Xylo vs Aria vs Innova MPVs: Family packs

Updated: Apr 1 2012, 22:48pm hrs
Car
WHATS NEW

Toyotas fantastically rounded Innova has been a best-seller in this segment for years and a recent facelift should help it maintain its popularity. Tata may market the Aria as a crossover, but for all practical purposes it is a people-mover first, and a pretty good one at that. Then there is the spacious Mahindra Xylo that gets a makeover as well as a new engine, among other small but notable improvements.

PERFORMANCE

Those who have driven the older Xylo will notice that the MPV feels a lot peppier than before. Thats thanks to the adoption of the 2.2-litre mHawk engine also found in Mahindras XUV 500 and Scorpio SUVs. There is a good spread of power right from start-off and the Xylo feels comfortable both in the city and out on the highway. Mahindra has also given the Xylo a new gearbox which works well, though the clutch is slightly heavy. The new engine is also more refined and quieter than the one it replaces.

Speaking of engine refinement, it is the Arias 2.2-litre diesel motor that really impresses. Its the best of the lot in this respect, and thats saying a lot, considering there is a Toyota in this trio. Interestingly, at 138bhp, the Aria motor is also the most powerful here. Sadly, its near-two-tonne mass really weighs it down. Performance is only decent and you do have to work the gearbox to keep the turbo on song The Arias clutch is also on the heavier side and its rubbery gearbox isnt the best to use either. However, the Aria really comes into its own on the highway, where it happily cruises at speeds in excess of 100kph.

The Innova was launched with a 2.5-litre diesel engine and continues to use the same motor even today. Reading the specifications alone, it may seem underpowered in this company. However, its significantly lower weight means the Innova manages to mask the power deficit quite well, at least in the city. Yes, it is the slowest here, but driveability is fairly good. The Innovas smooth-shifting gearbox and light clutch also combine to take much stress out of city commutes. It is on the highway at speeds in excess of 80kph that the Innova starts to run out of breath. The engine is quite noisy too.

Mahindra Xylo E9

Xylo E9s mHawk engine is very peppy and there is more than sufficient power for the city and the highway.

Tata Aria 4x2 Pleasure

There is some turbo lag at city speeds, but once past that the Aria engine settles into a comfortable rhythm.

Toyota Innova 2.5D VX

Innova pulls cleanly from low engine speeds but shortage of power becomes evident on highway excursions.

RIDE AND HANDLING

The older Xylo had one major failing and that was in the dynamics department. Its springs were too soft, which took much away from the driving experience. Mahindra has reworked the suspension to improve matters, but the Xylo still isnt all that good to drive. While the steering returns decent feedback and low-speed ride is quite good, the suspension is still too soft, so there is a lot of vertical movement which just gets amplified with speed. And around corners, the Xylo rolls more than what is acceptable even for a large vehicle like this. Even on hard braking, the Xylo fails to inspire much confidence, with the rear wheels always threatening to step out of line.

It is not only the Arias engine that makes it suited to highway use. The suspension, though on the softer side, irons out all surface imperfections with aplomb. At speed, there is some amount of bobbing, but its never to the extent of being uncomfortable. Straight-line stability is very impressive. The steering is well weighted too and this makes the large Aria surprisingly easy to drive in town. It is only when going around bends that you feel the Arias heft. There is some resistance to sudden changes in direction, accompanied by a fair amount of roll when executing them.

In terms of ride and handling, the Innova feels far superior to the softer-sprung Aria and Xylo. The Innova always delivers a flat ride, which wins it points in the area of occupant comfort. Low-speed ride is good and highway manners are composed too. The Innova is also the best to drive on twisty roads, with its lower centre of gravity reaping rewards in the form of good body control. In-city manners are helped by a light steering and, on the whole, the Innova is the most car-like to drive, which is a boon for buyers upgrading from mid-size saloons.

Mahindra Xylo E9

Soft suspension benefits low speed ride but corrupts high-speed manners.

Tata Aria 4x2 Pleasure

The Aria is good over bumps and the steering offers decent feel as well.

Toyota Innova 2.5D VX

A consistent ride and good handling are the Innovas highlights.

WHAT ARE THEY LIKE INSIDE

There is acres of space in the Xylo cabin and the sensation is helped by the large glass area. As part of the facelift, Mahindra has given the Xylo E9 coffee brown interiors and this does make the cabin look richer. However, plastics are still not up to the mark and even look crude in places like the door pockets. Where the Xylo does score is on seat comfort. The seats are well bolstered and you get throne-like comfort if you opt for the captain chairs in the middle row. Last-row passengers have plenty of space too though headroom is somewhat limited.

