Maruti Suzuki XL6: First Drive Review
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Buying the Maruti Suzuki Ertiga is a head over heart decision for most private car buyers. Maruti Suzuki is now offering a more premium version of the Ertiga called the XL6. Does it really offer something new over the Ertiga?
The Ertiga received a generation change earlier this year where it got new features, more space and elegant looks. While the update improved upon the Ertiga's core values, for most, buying one is still a decision driven more by need than want. Maruti plans to change this with yet another update. One that makes it more premium. Not only in the looks department, but also in terms of features and the overall experience. It's even being sold via the company’s premium Nexa chain of showrooms. So what makes the XL6, which costs Rs 70,000 more than the Ertiga, a worthy alternative over its donor car? And more importantly, can it justify the higher price?
First impressions of the XL6 are impressive. Even from a distance, it looks imposing with the new front grille and the large headlamps. Look closer and all the details look more premium. The headlamps are quad chamber LED units with integrated LED DRLs in line with the chrome slat grille. Maruti has given it a chunky cladding around the LED fog lamps as well as a silver skid plate to make it look more like an SUV. If Maruti would have dialed in more ground clearance than the standard 180mm, this probably would have worked. Still from the front, the new elements offer better road presence and help the XL6 have a more distinct personality than the Ertiga.
From the side, the Ertiga reappears. The 185/65 R15 wheels are the same size as the Ertiga’s, but feel a size smaller when surrounded by the black cladding. They have the same design as well, but are painted black. The rest of the blacked out elements like the ORVM, B- and C-pillar and the cladding gel together rather well and help the XL6 look more upmarket. The roof rails pick up the tempo and add height to the design. While the wheelbase is the same, these exterior changes have made the XL6 50mm longer, 40mm wider and 10mm taller than the Ertiga.
At the rear, the taillamps with the LED light guides have been lifted from the Ertiga. But, in keeping with the XL6’s black theme, the area between the glass and the number plate has been covered by a black plastic. The bumper is also new and more muscular, and gets a silver skid plate for added toughness. Overall, the XL6 does look like a major update to the Ertiga and the cosmetic changes make it look more appealing. The added ruggedness with the bumpers and skid plates will also be appreciated by buyers who have their hearts stuck on SUVs.
Maruti has refreshed the interiors as well. Here though, just the colours and trims have been altered for a more upmarket feel. You now get an all-black theme with leatherette upholstery and most importantly, the captain seats. Let's start from the second row then.
The XL6 is only available with captain seats in the second row. There is no option to even opt for a bench seat. The advantage that the captain seats offer is that they offer better privacy and comfort for two occupants. The seats here are wide enough to accommodate larger frames. But the seat back isn't well contoured and hence doesn't feel as comfortable as the Mahindra Marazzo’s captain seats. Taller passengers might find the under-thigh support to be a bit lacking. However, they are more comfortable than the Lodgy and on par with the Innova Crysta.
You can also slide the middle row to adjust legroom. The good thing is that even with it slid half way ahead in the interest of the third row occupants, there is acceptable legroom on offer. Especially because you can tuck your feet under the front seats. The long seat base, armrests and reclinable backrest will keep you comfortable over longer journeys. Leatherette has also been used on the door pads, which helps make the cabin feel more premium.
In terms of features, you get roof-mounted AC vents with blower controls, a 12V socket and bottle holder in the doors. But given the XL6’s premium positioning, we can't help but expect more pampering in the form of cup holders, a USB socket, one-touch controls for the windows and folding sunblinds.
The XL6 does justice to the ‘6’ in its name. Ingress isn't the best as the captain seats do not tumble forward and only recline and slide. But you can easily walk into the third row from between the second row as well. With the second row slid halfway forward, the third row can accommodate adults of my size. I am 5 foot 7 and had enough space to get comfortable. Plus, the side glass is large and you also get side armrests, cup holders, and a 12V socket for the left passenger. The seats recline for you to be more comfortable and even get three-point seatbelts and adjustable headrests. You sit a little knees-up, but you will be comfortable enough for in-city journies. Also, with the second row getting captain seats now, the two rear occupants can each stretch a leg to become more comfortable.
The all-black theme for the cabin looks better than the dual-tone beige theme on the Ertiga. The stone finish on the dashboard with the silver accents all around makes the cabin a more upmarket place to be in. The steering too is wrapped in black leather and the connected vents inspired from Audi’s has continued here as well. Overall, these interiors surely lift the ambience of the cabin. But with the large glass area and black leather interiors, spending time in the cabin during the summer might not be all that pleasant.
The cabin is as practical as ever. You get storage spaces in front of the cup holders, the holders too have tiny AC vents to keep the drinks cool and there are large door pockets for bottles and other stuff that you might have. The sliding front armrest too hides a tiny little space for storage.
In terms of features, you now get the Suzuki SmartPlay Studio infotainment system which is pretty nifty and simple to use. It supports both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and remains lag free for most of the part. Over the Ertiga, you also get cruise control, and automatic headlamps with follow-me-home function. The ORVMs open and fold automatically with the ignition and door lock, which is a pretty neat feature to have. Other features include automatic climate control, steering-mounted controls and a large full-colour multi info display (MID) with rich graphics. A good thing here is that apart from the reversing camera, automatic headlamps, auto folding ORVMs and leather upholstery, all other features are standard across both variants.
