Minivans, People Carriers, MPVs, call them what you will, but they’re certainly having a moment at present. A segment dominated by the Innova has recently seen the introduction of a brand new Ertiga at one end and is likely to see an entirely new entrant at the other. Here’s the full lowdown.
MPV or MUV? I just call them minivans because that’s precisely what they are. Some refer to them as people carriers, because, essentially, that’s what they do – carry people. Sometimes lots of them! And, of course, space wagon is also accurate because they’re spacious – and that’s perhaps why most look like inflated rectangles. If you notice a hint of disapproval in my tone, well, you’re right. I really don’t like the design of an MPV. Well, they can hardly be considered… stylish! That said, there’s no taking away from the fact that these are the most practical, comfortable and usable cars on the planet.
Do you remember the first car your family owned? Well, I admit that I’ve got a terrible memory, but the fact that my very first memory as an infant is driving with my parents around Delhi in our Ford Falcon sedan does, I think, say something about me being a ‘car nut.’ The only thing that I distinctly remember about that car though is that it was bright yellow and had the biggest steering wheel I’ve ever seen. However, we never really drove it much, and my best memories are not about that big yellow steel box but our second car, the Van.
There was a time when we simply referred to the Maruti Suzuki Omni as the Van. I remember it was white, and my dad had its seats customised. We’d go on road trips across the country on a regular basis, and the Van was spacious enough for my entire family – along with our cook, luggage and even our dog.
Now, there’s hardly any doubt that the Omni was the very first multipurpose vehicle in India. Irrespective of how crude and simple the Omni was, it certainly was a very practical and, in those days, comfortable car. Moreover, you could take it almost anywhere. With a tiny three-cylinder 786cc petrol engine, no air conditioning and absolutely no safety features, the Van still had great real-world use.
As the Indian market expanded, the entire landscape changed. With the emergence of new Indian manufacturers and the rapid entry of foreign brands, various car models flooded the market. However, manufacturers knew that in India there’s a space, and a big one, for people carriers. In 1997 Toyota came to India, and in 2000 they launched the Qualis. And while it was quite successful, it wasn’t until 2005, when Toyota launched the Innova, that they completely revolutionised the MUV segment in India.
The Innova was launched 15 years ago, and to this day it remains one of the best-selling cars in India. It’s big, spacious, comfortable, loaded with features and has a powerful 2,755cc diesel engine. The Innova indeed was a game changer, and it continues to be a favourite thanks to its practicality and usability. Despite the fact that Toyota upped the price in 2016 with the introduction of the Crysta, the Innova continues to sell like hotcakes – which is quite something considering the price sensitive nature of the Indian market. Of course, the Innova has developed into a brand in-and-of-itself over the years thanks to Toyota’s quality and reliability. Over the years, the Innova and Fortuner have proven to be literally indestructible.
Maruti Suzuki launched the Ertiga in 2012, which proved to be an effective tool for the manufacturer to undercut its rivals. The Ertiga has been a steady performer for India’s number one car manufacturer, and after six years of delivering volumes Maruti Suzuki decided to retire the first generation Ertiga and replace it with the all-new second-generation model in late 2018. The secret behind the Ertiga’s success has always been its practicality and, more importantly, its value-for-money.
Maruti Suzuki has stuck to the same winning formula with the 2018 avatar by pricing it very aggressively and equipping it with a new, and more powerful, 1,462cc petrol engine, which has been borrowed from the Ciaz. The surprising thing, though, is that despite the fact that the Eritga outprices the Innova by a long way it only just outsells its larger and pricier rival.
Mahindra, known for selling rugged SUVs, also decided to re-enter the MPV segment last year with the brand new Marazzo. They followed the same strategy as Maruti Suzuki and priced the Marazzo quite competitively – filling the void between the Ertiga and the Innova. The Marazzo is based on an all new platform and has a brand-new engine with some great lines from Italian design house Pininfarina (now owned by Mahindra). The Marazzo seems to be doing quite well, but at 3,000 units a month it’s a long way off the likes of the Innova or the Ertiga in terms of sales. But that’s not to take away from the fact that the Marazzo brings a great combination of space, style and value for money to the segment.
But soon there’s likely to be an all-new challenger in the segment. Korean carmaker Kia is all set to take the Indian market by storm with their large, but sleek looking MPV that you see here – the Carnival, which will set a new benchmark in the segment. The Carnival is a high-end minivan that will be more premium and spacious than the Innova.
Of course, being the largest machine here, the Carnival is also the most powerful of the lot. Powered by a 2.2-litre common rail diesel engine producing 197bhp and mated to a six-speed torque converter automatic gearbox, the Carnival packs quite a punch. The drivetrain makes it an absolute breeze to drive around, despite its large dimensions. What I like most about the way it drives is that the power band is linear and the gearbox shifts seamlessly, which allows for a very smooth driving experience. The steering is also very well setup for urban driving. But it’s on the highway that you realise just how well-built this car really is. The engine offers a continuous surge of power, while the ride quality is immaculate. In terms of overall performance, the Carnival is surely in a league of its own.
