far more expensive), the Ciaz is a mild hybrid (and far more affordable).
Let us explain.
Parallel hybrids are vehicles that use both an electric motor and internal-combustion engine to power the wheels. The electric motor gets its energy from a battery, and the engine gets its energy from the fuel. The engine, while powering the wheels, also charges the battery. In addition, the battery is charged when you press the brakes—the technology is called brake energy regeneration. There are numerous other fuel-saving and power-enhancing technologies in parallel hybrid vehicles.
The Ciaz hybrid, on the other hand, is equipped with Suzuki’s Smart Hybrid Technology (SHVS), which gets features such as power assist, brake energy regeneration, idle engine start-stop and gear-shift indicator.
How do these features work?
Power assist: The stored energy in the high capacity battery—there is an extra battery in the Ciaz hybrid—assists engine power during acceleration. This results into improved engine efficiency and prevents unnecessary loss of fuel.
Brake energy regeneration: It essentially means recovering some of the kinetic energy lost when you apply the brakes. The Ciaz hybrid gets a unit called the Integrated Starter Generator (ISG), which converts the energy from braking/deceleration of the car and stores it in the battery. This stored energy is later used to drive the ISG, which, among other things, assists the engine’s start-stop function and during acceleration or gradient climbing.
Idle engine start-stop: The idle engine start-stop function turns off the engine automatically when the car is idling. But for it to work, the car needs to come to a standstill, and you have to shift into neutral gear and take your left foot off the clutch. The engine restarts as soon as you press the clutch.
Gear-shift indicator: The gear-shift indicator prompts the driver to change gears at correct speeds, resulting in enhanced fuel efficiency.
All these technologies work together to make the Ciaz hybrid India’s most fuel-efficient diesel car, with a company-claimed figure of 28.09 kmpl. But because all drivers won’t drive this vehicle the way it is meant to be driven, expect a lower figure in real-life driving conditions.
So, how significant is the Ciaz hybrid for Maruti Suzuki?
“It is a master-stroke by Maruti,” says Hormazd Sorabjee, editor, Autocar India. “It’s not only cheaper than the regular diesel Ciaz, but more fuel-efficient too. Even though it is a basic hybrid, the car is another great example of using appropriate technology to suit the needs of Indian consumers.”
Dhruv Behl, editor of AutoX magazine, feels that it is a very important launch from Maruti, as it takes advantage of the FAME initiative of the government. “Most governments worldwide only provide incentives to electric vehicles or full hybrids, but the Indian government has chosen to do so for mild hybrids as well, to popularise the technology.
And Maruti has jumped at the opportunity,” Behl says, adding, “Since it’s a mild hybrid, the cost and complexity of the technology added to the car is minor, but the fuel-efficiency benefits for the customer are very real. And thanks to the R13,000 incentive on each car and the reduced excise duty (12.5% from 24%), Maruti is being able to offer these benefits to the customer at no extra cost. It’s a clever move.”
Gaurav Vangaal, senior analyst, IHS Automotive, is of the opinion that the Ciaz hybrid is a unique solution for Indian mass segment to begin with. “We cannot compare the technology to compete with mature market technologies; we have remained different from the world and we will remain different. The Ciaz hybrid is not only significant, it also has the potential to become a milestone, which opens the channel for other manufacturers to follow. While the common Indian fear of premium on hybrid technologies has been ruled out with the FAME incentives to a certain extent, the consumer acceptability and ownership cost will still remain a question.”
Lastly, can the Ciaz hybrid propel Maruti to the top of the segment, currently led by Honda with its hugely-successful City? Vangaal says, “It is too early to say if the Ciaz hybrid will attract prospective Honda City customers, because the City still is in a league of its own.”
Sorabjee believes that sales increase will be incremental. “The Ciaz hybrid may not dent the City’s dominance, but what Maruti has done is taken the high ground from an environmental standpoint.”
The car comes at an introductory price (ex-showroom, Delhi) of Rs 8.23 lakh to Rs 10.17 lakh, which is even more competitive than the Ciaz diesel that has been discontinued.