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Nov 17 2012, 03:49 IST
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SummaryWith as many as 35 seats between them, the vehicles featured here represent India’s best people movers. The question is, does the new Nissan Evalia offer the ideal combination of space, comfort and versatility to become the best MPV you could buy?

What’s new?

Even a decade ago the choices for anyone looking for a seven-seater were few and full of compromises. On one hand there were basic, outdated and crude utility vehicles, and on the other you’d probably have had to settle for an SUV. The launch of the Toyota Innova in 2005 changed things. Here was a vehicle with seven seats, car-like comfort and ease of use, and decent performance too. A runaway hit with large families, the Innova’s versatility and reliability also drew many buyers away from similarly priced saloons.

Fast forward to the present and today’s multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) buyers are almost spoilt for choice. The Innova remains on sale and there are also MPVs from Mahindra, Tata, Maruti and Nissan vying for your money.

Where the Mahindra Xylo has space as its USP, the Tata Aria seeks to win you over with its part-MPV, part-SUV design. And while Maruti’s Ertiga offers the flexibility of seven seats in a not-so-big package, the Evalia promises great versatility and practicality from its tall design. With five MPVs, each with their own set of strengths, zeroing in on just one was never going to be easy. We pit the rivals against each other to help you make the right choice.

Performance

Xylo ****

Ertiga ***

Evalia ***

Aria ***

Innova ***

Big as it is, the Evalia comes with a relatively small 1.5-litre diesel engine. But don’t go by the engine’s size alone, because there’s quite a lot to like about this motor. It’s responsive, has smooth power delivery, and there’s also sufficient pulling power for city conditions. However, the 84bhp motor lacks the grunt needed for sustained high-speed cruising.

In comparison, the Ertiga, with its smaller but more powerful 89bhp, 1.3-litre engine, feels a lot more suited to highway use. Key to the Ertiga’s good cruising ability is its meaty spread of power above 2000rpm. But, within city limits, you spend a lot of time at lower engine speeds, which is where this engine feels weak.

After driving the Evalia and Ertiga, you will appreciate the power advantage the larger engines the Xylo, Aria and Innova come with. The Xylo E9 has a 122bhp, 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine, which feels particularly peppy. There’s easy access to the power from the word go, and even out on the highway you won’t be left wanting for more grunt.

With a power output of 138bhp, the Aria’s 2.2-litre motor is the most powerful here. While the ample

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