The Innova is the next in line in terms of power and performance. The automatic variant we had for this feature is powered by a 2.8-litre powerplant mated with a 6-speed torque convertor transmission. And, with 172bhp, the Innova is no slouch, and it’s amazing how a car of this size can pick up speed so easily. Step on the gas, and after it overcomes a little bit of turbo lag, it accelerates quickly. The torque kicks in around the 2,000rpm, and that’s when it gathers its pace eagerly and allows you to leave traffic behind. Highway touring is its forte, but what’s really special about the Innova is that it can take on any kind of terrain without a fuss – it’s body-on-frame platform (the same one that underpins the Fortuner) ensures that it can deal with anything that our roads throw at it.
The Marazzo, meanwhile, comes with an all-new, 1.5-litre diesel motor – one that will also make it to future Mahindra products. It makes 121bhp and 300Nm of torque, which kicks in between 1,300rpm to 1,750rpm – making it very drivable on the road. Out on the highway though, the Marazzo isn’t as eager to pick up the pace. When fully loaded with luggage and passengers, the Marazzo takes its time to get to three-digit speeds. This is especially frustrating during a quick overtake on the highway. The highlight, though, are the levels of refinement. The engine is smooth, the 6-speed manual transmission slots precisely and smoothly – and feels much better than other Mahindra gearboxes – and the clutch pedal is possibly the lightest on any diesel MPV out there, making it very comfortable while covering long distances or even in traffic, and the ride quality is surprisingly good. Like the Innova, it also shares a body-on-frame construction, which means that it will be rugged, but it also means that some of the larger road imperfections are transmitted into the cabin.
The Ertiga is the cheapest car here and, also, the least powerful. That said, the new 103bhp, 1,462cc petrol is not only more powerful than the previous model’s 91bhp, 1,373cc motor but also more fuel efficient. We had the AT version of the car and found that the gearbox was adequate as it made seamless shifts, but with just four speeds it did feel a bit lazy. On the plus side, though, the Ertiga glides through start-stop traffic without any stress. But when you step on the gas on the highway, the Ertiga does struggle to pick up the pace – especially when it’s fully loaded. You have to keep in mind, though, that the Ertiga is an affordable people carrier, and outright performance was never meant to be its strong suit. What really impresses me about the Ertiga, though, is its overall ride quality and – thanks to its monocoque construction – its ability to carpet most road imperfections.
If space is the main criteria here, it’s the Carnival that shines the brightest. It comes with multiple seating arrangements, storage compartments and AC vents everywhere. The boot space can be adjusted depending on your requirement, and even with the third row in use, the boot is still very deep and usable. It’s transverse-mounted engine and monocoque construction not only helps with refinement and ride quality but it also unlocks considerably more space than the Innova. In fact, if and when the Carnival goes on sale in India later this year it’ll offer the most space of any passenger vehicle sold in the country. With all the seats folded down, you could quite possibly turn the Carnival into a small living room. No matter where you’re sitting, you’ll always have ample leg room and head room. The design has been cleverly thought out, and, more importantly, the quality levels are top notch. The dash layout, centre console and instrument panel are the most modern of all. In short, the Carnival gives you a sense of being in a luxury car.
And while the Innova doesn’t have the fresh and modern interior design of the Carnival, its interior is still very comfortable and spacious. There’s plenty of legroom and shoulder room, as the Innova Crysta is now longer, wider and taller than the previous model. Toyota has also improved the seats, which are now more comfortable and provide much better side support. The Captain seats in the second row are very nice and perfect for long drives. Surprisingly, even the third row has lots of space. However, getting in and out is not as easy as in the Carnival. And, with the third row seats up, the boot becomes almost useless. The quality levels are very high though, and the cabin is more comfortable than sedans and SUVs in the same price range – a trait that has held the Innova in very good stead during its match-winning innings in India.
The Mahindra Marazzo doesn’t come close to providing as much space and comfort as the Carnival and the Innova, but it’s still a valiant effort by Mahindra to make a good quality and spacious MPV. In fact, you’ll be surprised with the magnitude of interior space in this car. It’s spacious not just in the first two rows, but also in the third. The design and aesthetics are nice, and the quality is good, but, still, it’s not quite in the same league as the Innova. To ensure adequate cooling for passengers at the back, the Marazzo comes with roof mounted AC vents. In terms of comfort, the seats are well contoured and amply supportive, and, on the whole, the cabin is quite airy and modern.
The Ertiga, being the smallest offering on the list, has the least amount of space, but make no mistake it’s still a very comfortable car. Overall quality levels are good and the Ertiga is still the most spacious machine in its price range. The new Ertiga is now longer, and so with the third row of seats up, the boot still retains a decent amount of space. Another interesting feature of the car is that the second row seats can recline.