The Aria will impress even Tata critics with interior quality that marks a huge leap for the manufacturer. What isnt nice is the narrow footwell, which doesnt leave much space to rest your clutch foot. There are also ergonomic glitches, like the steering wheel located too close to the driver and the poorly positioned music system controls on the steering wheel. The front seats though are spacious and there is good space in the middle row. Space in the last row is limited, but the middle row can be moved forward to free up some legroom here.

The Innovas dashboard now has a touch-screen infotainment system, but apart from this, the cabin is unchanged. Fit and finish is good and the quality of plastics is nice too. The seats are flat, but quite supportive. Middle-row passengers have enough space too, though last-row occupants wont like sitting knees-up.

All three vehicles offer decent storage for odds and ends, although the seven roof-mounted compartments on the Aria seems like overkill. With all seats up, the Innova and Aria boots hold a few soft bags, which the Xylos tiny boot cant. The seats on all three MPVs can be moved to create more luggage space, however.

Mahindra Xylo E9

Seats are most comfortable. Dashboard is neat but plastic quality is average. Boot is very small with all seats up.

Tata Aria 4x2 Pleasure

Large seats very accommodating. Dashboard looks smart but fit and finish could be better. Boot is biggest here.

Toyota Innova 2.5D VX

Seats are flat but offer good support. Dashboard is very car-like and quality is good. Last-row space is not great.

WILL THEY BREAK THE BANK

While Mahindra will also sell the facelifted Xylo with the older mEagle engine, the new mHawk engine featured here is available only on the E9 variant. R7.36 lakh will buy you the base D2 model that comes with few frills and even lacks items like power windows. The Xylo E9, at R10.25 lakh, comes with a lengthy features list that includes leather seats, steering-mounted audio controls, cruise control and reversing sensors. You even get voice-operated controls for the headlights, wipers and door locks and the system works quite well, though we cant help but think of it as being a bit gimmicky. Dual airbags and ABS with EBD are part of the safety kit. Buyers can configure the middle seats as per their requirements by opting for a traditional bench that can seat three passengers or two individual captain chairs. Mahindra offers the Xylo with a two-year/50,000km warranty.

The Tata Aria 4x2 can be had in three variants with prices ranging from R11.61-14.53 lakh. Our pick of the range is the middle Pleasure variant that costs R12.88 lakh and comes with dual airbags, ABS with EBD, steering-mounted audio controls, reversing sensors and projector headlamps, but misses the alloy wheels, leather seats and rain-sensing wipers from the top Prestige variant. The Aria comes with an impressive 36-month/100,000km warranty.

The Toyota Innova is available in four trims and prices start at R8.91 lakh for the base E model that comes quite sparsely equipped. Wed recommend the top-end VX trim (R13.24 lakh) that features dual airbags, ABS, a reverse camera, Bluetooth telephony and steering-mounted audio controls.

As on the Xylo, buyers can have their Innova with a bench-type middle row or instead a pair of captain chairs. A 36-month/100,000km warranty is offered here.

Within city limits, the Innova delivers a mileage of 10.3kpl that compares well to the Xylos 10.1kpl and the Arias figure of 10kpl. On the highway, it is the Xylo that manages to stretch each litre of diesel to the max with a mileage of 14.4kpl. The Aria delivers 13.9kpl and Innova 13.8kpl here.

Tata has the widest service network here, followed by Mahindra and Toyota, though it must be said it is the Innova that will best stand the test of time.

OUR VERDICT

Innova remains the best MPV

Aria best for long distances, Xylo scores on space, but Innova still feels superior.

As a people mover, the Xylo gets the basics right. It is very spacious, seat comfort is great and the peppy engine is always up to the job. And while the new engine is available only in a single trim, you still get a lot of features. The fact that the Xylo is also the most affordable MPV here, and by a big margin, makes it a VFM option. But dig deeper and there are many areas where the Xylo disappoints. The overly soft suspension really compromises its ability as a comfortable long-distance vehicle and driving dynamics are not up to scratch either. Average interior plastics further mark the Xylo down.

The Aria is a very impressive effort from Tata. It is quite stylish and the cabin is a nice place to be. While it may not be the fastest, engine refinement is the best here. The Arias absorbent ride and good highway manners also make it a great intra-country shuttle. But for all its plusses, the Aria also has its shortcomings. You have to work around turbo lag at low speeds and it still feels a tad overpriced for what you get.

That brings us to the Innova, which remains the best MPV you can buy. The top-end versions are priced on the higher side, but the money and Toyota badge on the bonnet also buy you proven reliability and a guaranteed good price at the time of resale. It is also the best built and offers decent comfort for all occupants. Yes, the Innovas engine does get quite noisy and may not be the most powerful either but driveability within the city is still quite good. It is also easiest to live within city confines. And it also has the best compromise between ride and handling. The fact that it is the most car-like only seals the deal for the Innova.