But given the extra cost and the ‘premium’ positioning, features like automatic day/night IRVM, rain-sensing wipers, one touch windows for all passengers with backlit switches as well as side and curtain airbags should have been part of the parcel. Overall, the XL6 gets all the important features, the new trim and upholstery makes it look more upmarket and the captain seats bump up the premium quotient.
Like the Ertiga, the XL6 also offers 209-litres of boot space. This space is enough for a small suitcase along with a couple of laptop bags. There is a clever storage space below the floor as well which can easily hold some more small bags. The seats split 50:50 and fold flat, opening an impressive 550-litres.
But unlike the Ertiga, the captain seats here don't fold flat, rather just recline. This will only become a bother if you are transporting unusually large objects like a fridge or a washing machine. Also, a boot light is severely missed after sunset or in a dark basement.
As standard, you get dual airbags, ABS with EBD, ISOFIX child seat mounts for the second row and reverse parking sensors. The automatic variants also get hill-hold function and electronic stability program.
Engine and performance
If you like laid-back driving, you will enjoy the XL6 both inside the city and more so on the highway. It is only available with the 1.5-litre Smart Hybrid petrol engine from the Ertiga. It is now BS6 compliant and makes 105PS at 6000rpm and 138Nm at 4400rpm. This engine can be had with a 5-speed manual or an optional 4-speed AT. We first got an opportunity to test the manual version.
The engine impresses with its refinement. For the XL6, the firewall insulation has been improved and you barely hear the engine inside the cabin. It remains vibration-free for the most part as well. What it also loves to do is cruise on the highways. Get it up to 80kmph and leave it in 5th gear, and the engine will just munch miles for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The motor remains relaxed at low triple digit speeds too. Push it past 4000rpm, however, and it makes quite a racket.
What the engine doesn't like doing is making quick speed changes. The in-gear acceleration in higher gears isn't one of the XL6’s strong points. So prepare to downshift to get a quick move on.
Inside the city as well, the engine proves very tractable. You can pick up from 40kmph in the 5th gear without a fuss. But again, progress here is at a mild pace. You will have to downshift to get a quick move on and make any fast paced progress. The gear changes, in typical Maruti fashion, are slick and have short throws.
Claimed efficiency stands at 19.01kmpl for the manual, and 17.99kmpl for the automatic. However, when we tested the same engine in the Ertiga with the manual transmission, it returned 13.4kmpl inside the city and 16.kmpl on the highway.
If you don't want to bother with changing gears at all, you have the option of opting for a 4-speed torque converter. It likes to hold revs higher up in order to keep you going smoothly, which will take a toll on your fuel efficiency. Drive with a light foot and the gear changes are smoot and jerk free, though a tad slow. It is only when you decide to suddenly overtake a car or go faster that the shifts feel a bit jerky. With the automatic transmission, the XL6 continues to be a relaxed cruiser - whether in the city or on the highway.
Ride and handling
At 1180kg (1190kg for AT), the XL6 is 45kg heavier than the Ertiga. But this makes little difference in the way it rides. The front suspension has been re-tuned to accommodate the new weight and the XL6 masks its weight rather well. The suspension is soft, which keeps the MPV comfortable over broken patches of road and speed breakers. But as the speeds increase or there is a sharp level change, passengers in the second and third-row do get thrown upwards. Luckily, it's quick to settle back after an undulation and there is no harsh jerk felt inside the cabin.
The suspension does its thing rather silently and while the ride does get a bit bouncy for third-row passengers, it remains flat and comfortable for occupants in the second row. Even the cabin insulation has been worked upon and it remains surprisingly silent inside. You can easily hold conversations without any interference from tyre or road noise.
The steering offers decent feedback and lets you place the car easily on the road. It does feel a bit heavy in the city but not enough to be a bother. The body roll is kept well under control as well. It is only under spritted driving that the occupants start to get tossed around. The only area where it could have done better was the bite from the brakes. The pedal doesn't offer much feedback and under heavy braking, it lacks bite. This is when the XL6 nose dives, which isn't very confidence-inspiring. More on this when we get the car for a thorough road test.
So is the XL6 more premium than the Ertiga? Yes, it is. The revised looks, updated black leather-wrapped cabin and the captain seats enhance the cabin experience by a big margin. Plus, as an advantage, you also get to pick a fully loaded automatic variant, though only with a petrol heart.
But is the extra cost justified? Well, not entirely. For the extra Rs 70,000, you get automatic LED headlamps, cruise control, captain seats, blacked out elements and auto folding wing mirrors. But with prices starting at Rs 9.80 lakh for the Zeta MT and going all the way upto Rs 11.46 lakh (both, ex-showroom India) for the Alpha AT, we can't help but miss essentials like side and curtain airbags, or even small experience enhancers like an auto dimming IRVM, rain-sensing wipers, rear window blinds or one-touch window operation for all windows.
If you are looking for a family car with a touch of premiumness, and you don't mind paying more for the feel good factor - we'd recommend the XL6 over the good-old Ertiga.