It’s surprising how a few alterations and additions to a vehicle can result in a product that targets a different set of buyers and ends up competing in a new segment all together. This is exactly the case with the Maruti XL6. Based on the successful Ertiga, the XL6 seems like an all-together a different breed. Add in a premium buying experience courtesy of Nexa and you have a product that packs in all the right ingredients to be a success.
Is this the case? To find out just that, I drove 250km to the Pink City of Jaipur in Rajasthan, the location for the media drive event. No point spending the same time in shuttling between airports and in the sky, especially when you are in love with automobiles, eh? Keeping my preferences aside, I got to spend enough time with Maruti’s first ever 6 seater offering and here is what I have to say about it.
It looks nice. The Ertiga was never meant to win beauty pageants but as I said earlier, its the alterations that give the XL6 a whole new meaning. The raised hood, new headlamps with full LED treatment, the black grille and the new bumper, everything gels in so well that the XL6 ended up grabbing a fair bit of attention in and around Jaipur.
You have silver skid plates at all ends (side too!) and the matt black cladding runs around the length and breadth of the XL6. These seem to have been overdone just a bit and this is even more evident due to the wheel and tyre size. The XL6 carries over the same tyre spec from the Ertiga and this is one area where Maruti could have done better. Going up one in terms of rim size (from 15 to 16) and width (from 185 to 205/215) would have done wonders in the way this car looks.
You also get roof rails and black finish for the outside mirrors. At the back, its again the new bumper that lends muscle and mass to the XL6. The tail-lamps get the LED treatment and at night, look a lot like the Jazz’s rear. Ground clearance remains unchanged and this could have gone up with the tyre size I have mentioned above.
Getting into the XL6 is a breeze. We had a long term Ertiga here at Cartoq for about 3 months and I loved the ingress factor and the airiness of the cabin. Thankfully these traits remain unchanged. What you see here is the top spec model which means it gets leather treatment too. The all-black color theme works well for the sporty touch and overall fit and finish is excellent for a car of this price segment.
A lot has been said about the space and comfort up front (of the Ertiga) so I will skip that part and come to the feature list. In comes a cruise control and leather seats. Apart from that, not much has changed here. However, once you step in the 2nd row, you get to experience the USP of the XL6. Individual captain seats have been a hit with cars like the Innova Crysta and even the Mahindra Marazzo offers this configuration. The XL6 joins the same bandwagon and in terms of comfort and space, its good news in here. Even with the front seat adjusted for a 6 feet tall driver, an equally tall person can sit at the back with about 4-5 inches of knee room left. Further, you can easily slide your feet under the front seats and this adds to the comfort factor.
The two seats here can be reclined or adjusted for legroom individually and get a one touch operation to flip the seat(s) forward in order to access the last row. Now thanks to removal a 2nd row bench, those seated in the last row get some extra room in here and don’t feel hammered in. Boot space remains impressive and even with the last row up, you can stock in a couple of night strollers and a few backpacks. Love that idea of a hidden and concealed storage space in here too.
Unlike the Ertiga, the XL6 will only be sold with one engine option as of now. This one is the 1.5-litre K Series unit that made its debut in the Ciaz last year. We later drove it in the Ertiga and finally in the XL6 too. No changes in terms of power, torque or tuning of the unit. Like the Ciaz and the Ertiga, this gets a 5 speed manual as standard and a four speed automatic as an option. Max power and torque stand at 105 PS and 138 Nm respectively.
I like this engine for its grunt lower down in the rev range. This helps a lot while pottering in slow moving traffic with the XL6 picking up speeds from as low as 20 kmpl in the 3rd gear without any issue. Pedal to metal, it does get vocal, in a good way and ends up rewarding you with punchy performance. We managed a 0-100 km/h run in just over 12 seconds and that’s fast for a 6 seater vehicle. Gear shift quality and clutch action too is nice and easy.
The 4-speed auto will surprise those driving it for the first time. Forgot the number of gears here, its the way the tuning has been done up that will leave you with a smile. And this is no low cost AGS (AMT in Maruti lingo) but a proper torque converter that does the job oh-so-well. The ratios are well spread and thanks to ample torque in lower rev range, it does manage to hold a gear without downshifting very often. Out on open highways, give it the stick and it responds well too. The gear lever has the option for the driver to shift to L (transmission holds on to the first gear) or “2” (transmission remains in the 2nd gear) and these are helpful during steep uphill climbs or starting off on slippery surfaces respectively.
Another area where not much has changed is the ride and handling department. Infact, with the (slightly) added weight, the XL6 feels even (more) well planted when pushed hard or driven over broken roads or no tarmac. This is one area that will please buyers and their families alike. High speed stability remains nice too though the steering does feel vague and you need to remind yourself that this is a long vehicle after all.
City usage is where the XL6 shines. The high seating, relatively low bonnet, absence of blind spots and light controls make it an effortless car to drive. However, the steering did feel a tad too heavy for my liking. During the off road stint, over rocks, I did notice the tyres were under-inflated and I am hoping the heaviness of the steering would have been because of this.
We didn’t get a chance to drive the XL6 with all seats filled and this is one experience I wish to understand once the media cars are available in Delhi.
The XL6 will be sold via Nexa dealerships and true to the premium appeal, there is no base version as such on this MPV. Infact, the Zeta, priced from Rs 9.7 lakh ex-showroom, is loaded as well with the only add-ons on the Alpha being the reverse camera, leather seats, auto headlamps to name a few. In terms of pricing then, Maruti has done good work here. Did I tell you, the Zeta has as many features as the Ertiga ZXI+ and has a price difference of just about Rs 20,000?
For me, the XL6 is a good experiment and should go down well in Maruti’s favour. I personally would have loved the diesel motor but for now, the petrol works just fine. In the market for an affordable alternative to the Innova Crysta? You know which showroom to head to!