Driven: Maruti Suzuki XL6
The Ertiga is a very good MPV. Period. In its latest updated it brought refinement and a sense of occasion to a car that was already a hot seller. In doing so, the Ertiga changed the game for MPVs in India. They could no longer be just practical and utilitarian. Refinement, comfort and some luxury trimmings had to be a part of the package. Needless to say, the other competitors faltered in providing any of that and the Ertiga marched on to continue being the segment leader it was.
Now however, Maruti Suzuki wants to take things a step further. Enter the XL6. Based on the Ertiga, the XL6 is a Nexa offering and Maruti Suzuki has tried to differentiate it with comfier seating in the middle row and fresh styling on the outside.
An Ertiga underneath?
There’s no denying the XL6 reminds you of the Ertiga, but its styling is quite distinct. The front end now gets stylish LED DRLs with plastic cladding on the bumpers and a redesigned grille. There is a skid plate at the bottom too. Towards the sides, the biggest change is that the alloy wheels are now painted black that go with the plastic cladding all around and the added roof rails. There are no changes to the wheel or tyre sizes and that gives it a pronounced undertyred look when allied to the flared wheel arch extensions.
The rear gets the most minor of design touches, including a slightly reworked bumper, a skid plate and LED graphics in the taillamps. On the whole, the cosmetic changes do differentiate it enough visually (at least from the outside) to look like an all-new car to buyers. The design is evolutionary and builds on what was already a good looking MPV.
What’s different inside the XL6?
There are two changes on the Ertiga's inside – an all-black theme and the addition of the two captain seats in the middle row. All the premium finishes (faux-wood inserts et al) that made their way to the Ertiga continue unabated in the XL6. The touchscreen infotainment system works just as well as in the Ertiga and we found the cabin to be quite comfortable in the scorching heat over the two days of driving in and around Jaipur.
Once on the move, the XL6, not so surprisingly, felt just as good as the Ertiga. The ride is comfortable and gets better as the speeds increase, making it very good for long roadtrips. On the fast highways of Rajasthan, we did encounter the odd pothole at speed, but the XL6 maintained its composure.
The XL6’s handling is predictable and sudden direction changes (ones necessitated by errant pedestrians or cars driving in the wrong direction) were performed without the driver's heat skipping a beat. The cornering grip though is only adequate and the steering is completely lifeless and lacking in feel or enthusiasm. There is ample body roll, but we really can't fault Maruti Suzuki for it, considering this is an MPV engineered for comfort and practicality over anything else.
Under the hood
The solitary 1.5-litre petrol mill that the XL6 is offered with is also carried over from the Ertiga and once again, is nice and tractable. The MPV pulls even from third gear in crawling traffic easily. The 103bhp that it produces, however, won't really excite the driving enthusiast in you. The MPV, as a result, isn't particularly quick. The mild hybrid technology that’s at play, however, saves the day by delivering great fuel efficiency. The XL6's good ride allows you to cruise at high speeds with the added knowledge that broken patches or undulations won't unsettle it.
The two gearbox options aren't very exciting either and have been carried over from the Ertiga. We drove both the 5-speed manual and the 4-speed torque converter and found that the manual was easily the pick if you wanted to get a move on. The well-weighted clutch and the precise gear lever gates make it particularly easy to drive too. The auto 'box is nice in traffic when you're not placing any enthusiastic demands on it and might be the option that most potential buyers consider as the two variants are priced not too far apart. However, the auto box is an old-school unit that gets particularly noisy when you push it and even when we drove with overdrive off (the last gear is an overdrive gear), it didn’t help things. Downshifts are very lazy too and the fuel efficiency is nothing to write home about, managing less than 10kmpl after a day of enthusiastic driving. That said, it is an extremely smooth (albeit slow) unit and there were no jerks of any sort that we could feel
Somehow, not much has been said about the Ertiga's brakes, even though they are certainly among the very best in and around the price range (across segments). The brakes have good bite and enough feedback and, for lack of a better word, a certain European feel that buyers must certainly appreciate. The XL6 too gets them, and during our test period, we found it extremely easy to haul the Ertiga back from triple-digit speeds.
In conclusion, the XL6 is a good MPV and being based on the Ertiga only adds to its appeal. It’s stylish, practical and costs Rs 70,000 more than the equivalent variant of the Ertiga. The only downside is the slow automatic gearbox and the fact that you do not get a diesel variant of the XL6 as Maruti Suzuki don’t have a BS6 diesel engine for this application available right now. That aside, if you were in the market for an MPV and wanted something distinctive, you should certainly head over to the nearest Nexa dealership and check out the XL6.