MPVs have come a long way since the Maruti Suzuki Omni. Technology and safety have now both become highly valued. And here, once again, it’s the Carnival that takes the lead. It comes with a raft of convenience features, such as a three-zone climate control system with HVAC controls for second row occupants, electric sliding rear doors, sliding second row seats, a conversation mirror for the driver, electrochromic rear-view mirror, auto defogging system, automatic headlamps, split screen infotainment system, electrically adjustable driver’s seat and leather upholstery. International models also get electrically adjustable, ventilated and heated seats.
The Innova is also well kitted out in in terms of technology. It comes with a multi-information display, as well as cruise control and navigation. It also gets a cooled glove box, a state-of-the-art audio system and airbags, ABS, Vehicle Stability Control and Hill Start Assist control.
The Marazzo gets some goodies as well – a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system, with Bluetooth, navigation and Android Auto. It also gets a cooled glovebox and three USB ports. Plus, the Marazzo gets disc brakes on all four wheels, ABS, dual airbags and ISOFIX as standard across all variants. Mahindra has gone a step up with an emergency call function that sends out a message to a selected contact in case of an airbags-deploying crash.
Once again, even though the Ertiga is the least expensive of the lot, it still does a pretty good job at keeping up. The Ertiga comes equipped with air-cooled cupholders – a segment first – which is integrated into the central console. It also comes with automatic climate control and a 4.2-inch multi-information display that shows you fuel economy, power and torque. plus, the Eritga has a 7-inch infotainment system, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and, even, Mirror Link for smartphone connectivity. In terms of safety, it gets dual airbags, ISOFIX, ABS with EBD and brake assist, along with reverse parking sensors across all variants.
Something for everyone
With the arrival of the Carnival, there will now be an MPV for everyone. All these cars are available at different price points. The Ertiga is the most affordable with great value for money. The Marazzo is a bit more stylish and spacious, and fits nicely between the Ertiga and Innova. The Toyota Innova is still the ideal MPV and demands a high price tag, but justifiably so. For the moment, it remains the one to aspire for. And, of course, with the Toyota badge, it’s an investment that’s second only to a gold bar.
But when the Carnival makes its debut, it’ll be the most luxurious MPV in the country. It sits above the Innova Crysta in terms of space, features and comfort – which means that customers will now be able to upgrade to a more premium MPV.
In a market that, until recently, only really offered two MPVs that bookended the market – the Eritga at one end and the Innova at the other – the Indian market is set to offer an MPV to cater to everyone. The Marazzo slots in nicely to fill the gap in the middle, while the Carnival will provide the most premium and sophisticated offering in the segment.
The success of the Innova in the Indian market has drawn competitors from all quarters. And while the Innova may have lost its monopoly, it’s ‘Advantage’ to the Indian customer.
The quality levels of the Innova are very high, and the cabin is more comfortable than sedans and SUVs in the same price range – a trait that has held the Innova in very good stead during its match-winning innings in India.
If space is the main criteria here, it’s the Carnival that shines the brightest. It comes with multiple seating arrangements and storage compartments. The boot space can be adjusted depending on your requirement, and even with the third row in use, the boot is still very deep and usable.
- Maruti Suzuki Ertiga
- Mahindra Marazzo
- Toyota Innova
- Kia Carnival
Engine: 1,462cc / 4-Cylinders / 16-Valves
Transmission: 4-Speed AT / Front-Wheel Drive
Power: 103bhp @ 6,000rpm
Torque: 138Nm @ 4,400rpm
Price: ₹9.50 lakh (Ex-showroom, Delhi)
X-factor: More competent and comfortable than ever before.
• Lots of standard equipment
• More space than you’d think
• Unsupportive seats
Engine: 1,497cc / 4-Cylinders / 16-Valves / Turbocharged
Transmission: 6-Speed Manual / Front-Wheel Drive
Power: 119bhp @ 3,500rpm
Torque: 300Nm @ 1,750-2,500rpm
Price: ₹14.29 lakh (Ex-showroom, Delhi)
X-factor: Presents a great value proposition to the MPV buyer.
• Refined powertrain
• Great ride quality
Engine: 2,755cc / 4-Cylinders / 16-Valves / Turbocharged
Transmission: 6-Speed AT / Rear-Wheel Drive
Power: 172bhp @ 3,400rpm
Torque: 360Nm @ 1,200-3,400rpm
Price: ₹22.19 lakh (Ex-showroom, Delhi)
X-factor: Combines bulletproof reliability with all-round comfort.
• Comfortable to drive & ride
• Very nice seats
Engine: 2,199cc / 4-Cylinders / 16-Valves / Turbocharged
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic / Front-Wheel Drive
Power: 197bhp @ 3,800rpm
Torque: 441Nm @ 1,750-2,750rpm
X-factor: A luxurious seven-seater that offers an opulence of space and comfort.
• Has some very cool features
• Practicality & comfort on another level