Buying an MPV is all about comfort, convenience and ease of use. Thus, an automatic variant fits nicely into the list of demands of an MPV buyer. The trouble is, there are not too many options around. The Toyota Innova Crysta petrol automatic has a voracious appetite for fuel and is not exactly wallet friendly.
Perhaps the only option, since the Mahindra Marazzo is not yet automatic, is the car that you see here. The Maruti XL6 is an MPV with a rugged twist, but also gets a petrol automatic option. We drove both the manual and automatic to decide which is better.
The XL6 is petrol only and gets a 1.5l engine that makes 105 bhp and 138 Nm. The manual is has 5-speed and the automatic has a 4-speed torque converter.
The engine itself (seen on the new Ciaz and Ertiga), is a delight and shows why Maruti is the leader for small capacity petrol engines. It is smooth and quite responsive, with an added boost from the battery, it picks speed from an incline well.
There is a flatness mid-way due to a slight lack of torque, but the low-end performance is good — meaning there is enough punch in the engine for stop-go traffic. I did not downshift that much at low speeds in the city.
The manual is light to use and so is the clutch. For an MPV, the petrol is quite enthusiastic, but groans a bit when hitting the red-line (pushed flat-out). Drive it a notch down and it cruises well. Another advantage is the efficiency of 10-13 kmpl for the manual.
Now for the automatic. It may be a 4-speed, but trust me on the road it feels much smoother than what you might think. I am glad Maruti chose this instead of an AMT as at low speeds, the gearbox responds well and you are given a premium MPV experience with hushed progress.
The engine is refined and it also overtakes quickly enough with a decent response. There are no paddle shifters but you can lock the gears for added punch when you need.
That said, it's best to maintain a decent cruising pace as mashing the throttle makes the engine vocal plus the efficiency also goes for a toss. Speaking of which, moderate driving will give you 8-10 kmpl.
In terms of dynamics, the XL6 is one of the best cars from the Maruti stable. It is stable and light to use also. In the city it feels smaller than what it is and using it poses no issues. The ride is also quite good, with a stable suspension over bad roads (it is not overly soft or firm). Even the steering was confidence-inspiring at triple digit speeds.
There is plenty to like about the XL6 — the convincing new SUV-inspired look and the black interiors, which make it more premium. The price rise is not even that much over an Ertiga and is actually cheaper than its rivals. The manual (Rs 11.6 lakh top-end) is more fun and if you want efficiency/ do highway runs, the manual is just what you need.
The automatic is for the convenience-oriented customer. It is painless to live with in the city and delivers a premium experience, save for less efficiency. I would end up with the automatic (Rs 12.8 lakh top-end) — an automatic after all perfectly teams up with an MPV. As far as petrol MPVs go, this is the best and the only one.