2022 Maruti Suzuki XL6 automatic review: the MPV masquerading as an SUV
On the face of it, you will only find subtle changes on the new Maruti Suzuki XL6. Things that could have been shared in a press release. Tweaks to the light clusters, more chrome, body cladding and larger wheels but there is a lot more going on with the XL6 than meets the eye. Which is why Maruti flew us to Bangalore to drive the XL6. The big new change being the six-speed torque converter automatic box that replaces the old four-speed unit. We put the XL6 through the test on our favourite road north of Bangalore – the winding ghats of Nandi hills.
How is the new gearbox?
The new Maruti Suzuki XL6 at cruising speeds is no different. Smooth, quiet and a comfortable people mover. The new automatic gearbox works fine in the background when you drive without any urgency. It’s when you step on the gas that things begin to change. There is only 102 horsepower and 137Nm of torque to play with, however with the new 6-speed unit, it feels better utilised than before. You’ve got to time your overtakes well since there is still a lag between expectation of a drop down in gear and the actual shift. Once a lower gear is selected, the XL6 finds its pace, the 1.5-litre petrol motor makes some noise and gives you an overtake. I must say that finding the right gear is easier than before though.
With the old four speed unit, the lack of performance was amplified when you took on a steep hill climb. I’d assume this was even more of a pain point with amateur drivers or those who aimed at max fuel efficiency because they’d always be in a higher gear than you need to be in. The climb to the top of Nandi hills is full of steep hair pins, where if you lose momentum and are in automatic drive mode, you will find yourself wanting for more power. Fortunately, the XL6 also gets paddle shifters. You can pull a paddle to drop a gear and make the hairpin easily. As soon as you lift off the accelerator a bit, the gearbox quickly shifts back to auto mode from manual to keep the XL6 as efficient as possible. Maruti is at the forefront of manufacturing frugal vehicles and the XL6 is no different. The new XL6 gets dual injectors and higher compression, with a focus on better drivability than before. Combined with the new six-speed auto box, the powertrain is well-rounded now.
It's a Multi-purpose-sport-utility-vehicle?
The XL6 is an MPV masquerading as an SUV. While Maruti Suzuki is a leader in the MPV segment, the XL6 is also trying to fill a gap in Maruti’s portfolio where the Hyundai Alcazar and Tata Safari exist. This would be until the carmaker launches their 5-seat Creta rival and follows it up with a 7-seat version. Subtle changes to make the XL6 look more masculine seem to have done the trick for now. It gets larger 16-inch alloy wheels on all variants, more side and front plastic body cladding with contrast paint to give it a more purposeful stance and even roof rails to make it look taller in profile. The larger wheels work to fill in the wheel wells now. The top spec Alpha Plus variant also gets a roof spoiler.
What else is new on the outside?
The Maruti Suzuki XL6 now comes with dual tone paint schemes on the top spec variant. While these weren’t available on our test drives, the brochure pictures suggest that the silver XL6 with a black roof will look the best of all options on offer.
You will also notice cameras in the wing mirror and front grille now since the new XL6 now gets a 360-degree camera. I find a rear parking camera very useful but a 360-degree view is an overkill for this segment considering our mirrors aren’t too safe on Indian roads. Knock one off and the bill for replacement will be higher with the camera integrated in it. The front camera is neatly tucked under the massive chrome grille, easily the most noticeable new thing on the front of the XL6.
What’s new on the inside?
My favourite feature are the new cooled seats. The Carens has them so Maruti had to offer them for the front two seats on the top Alpha Plus trim. It’s such a relaxing drive during Indian summers with ventilated seats, a lot more manufacturers need to look into offering this feature. The seating position in itself is a bit too high for my liking, even with the seat height adjustment at its lowest setting. The XL6 also gets vanity mirrors with light for both the driver and the co-driver. On the infotainment front, the XL6 gets the new SmartPlay Pro system that is more customizable than before. Maruti has also worked with Amazon India to offer a few features that can be controlled via your alexa device, like turning on the air conditioner remotely, switching on the hazard lights or checking fuel status. There are about 40 such commands to play with.
Is there more priority on safety?
The XL6 gets four airbags now and ESP with Hill Hold are standard on all variants as before. You also get a tyre pressure monitoring system on the top spec variant
It’s costlier now?
The new Maruti Suzuki XL6 gets more features than before and that adds to the prices, combined with inflation shooting up raw material costs. The new XL6’s prices start from Rs 11.29 lakh ex-showroom going up to Rs 14.55 lakh for the top spec Alpha Plus variant with the dual tone paint scheme. On the efficiency front, the manual XL6 is rated at an ARAI certified 20.97kmpl and the auto box is marginally lower at 20.27kmpl.
Would I buy one?
The XL6 is practical and comfortable with its middle row captain seats. With the new 6-speed gearbox and a few tweaks to the engine, the MPV drives better. Speaking of being an MPV, the larger wheels and design tweaks give it a more purposeful SUV-ish stance that works well in India. At the price the XL6 is at, there’s little else to choose, which is why if the XL6 fits the extremities of your budget, it’s the one to go for. If there is more wiggle room on financing, I’d prefer a Carens.