Plush MPVs with captain seats in the second row are nothing new. Models like the Innova and Lodgy have such variants and even the rugged Xylo featured the same. Ever since its launch in 2012, Maruti has only offered the Ertiga with a rear bench seat. But with the company making the MPV bigger and moving it more upmarket, a six-seater Ertiga would do nicely.
Enter the XL6, Maruti’s answer to those seeking a plusher people mover. Rather than simply plonking in the captain seats, Maruti has given the MPV a facelift, a new name and are also selling it through the Nexa channel only. This is because, beyond a six-seat Ertigra, Maruti is also hoping to fulfil two more requirements.
The first is an answer to the Creta. Yes there is the S-Cross, but with its crossover looks, it has been a slow seller, and while its recent facelift has helped matters, sales are still nowhere near Creta levels. Hence, the significant rework of the Ertiga’s styling with loads of ‘SUV’ details like an upright front end with a larger grille, a chunkier front bumper and a faux skid-plate, massive plastic side-body cladding and a reworked rear bumper (also with a faux skid-plate) to an extent makes it look more upright, macho and SUV-ish. I say ‘to an extent’ because I think the look would be more convincing with some larger wheels. In any case, it’s a decent shot at giving the MPV some macho street cred – and while it isn’t the perfect answer to the Creta it will go some way in swaying a few buyers keen on more seats but not looking for a ‘family-type’ car.
The next requirement that the XL6 needs to fulfil is that of pipeline management. With 364 outlets in operation, Maruti’s Nexa retail network is larger in number than many other manufacturers’ regular channel. It isn’t simply a subsection or an extension of the regular showrooms, rather it operates as an independent entity with a physically separate brick-and-motor showroom, its own sales people and of course its own models to retail.
This means the company has to feed both its channels with new models at regular intervals. With the last new model being the Ignis, launched in 2017, and only facelifts of the other cars thereafter, the Nexa channel needed an infusion of some fresh metal. While the XL6 may not be completely new, with a significant facelift and its premium interiors and imagery, it fits quite nicely and will have to do. Plus rather than suffix a name to the Ertiga moniker, Maruti chose wisely to give the car an independent name plate too.
So, with the XL6, Maruti is effectively trying to get three birds with one stone; a plush, six-seat Ertiga, a Creta rival with three rows of seats and a panacea for the drying pipeline at Nexa. Will it all work? A few months ago I would have put good money on it. With the state of the industry now, perhaps I’ll wager a smaller amount, but bet I will, because at the end of it all, it’s a sharper-looking and plusher Ertiga – and that’s only a good thing.