2021 was a relatively quiet year for Maruti Suzuki, but the company is all set to make 2022 count. The new Baleno and Ertiga are already on sale, and joining the ranks is the new Maruti Suzuki XL6. It’s not all new, but it would be unfair to call it just a facelift. In fact, the face has not changed so much, but there are more significant changes under the skin.

You will need a keen eye to notice the changes made to the exterior. There is a new grille and a bold chrome bar connecting the LED DRLs and the headlamps. The XL6’s profile looks better and proportionate, thanks to the bigger 16-inch wheels that fill the wheel arches nicely. The tail-lights retain their shape but now get a smoked look, giving it a nice and fresh appearance. There are new alloys and colours too, with two-tone options. All-in-all, the Maruti Suzuki XL6 is closer to looking more SUV-ish, and that’s not a bad thing as that’s what everyone seems to want. On the inside, the changes are more visible, even though the dashboard layout is the same. The all-black interiors with a new faux wood panel design gives the dash a more premium look, especially if you compare it to the Ertiga. The steering wheel design, instrument cluster, and switches are the same, but do not look out of place. The 7-inch touchscreen has been updated as well, and now comes with Maruti Suzuki’s SmartPlay Pro UI. The touchscreen is easy to use, and the UI has been improved, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard, but not wireless.

With this upgrade, the XL6 has fully on-boarded the connected car tech, and it gets Suzuki Connect App support, along with Alexa integration. There are 40 new functions one can control from the app, including locking/unlocking the car, switching on the headlamps, switching on the aircon (only on the AT variant), and much more. For a modern and connected car, the lack of USB ports is a little surprising, though. The most important new features, for me, are the ventilated seats up front and a 360-degree camera. The top-spec Alpha+ variant gets perforated leatherette cooled seats, which are a boon for our climate, and Maruti has been quite clever in making the cooling extremely effective. The system pulls in the ambient air, instead of blowing air through the backrest, and the result is much better cooling. These are the best ventilated seats on a car, unless you are spending five times more than what the XL6 costs.

Space has always been one of the strongest suits of the XL6, and continues to be on this model too. The captain seats in the second row are comfortable, with adequate cushioning and flexibility. Getting in and out is easy, even for the third row passengers, and there isn’t much to complain about. The last row is obviously not as spacious as the second row, but tall adults will be able to manage shorter journeys. The roof-mounted aircon works well, but the last row does not get vents, which seems to be a miss.

Just like technology, safety is another area where the Maruti Suzuki XL6 has been given a big update. Four airbags are standard across variants, along with safety features like ABS with EBD, hill-hold assist, and ESP. Six airbags would have been preferred, but Maruti says the side impact protection is sufficient for now; or until six airbags become mandatory on all cars, I guess. The new XL6 comes with a new 1.5-litre petrol engine, which makes 101hp and 136Nm, figures that are marginally lower than the previous model, but it’s not something that is evident if you were to drive both cars back to back.

The smart-hybrid system is standard, and Maruti claims an improved fuel efficiency of 20.97kpl. The engine performs as expected, as long as you don’t expect it to win drag races or traffic light GPs. With the manual gearbox, you can potter at a speed of 40kph in the fifth gear, which is impressive. However, my preference would be the new 6-speed AT gearbox, which comes with paddle shifters. The shifts are smooth, not lightning quick but not slow. I liked driving it in the manual mode, using the paddles, and it was more fun to drive than I expected. The engine groans a little, actually a lot, but it doesn’t give up.

Maruti has improved the XL6 overall, and even though all the changes are not immediately visible, they can definitely be experienced — whether it’s the new engine, the new gearbox, or the host of new features. All this comes at a cost, obviously. The Maruti Suzuki XL6 is priced higher than its predecessor, and costs between Rs 11.29 lakh and Rs 14.55 lakh. The car looks better, drives better, and feels better, but can we say it’s better than the Kia Carens? It would be unfair to answer this question without a real-world comparison, but I think the new XL6 takes the fight a lot closer.