Tushar BurmanSep 12, 2019 13:16:12 IST
The last time I drove an Ertiga, the press drive was so short and uninspiring that I ended up taking photos but writing nothing at all. It’s an MPV, and about as exciting as it sounds. The XL6 is an Ertiga with a different configuration of seats — two captain seats in the second row instead of a bench, making it a 6-seater against the Ertiga’s 7. Maruti makes no mention of the Ertiga at all, in relation to the new XL6, and there are several possible reasons for this.
For one, the XL6 feels a bit more premium, and grown-up. It’s sold under the company’s premium NEXA brand and showrooms. Gone is the Udupi restaurant interior with a tacky fake wood panel and interior the colour of very weak coffee. The new upholstery is dark, as is the dash and the new fake stone finish, though this time it looks much better. The XL6 is more of a mid-range Chinese/Continental/Multi-cuisine eatery now.
Typically, families tend toward bench seats for maximum capacity, while the fleet and cab market goes with the captain seats. With the upmarket target and selling via NEXA, Maruti clearly wants the consumer end of the business, and that's another reason why the XL6 uses an entirely new moniker. I do think that the attractive pricing and format of the XL6 will still attract a fair share of business customers. It starts at Rs 9.8 lac and goes up to Rs 11.46 lac. Only four variants are available — two manual, and two automatic, all using the 1.5-litre “smart-hybrid” petrol motor. There is no diesel motor on offer, which may put off some buyers. The 1.5-litre motor, however, is BS6-compliant.
Since the biggest changes from the Ertiga lie on the inside, let’s tackle that first. The XL6’s captain seats in the second row afford a bit more space in more than one way. For one, there’s now an aisle in the middle of the two seats, which means third row passengers can get in and out a bit more easily. The seats also recline and slide, affording tall passengers more legroom, and the aisle also allows taller third-row passengers to splay out one knee a bit more to make the experience more tolerable. The third row remains limited in space, and would not be comfortable for adults over long road trips. It does look reasonable when you see someone in it, however. Headroom is okay, and smaller adults and kids should be fine.
Even with the third row seats up, there is some cargo room behind them. Folded down, there’s a generous cargo area (up to 550 litres) and 690 litres if the second row of seats are folded as far as they will go (they don't go flat). It’s certainly a practical people-mover, if not as generous as the Innovas that typically do fleet duty, and it’s a lot of flexible space for the price. The seats themselves use a dark leatherette, which looks a darn-side better than the beige of the Ertiga. Execution is decent, with the fit and stitches looking competent.
On the outside, the XL6 is trying too hard. The MPV is slightly larger than the Ertiga, owing to the various bits of plastic tacked onto the sides, wheel arches, front and back so that we may pretend that this is actually an ‘SUV-like’ vehicle. It’s not. Take it into slush or sand if you’d like to build character.
The front is a bit better-looking than the Ertiga, and now gets LED headlamps and DRLs, a new grille and a faux skid-plate. The rear is also smart, with the angular tail lamps working with the shape. Perhaps the least-desirable angle the XL6 has is the three-quarters view, which is let down by the puny 15-inch dark grey alloys. They simply do not fill the accentuated wheel arches well and end up looking like the XL6 skipped leg day for the last several years. It’s all with a view of differentiating this MPV from the more plebeian cousin and adding ‘premium’. Maybe it works for some people.
Sharing the same engine as the petrol Ciaz and Ertiga, the XL6 was a familiar drive. While the automatic is more convenient to drive, the manual transmission is my pick. The 1.5 l motor makes a just-about respectable 104 hp and 138 Nm. This motor uses Maruti’s ‘smart-hybrid’ tech, which essentially pairs a stronger starter motor with a Li-Ion battery pack in the car, which gives the motor a little extra poke off the line.
Throttle response is nice at very small applications, but the moment you give it a little more rajma, the engine gets gruff and shouty, and you’re not really going anywhere. You’re better off short-shifting and keeping things parliamentary. I think the motor is adequate, but overtaking will require skill and timing with a full load. The suspension is good, with decent damping, no jarring thuds and manageable body roll.
The automatic transmission continues to be an inexplicably ancient four-speed. It has an overdrive-disable button and a low gear. When was the last time you saw that in an auto? It is a torque converter, and quite smooth, but it cannot create magic with this motor. It does what it can.
Within the city, it will be fine, cruising on the highway is okay too, but don’t expect point-and-squirt performance. It bears mentioning that the XL6 has hill-hold and ESP in the automatic variants, and cruise control is present as a bonus over the Ertiga.
The XL6 is a nice car for the format and price. The infotainment system is good, with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support, the new dark interior looks better — in particular the dash, and it’s flexible. It sells at a bit of a premium over the Ertiga, so you’ll have to decide whether the short list of additional features makes it worth your while.
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