Eeco-friendly! The Maruti Eeco road test

Here is all you wanted to know about the new Maruti Eeco – we test drive the pocket-friendly Eeco MPV

maruti eeco road test photo
Photo: We road test the Maruti Eeco MPV

The Eeco is one of the most anticipated cars for 2010. Automobile enthusiasts may scoff, but your average Indian car buyer who contributes most to the bottom line of companies is a pretty practical person with not too much money to throw around. The company has priced the Eeco as a super-affordable vehicle to car around huge bunches of people, and the market seems to be really keen. Comments on our earlier stories about the Eeco bear testimony to that.

maruti eeco logo

Ever since the Maruti Eeco was announced at the Auto Expo 2010 in New Delhi, we have been inundated with enquiries about the Eeco. People who normally would stay away from a site like DWS have been landing in droves, bombarding us with questions on the mileage of the Eeco, prices in their cities we have never heard about… It has captured the imagination of many, for sure. We just had to get the Maruti Eeco for a road test, therefore and we finally managed to get it – thanks to all the good people who helped us in that.

Before we catch the Maruti Eeco by its throat and shake it hard, let us recap Maruti Suzuki’s history in India a bit. (As always, we have a bunch of photos of the Eeco on this page, as well as a compehensive photo gallery / slideshow all the way down at the end  of the story for those who believe a picture is worth a thousand words!)

No other auto manufacturer knows what the Indian buyer needs as well as Maruti Suzuki. The M800, introduced in India when most of us were in school, is one of the longest running models ever in India. The Maruti Omni van which ran on the same 800cc engine of the M800 is the 2nd best seller from the manufacturer – it has been around in India in different shapes high roof, low roof and recently with a CNG variant. The most important reason for the Omni’s success was that it was cheap, compact, reliable, and could easily manage to haul eight people. Room for loads of luggage, it was very nippy to drive in the crowded cities and could take our rural roads.

Maruti tried the same with the Versa which had the Esteem’s heart, but that didn’t sell that well. Maruti Suzuki tried to position it as a car but no one fell for that.

And now we have the Eeco which at first look is a Versa without the bump on its head. The versatility of the good old Omni seems to be there alright in the new breadbox-like MPV.

Maruti Eeco – looks and aesthetics

maruti eeco photo
Photo: Maruti Eeco looks quite like the Versa minus the high roof

First look at the Eeco, and you are reminded of the extremely practical but not so popular Versa. The difference here is that the Versa had a higher roof, while the Eeco has a flat one.

5 seater Maruti eeco picture
Pic: The Eeco retains the bread-box looks of the Versa

Looks could be deceiving, the Maruti Eeco isn’t the best looking car for sure. But then, it is very smartly designed keeping in mind all the virtues of the Omni and the Versa. The new nose job with crystal lights and the all-new Suzuki grille mated to a flatter bumper upfront are not bad to look at. The large sliding doors cover most of the flanks of the Eeco. The rear end of the Maruti MPV also has been freshened up and now has all-new crystal tail lamps and a new bumper. The overall design of the Eeco is simple, basic but very practical.

Maruti Eeco – interiors

maruti eeco interior photo
Photo: Spartan but practical interiors of the Maruti Eeco

Get inside the Eeco, and you are welcomed by bare utilarian interiors. The Suzuki Alto steering wheel does its duty here and the speedo console has a large speedometer flanked by a digital fuel gauge. Towards the left of the console we have the regular list of tell-tale indicators like the malfunction indicator, battery oil etc. It also had a very audible Nippon MP3 Radio player. The switches and knobs do their duty smartly and work well. The version we had for this road test was the 5 seater AC one.

The driver’s seat gives you a very nice view of the road with a pretty upright driving position. The interior and dash quality is basic, but we didn’t hear any rattles or noises during our test drive of the Eeco. The centre console is taken by the AC and the stereo. Slide open the rear doors and you are get comfy bench seats with loads of leg room. This seat can accommodate 3 passengers. We missed any way to adjust the back-rest, though.  As this was the 5-seater variant of the Eeco, we have yet to see how comfortable occupants will be in the 7 seater. The boot space of this MUV is pretty big and ideal for those weekend trips or for carrying luggage to and from the airport.

Eeco’s engine and power

maruti eeco engine pic
Pic: The Eeco's engine is situated under the front seat

Turn th key, and the the Eeco’s 1200cc petrol engine settles into a nice smooth idle. This is an all-new engine designed by Maruti Suzuki. It produces 74 bhp which is very healthy for this MUV and has a maximum torque power of 101nm @ 3000rpm. The engine is nice and a frugal performer and is very peppy for those city drives. Designed with a high-pressure injection system coupled with optimized injectors has resulted in making the heart of the Eeco beat better. The engine has low-friction pistons and piston-rings, low viscous engine oil. Drive the Eeco around town and responsive, and even with the AC on, the engine did not feel underpowered at all.

The Eeco features a 5-speed manual transmission. To provide a better gear-changing feel, the Eeco also features what Maruti calls a DSA shifter (Diagonal Shift Assistance). What this leads to is an improved and gliding diagonal gear shift with the system allowing for an easier diagonal motion, thereby allowing for a smoother gear shift without any break in continuity of the action. On the highway we managed to touch 120kmph and the engine was still calm and composed at this speed.

maruti eeco driven

The ride quality is bouncy and the suspension is tuned to carry loads, we think. Probably the Eeco would feel much more better when it is loaded with a full compliment of passengers. Brakes are good enough and stopped this 1 tonner easily. The Eeco runs on 13 inch wheels – we feel the drive could be improved if the wheels were larger. The overall feel is utilitarian but practical. No power steering, but it wasn’t a big problem as the tyres on this baby are small. The cabin isn’t noisy either. Remember, the engine is just under the front seats, and still NHV (noise, harshness and vibration) levels are reasonably low in here.

The fuel efficiency question: What’s the mileage?

This time, we definitely are not going to make fun of the ‘mileage’ question. For a vehicle in this class which is supposed to do duty while carrying 5 to 7 passengers and probably all their luggage, across small towns and villages of India, the ‘mileage’ is critical indeed. We estimate fuel efficiency figures of about 13-14 kmpl in city and of 17-18 kmpl on highway runs which is more than acceptable. Remember we had a lightly loaded Eeco, so it might drop a bit based on load and driving style.

The Eeco’s price: Superb value

the maruti eeco has a huge boot
Photo: Maruti Eeco's boot is quite substantial, as you can see here!

Let’s get down to the most important part now – the Eeco’s price. The 5 seater Eeco with AC is priced at an unbelievable Rs. 2.95 lakh ex-showroom Mumbai, while the 7 seater Eeco which doesn’t have an AC comes at Rs. 2.82 lakh. No other MPV in India sells at this low price and this is the biggest trump card that Maruti has, closely followed by the most extensive After Sales and Service which no other car manufacturer in India can match yet.

And the verdict

The Eeco is perfect for weekend getaways or moderate-length trips for small families which want a bit more room than a hatchback and good economy. The taxi trade will love it, certainly. BPOs and call centres have an alternative in the Eeco to their costlier Toyota Innova MPVs and Mahindra Xylos.

Negatives?

If you are realistic about a vehicle in this class, and at this price, there is almost nothing you can complain about. The Versa was positioned badly and priced beyond what the market was willing to pay – which is definitely not a complaint you can make about the Eeco. A diesel variant would have been nice – but considering that the engine is placed below the front seats, size of the engine, and the extra noise and vibration would probably be much higher.

Maruti Eeco photo gallery

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