SUVs and MUVs are the talks of the town when it comes to four-wheelers in India. Unlike SUVs that see most of their competition across all price ranges, MUVs see some of their fiercest competition in the sub 20 lakh price range. A field where the XL6 has been around but had to face tough competition from its own sibling, the Ertiga and the newly launched Kia Carens. If that wasn’t bad enough already, it has to also hold its own against the MVP of MPVs, the Toyota Innova Crysta.

With its newest update, Maruti has armed the XL6 with the tools it would need to penetrate the hearts and minds of Indian families. Can it and will it succeed at this and create a stronger foothold for itself? Well, let’s find out.

Design

The XL6 follows Maruti’s new Crafted Futurism design language. Well, if you ask me, it looks very similar to the model it replaces, and it would take a trained eye to be able to spot the difference on the go.

However, there have been a few additions to jazz up the overall design, the most obvious ones being the new dual-tone alloy wheel design that is also an inch larger than before and now sits at 16-inches. The new smoked taillamp is another big giveaway and makes the XL6 instantly recognisable as the new one. I especially love how it looks, and the tail lamp design can remind you of old Volvo SUVs with its similarity. It features a front grill with an “X-bar” design and a new design for the headlamp. Maruti likes to call it the “Quad chamber LED reflector”, but all that marketing talk aside, it’s essentially a full LED headlamp minus the indicators.

It’s something I’ve complained about previously, too, and I wish Maruti would go full LED, mainly since even the fog lamps on the XL6 are LED. Move over to the side, and you’ll notice a new gloss black design on the B & C pillar of the car, along with a chrome garnished theme running along the side and on the rear bumper.

Move over to the rear, and you’ll see a shark fin antenna that cleans up the design and a new rear spoiler that’s there purely for styling and won’t be doing you any favours in terms of aerodynamics.

Interior and features

Step into the cabin of the XL6, and you’ll notice space exists in spades here. The dashboard layout is quite neat and avoids clutter, while a new wood trim adds some flavour to the inside of the cabin.

I would have preferred more soft-touch materials on the dash and inside the cabin, as most of what you touch seems to be covered in hard plastics that don’t feel as welcoming. The key highlight for this interior is a new 360-degree that made its debut in the new Baleno and works really well here too.

It justifies its existence in such a large car and makes manoeuvring this car relatively hassle-free. Another essential addition is the new ventilated front seats should do a fantastic job at helping beat our Indian summers. However, given the rear captain seats, I would have wanted Maruti to include this feature in the second row, which would have been quite a boon, especially for families or chauffeur-driven customers.

A new 7-inch touchscreen takes centre stage on the console and is relatively easy to use and responsive to your touch; I would have imagined Maruti would have featured the heads up display from the Baleno too. Still, I suppose it’s something we can look forward to in future updates. Overall visibility is excellent out of the driver’s seat. Despite its size, the XL6 wraps itself around you and its large windows aid visibility and make the cabin feel quite roomy. Step into the second row, and you’ll see ample space.

Couple that with the adjustable captain seats that make finding more room or a comfortable position a lot easier, infact you could pretty much take a nap in the second row, which I was very tempted to do. Still, I had a job to do, so I didn’t let the XL6 relax me too much. The large windows feel great and won’t ever let you feel claustrophobic. A pair of drop-down sunshades would have been great, given how much light and heat these large windows can also let into the cabin. Nevertheless, the roof-mounted rear AC vents do an excellent job of keeping the cabin cool, though combined with the ventilated seats, they can get a little noisy.

Moving into the third row isn’t too hard, and once you’re there, you’ll notice it’s surprisingly roomy and comfortable. Even someone of my height found it spacious enough, and I can totally imagine being back here. There is no under-thigh support, and you’ll be sitting with your legs up for the most part, so I’d reckon it’s best suited for shorter individuals and children, though it’s capable of accomodating a fully grown adult too. A gripe I have with the cabin is the lack of Type-C charging sockets. You’re given only one USB charging socket in the front and a 12V socket in each row, which isn’t the most accessible option. I think most passengers would prefer additional USB and Type-C ports, given how people-oriented this vehicle is.

How Does it Drive?

With that, we hopped back into the driver’s seat. We fired up this new yet familiar 1.5-litre K-Series motor that also features a smart hybrid system for a better response mated to a new 6-speed automatic gearbox with paddle shifters.

Initial impressions were positive as this motor is pretty silent and feels relatively refined. We decided to drive the manual first and save the auto for later to have a better idea of just how good or bad this new engine and gearbox combination really is. Get moving, and the smoothness of this motor makes itself more prominent.

This motor produces about 102 bhp of power and 136 Nm of torque. It may not sound like a lot on paper, and it doesn’t feel like a lot out on the road, too, given the XL6’s dimensions. The trade-off for having this rather sluggish motor is the high fuel efficiency that Maruti promises, and it’s a trade-off I feel most buyers would happily make, given our current fuel rates.

Our driving was mostly limited to tight alleys and two-lane highways, where we managed to see figures of 12 kmpl, and I’m sure that this motor can do even better over longer distances and at more consistent speeds.

This manual gearbox felt smooth and easy to drive, especially with the light clutch on offer, but what does let you down is the engine that ends up feeling quite dull when you need it the most. You’ll find yourself driving in a lower gear than you’d usually prefer to get the most out of this motor. Quick overtakes don’t feel nearly as quick as you’d want them to, and given that most of the power sits at the redline, this motor forces you to drive as you watch the needle bounce off the redline.

As free-revving as this motor is, it probably won’t be to every enthusiast’s taste, and I wish the “smart hybrid” was a more active part of this drivetrain. The ride and handling on the XL6 are pretty decent, actually. Though the suspension may feel relatively stiff to some, it adds excellent composure to this cabin. Its stiffness is usually cancelled out by the soft seats that do a fantastic job cushioning you in comfort.

The brakes perform pretty well and don’t feel like they’re lacking and inspire confidence each time you step on the pedal. Moving onto the automatic gearbox that feels a lot more responsive from the getgo makes driving this car a lot more convenient and fan. The gearbox responds with haste to most of your inputs and doesn’t leave you hanging if you demand a quick downshift for an overtake. After driving it for about 5 kilometres, I already knew it would be my pick of the two and opting for it also allows you to use the smart app to start the car in advance and pre-cool the cabin in case you’ve left your car out in the sun.

Verdict

Maruti has undoubtedly made some improvements with the XL6, and the newly added features definitely sweeten the deal; however, I don’t think any of them are game-changers. The competition has come a long way, and the XL6 has to work hard to justify why anyone would pick it over its sibling, the Ertiga.

Sure, if you’re a family person and you’d like a comfortable six-seater car, then I’d say this car makes a pretty good case for itself. Still, if you’re a buyer merely looking for space and are not as family-oriented, I recommend checking out some of its alternatives. I found that the overall performance and build quality can use some improvements. The only strong impression the XL6 left on me was how practical and comfortable it was, and if you’re looking for a car along those lines, you won’t be disappointed with your purchase.