The Maruti Suzuki XL6 is a new concept from the market leader. While others have tried to take on the MPV space at two ends - value or sheer size, this is the first compact yet premium offering in the segment. And it targets individual or family buyers who want something within their budget that is functional, plush and also has the tech and connectivity they seek. I have to say that I was relieved that there was no attempt from Maruti - as some manufacturers have done in the past - to try and call this an SUV. Sure the management has used SUV-like appeal or design in their product brief about the XL6, but the tagline very firmly calls it a premium MPV. That's great, because that is what this car is all about. I reckon the name comes from it being extra large and a 6-seater - yup those captain seats are standard! And it also references the XL7 - a name Suzuki used in global markets for the long wheelbase version of the Grand Vitara SUV in the past.
Also Read: Maruti Suzuki XL6 Launched In India
So what was the motivation behind the XL6 in the first place, especially given the Ertiga already exists? For starters this could very well have been the ZXI++ variant of the Ertiga, if you will. But styling wise this car looks very different, and it isn't like the Ertiga. I know I will probably get into trouble for saying this, but think of it as an 'Ertiga Crysta' then! I also say that because that is the car being targeted - especially the Innova Crysta's V variant - though at a much lower price tag.
The XL6's face is completely different, and so is most of the metal. In fact Maruti engineers have shared with me that it's only the side panels and the tailgate of the car that are shared with the Ertiga. The rest of it is all new. The hood has been raised by 95 mm higher, and there is a broader, black and chrome finish grille. The headlamps get quad LED treatment and the now mandatory LED daytime running light or DRL. There is a lot more cladding running through the bumpers and along the sides into the wheel arches. The bumpers themselves are wider and protrude more making the car marginally longer than the Ertiga. Its also 20 kgs heavier owing to the bumpers, new hood and all that cladding. The tailgate is new too as are the vertical-stack LED taillights. Black alloy wheels and black mirror housings are another new design element. The taller roof rails and stance of the car do make it appear to be higher riding than the Ertiga for sure. What is a surprise though given the premium pitch is that neither do you get larger wheels nor higher ground clearance than the Ertiga. The 185/65 R15 tyres are also the same; as is the 180 mm ground clearance. But the LED elements and chrome do make up somewhat.
On the inside the XL6 has an all-black treatment in contrast to the Ertiga's beige two tone. The dash gets what Maruti is calling stone-finish garnish unlike the faux wood on the Ertiga. But otherwise it's the same touchscreen, instrument cluster with TFT info screen and climate control system. The front central cupholders have an air vent each for air-cooling your drinks! Maruti says the seats are more bolstered and of course the top Alpha trim gets them and the steering finished in black leatherette.
A reverse camera and auto headlights are also only on the Alpha trim. 3-row seating has no bench option for row two like in the Ertiga. But you do get the same roof-mounted AC unit for the rear passengers. A USB port (or two) rather than a power socket, would have better served passengers in row two. With captain seats at the back, more owners may prefer to let their chauffeur drive, ergo the need for USB - for charging and connecting to the infotainment system. The drop-down armrest for the second row is good to have, but is only comfortable at certain angles of the backrest and isn't independently adjustable for position.
What would have been even more important is an optional if not standard 6-airbag safety configuration. Currently the car gets front dual airbags and ABS, but with the focus on rear passengers, Maruti may consider adding this option soon. Plastic quality all round should have been better also given the emphasis the company is putting in trying to pitch the XL6 as superior to the Ertiga. The car has the touchscreen as standard though and so you get Maruti's new Smartplay Studio with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, besides a decent sound system too. Like in the other cars that have it, the screen also has vehicle info and alerts.
I began my drive with the manual car, and made it a point to get into row two and row three, while Seshan drove the car before me. Ride quality is something that has impressed me even on the Ertiga, and since the XL6 is mechanically identical, it's the case here too. There has been a little tweaking of the suspension for weight distribution reasons, but it's mostly the same suspension and chassis setup as the Ertiga. And the good news is that it is comfortable in both the 2nd and 3rd row. Now while Maruti says it has added extra bolstering to the seats, I found them rather flat and lacking adequate contouring. The seats could have been a little plump, so as to give you an ensconced feeling, and better under-thigh support. The flat floor is good though and helps with the sense of space. Headroom and legroom in particular feel at par with the Innova, though shoulder room and bootspace are not quite there. And by that I especially mean the lack of luggage room with the 3rd row is in use. Air conditioning is very efficient and effective, with the roof-mounted vents, servicing both the rear rows of seats.
The Maruti Suzuki XL6 also gets cruise control on both the automatic and the manual variants. It is great that the auto is available on both trims Zeta and Alpha. The engine is also common - not just across variants but also with the Ertiga. The 103 bhp K15B petrol also gets the smart mild hybrid system as standard. The start-stop of the engine is very silent and imperceptible for the most part - which adds to the refined feel on the motor. The engine is BS6 compliant already and no - there will be no diesel XL6 before you ask! If you are looking for a really fun, sporty, engaging car at this price point the XL6 is not for you! To be fair it is also not trying to be that car. The whole focus is on comfort and convenience and is you want sporty you're better off getting an SUV or better yet, a sedan.
The XL6's engine is fairly ample in its specs, but that doesn't really translate on the road. It does the job, but it is no fire starter. It is well mated to the manual gearbox and very forgiving because the gear issues have been worked out in a way you don't have to downshift too much. You can carry on in the higher gears, and in city traffic you will really appreciate that. One of the reasons the engine feels less punchy is also due to some recalibrations that have been made for the transition to BS6. But yes the XL6 could have benefitted from different engine tuning to the Ertiga to give it a slightly higher output and more torque. A bit of a miss I reckon from Maruti - even if it meant compromising on the fuel efficiency figures somewhat. Strangely the mileage figures are the same as the Ertiga's, despite the car being very slightly heavier and longer. They stand at 19.01 kmpl for the manual and 17.99 kmpl for the AT.
Speaking of which, Seshan and I then switched to the automatic variant - that is also available in both trim levels (Zeta and Alpha). Overall the car's performance will feel similar except that the automatic is even less responsive than the manual. However the reasons people will opt for the automatic in the first place - convenience and comfort, ease of driving in city traffic, will negate any performance issues for the most part. The car also benefits from a relatively quiet cabin due to added work on sound insulation. I have to say this does convey a refinement and plushness to the experience.
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The XL6 is a welcome addition to the Maruti Suzuki family. Could it have been better? Yes. But it is still a car I see plenty of families and individuals adopting. The pricing is fairly attractive sitting just a bit higher than the Ertiga's but with a good chunk of equipment as standard. The Zeta manual is priced at ₹ 9.79 lakh, while the AT is at ₹ 10.89 lakh. The Alpha manual is at ₹ 10.36 lakh while the AT sets you back ₹ 11.46 lakh. All prices are ex-showroom. It may not be as big as the Innova, and perhaps remains a tad lower on premiumness. But its ride quality and feature list, plus its styling and pricing will get people in to check out Nexa's first 3-row car.
Photos: Pawan Dagia