The family vehicle, business solution, call it what you may, but the Toyota Innova is deeply entrenched, not just in the market but in the Indian psyche as well. As we’ve realised in its over seven-year existence, it’s also been our solution for many Which Car? questions that feature at the bottom of this page. Confused? Can’t make up your mind? Want something larger than a hatchback? A budget of Rs 9-12 lakh? Don’t like any of the sedans? Heck, there’s a T-badge solution in store for you.
Of course, none of the attention the Innova has managed to grab in all these years has gone unnoticed. Over three years ago, Mahindra jumped into the fray with the Xylo. By itself, the Xylo has been a success story, but placed next to the might of the Innova, it pales somewhat. So just as everyone thought that the Innova was looking tired and ‘too-long-in-the-tooth’, came yet another refresh job. Mahindra, for all its worth, brought out their pencils and paint brushes to give the Xylo some much needed touches. But can it keep the Innova in check? Let us find out.
Neither car would qualify for a ‘hottest design of the decade’ award, but come to think of it, function and not form has been the priority of most MPVs globally. The Xylo refresh is in fact the original sketch that was presented to the top brass at Mahindra, before someone raised a voice of concern, made a bit of a hue and cry and the Scorpio-like grille found its way on the nose. But trust someone at Mahindra to keep the original designs neatly stacked away for a later date refresh and indeed, the Xylo looks much better now. Okay, so the use of blacked-out pillars does reduce the bulk, but then again the headlamps don’t look origami any more, nor do the tail lamps. The Innova, on the other hand, has retained the new family look, but crikey, they’ve lost the plot with the headlamps, making it more Renault Espace than ever before.
The Xylo might be better off in keeping your limbs intact for longer. The three rows have always had ample space to begin with, and that hasn’t changed a wee bit with the new one. Our test car, the Xylo E9, came with leather trim for the seats and a beige dashboard, which does help in making the Xylo feel more airy. Since the E9 is a new trim, you also get some features which weren’t available earlier — cruise control, Bluetooth and a voice-activation system that controls headlamps, door locks, wipers et al. Overall fit and finish is better than before, though there’s still some way to go before it can truly rival the Innova.
That is indeed one of the Innova’s biggest strengths. It still feels like it’s built from a slab of granite, the doors close with a nice thunk and the controls are well-finished. With the facelift, Toyota has also added some key features, like audio controls on the steering wheel and a touch-screen interface (that works quite nicely) for the audio unit that also packs a rear-view camera on the top-end VX version, though the lack of parking sensors is a bit baffling.
POWER? OR MORE POWER?
No one ever complained about the power, or lack of it, on the Xylo, at least with the mEagle motor. But, Mahindra hasn’t been resting on its laurels, so it decided to add a third motor, the venerable 2.2-litre mHawk, taking their repertoire of engine options for the Xylo to three. Producing 122 bhp and over 28 kg of torque, it’s a good 8 bhp and 4 kg up on the mEagle. Other changes include a new 5-speed gearbox from Ricardo that uses detent-pin technology to improve gearshifts. The use of the lighter mHawk has also resulted in a drop in the kerb weight to 1800 kg, from the earlier 1830 kg.
All of this results in better performance. The dash to 60 kph is now possible in under 6 seconds, while the one to 100 kph is a good 2.5 seconds quicker, taking just 13.9 seconds in the process. A top speed of 161 kph isn’t bad either, though it’s some way short of the 165 kmph that the mEagle powered E8 can notch up. The upside with the mHawk is its refinement, flat torque curve and build up of speed, the downside being that the clutch tends to judder a bit and the gearshifts, though smooth, lack deftness.
No such thing with the Innova. The 2.5-litre D-4D received an intercooler when the shift to BS-IV norms occurred. That didn’t result in a horsepower or torque increase (102 bhp and 20.4 kg of peak torque), though strangely it has led to a better breathing engine and a quicker getaway to 100 kmph, down from 20.1 seconds to 18.2 seconds. A top speed of 152 kmph is decent, but it does take quite an age to get there. What makes the Innova feel well-engineered is its gearshifts (deft!), clutch action and the driveability, despite the lack of torque. We wish the engine was a little less noisy and the motor had a bit more oomph, but it seems it’s a recipe that does work.
Fuel economy continues to be the Xylo’s strength. It returned a healthy 13.5 kmpl overall to the Innova’s 12.2 kmpl.
The Xylo has better ride quality and is more comfortable — simple. It tends to pummel obtrusions with its 215 section tyres with ease, the Innova continuing to be a bit stiff, though not uncomfortable on the whole.
But it’s the Innova that continues to handle better. Despite changing the front anti-roll bar to a thicker variety and reducing body-roll, the Xylo still can’t hold a candle to the Innova in this department. It tends to bob and pitch about and doesn’t settle in, which is a bit of a shame given the performance at hand. The direct steering of the Innova also makes this relatively flat corner carver a joy on back roads or even in the city.
The Innova, despite being the better car to drive and being better engineered, loses out on the price front. At Rs 13.3 lakh, ex-showroom Mumbai for the VX, it’s over Rs 3 lakh more expensive than the Xylo E9. That does change the equation for many who may be looking at buying their car on EMIs. The Xylo is better loaded, has the better motor and is better value, but it still has some way to go till it can beat the Innova in the engineering department. So, if you don’t mind spending the extra dough, the Innova will be your perfect partner for many years to come. But if you are looking for value, the Xylo is it!