What is it?
Why will I buy it?
Crossover styling, comfortable and premium cabin
Why will I avoid it?
No diesel option, fuel efficiency
What is it?
As the name suggests, the XL6 is a spacious (XL) and also the first Nexa product with a three-row seating (six-seater arrangement). This is a move by the carmaker to offer buyers a premium alternative to the Ertiga. Yes, it is based on the latter, but gets a crossover styling and is now available in two trims – Zeta and Alpha.
Visually, the XL6’s new colour options like the Nexa blue, brave khaki, magma grey, auburn red, artic white and premium silver distinguish it from the Ertiga. However, it's the revamped fascia sporting a larger grille with chrome detailing, new quad LED headlamps, DRLs, a chunkier bumper and a faux skid-plate that set the XL6 apart. Otherwise, a plastic body cladding, new roof rails, blacked-out 15-inch alloy wheels and mirror caps also try to mask the silhouette of the Ertiga. Still, what add to the appeal of the rear section are the tail lamps with LED light guides and a reworked bumper with cladding and a faux skid-plate.
How is it on the inside?
The interior gets an all-black theme, which is different from the beige seen in the standard Ertiga. Also, wooden trims are replaced by black-grey finish, seats are draped in artificial leather and the second row bench is replaced by two captain seats. Otherwise, the rest of the layout, equipment, fit and finish are the same as the Ertiga. So just like the Ertiga, the front seats are comfortable. The XL6's cabin is ergonomically laid out, provides good visibility with an ideal driving position and is also practical with plenty of storage and stowage options. Moreover, the two second-row captain seats provide good bolstering, adequate thigh and back support, with the option of reclining and arm rests. The latter though, move in tandem with the back support, which feels a bit weird. Third row space is same as the Ertiga – just about okay for average heighted individuals. In fact, now there’s a passage between second row seats for easier ingress. Nonetheless, the captain seats recline and move ahead at the press of a lever.
In terms of equipment, both Zeta and Alpha variants get Maruti’s new SmartPlay Studio infotainment unit. This comprises of a seven-inch touchscreen display which is easy to use and comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. The other notable features include automatic climate control, rear air-con vents, keyless entry with push-button start/stop, cruise control and height adjust for the driver’s seat. The top-of-the-line Alpha trim additionally packs automatic headlamps and a rear parking camera. Meanwhile, dual front airbags, ABS with EBD, rear parking sensors, a speed warning system and driver and co-driver seat-belt reminders are standard safety equipment. Notably, only the automatic version gets ESP and hill-hold control.
How does it drive?
The new XL6 comes powered by the 1.5-litre naturally-aspirated petrol mill that was employed in the Ertiga and recently even in the Ciaz sedan. It comes paired either to a five-speed manual gearbox or a four-speed torque converter automatic. This engine is now BSVI-compliant and churns out 103bhp of power and 138Nm of torque. It also features Maruti’s SHVS mild-hybrid technology with an additional lithium-ion battery to aid fuel efficiency. This smooth and refined engine is quiet at the start and even while idling. With sharp throttle responses, it even feels quite capable to drive within the city speeds. However, it does take a little time to gain momentum below 2,000rpm. One will have to shift to lower gears and build revs to get going due to the lack of torque. Post 3,500rpm, the engine gets pretty audible and sounds strained even if though can rev up to the red-line. Thankfully, the gears slot nicely with a short throw, shifts are precise and the clutch is very light, which owners will certainly appreciate.
Still, owners of the petrol AT version will be even more grateful as the two-pedal set-up takes away the woes of using the clutch. Though this four-speed torque converter is an old technology, it serves its purpose well. It's smooth in its operation and is designed to keep itself in the highest gear to reduce the fuel consumption. It feels best while cruising as the first three are driving gears while the fourth is an overdrive gear. When in a hurry, the driver can use the overdrive off button to keep the car in the first three gears only and eventually the engine on boil. And, even if it doesn't have a manual shifting option, there's an 'L' low mode which will let the gearbox be in the lowest possible gear, helpful while climbing up slopes. That said, be it the automatic or manual, a car loaded with five or more occupants will take its own sweet time initially. Otherwise, it's pretty capable of cruising at 100kmph at around 2,500rpm.
What is even more impressive are how light the controls are despite this being a big six-seater vehicle. The steering isn't particularly the one that will keep the driver engaged. Still, it's quite predictable and inspires enough confidence while going around corners and even weighs up adequately at higher speeds. The XL6 is tall and so there is some body roll. Yet, the suspension is well-damped to settle over undulated surfaces. Even if one can feel and hear the suspension work, it takes on bad roads with aplomb and with very little vertical movements of passengers. Overall it provides a composed ride and makes for a good handler, especially given that it’s an MPV.
Should I buy one?
All thanks to the SUVish looks and premium treatment on offer, the XL6 is positioned above the Ertiga and priced significantly higher too. It would have looked distinctive with a bigger set or new pattern of alloy wheels. It also could have done with better quality plastic elements and control knobs than the Ertiga. Yet, none of these negatives are a deal-breaker. In fact, now consumers who want the looks of an SUV and practicality of an MPV have an option to choose from Maruti’s stable. The brand's hassle-free and wide service network, and the cars’ low maintenance and good resale value are added bonuses. Yet, the absence of a diesel model will still pinch some buyers who would have loved for the package but with an oil-burner.
Where does it fit in?
This new people's mover, priced between Rs 9.79 lakhs and Rs 11.46 lakhs, will go up primarily against the Honda BR-V in the Indian market.
Pictures by Kapil Angane