2022 Maruti XL6 vs Kia Carens: Comparing the MPVs on various aspects

When it comes to ride & handling, the XL6 will provide no cause for complaint, but Carens is car-like in a way no other MPV currently on sale is.

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Here’s the comparison millions were waiting for. Okay, maybe not, but every last fence-sitter deserves to be talked off it. BHPian Viddy & I reviewed the Carens, too, so here’s what we made of it.

Exterior Design

XL6 has matured, primarily due to the wheel/tire upsize and smoked taillamp cluster. Minimal change, maximum effect. Looks like a proper modern MPV now.

Carens’ squat front end divides opinion, but I like the estate-ish look that it gives the car. The rest is unremarkable.

Neither is going to win a beauty contest, and nobody’s going to write an MPV off their list because it isn’t pretty. Take your pick.

Cabin Space & Ergonomics

Carens is better packaged overall, but the XL6 has a few things going for it.

  • 1st row: Both get tilt & telescopic steering, but XL6’s driver seat has more travel range (Carens’ is restricted to free up 2nd-row space). Will matter to taller drivers, it bothered Viddy.
  • Carens has more lateral space. 5’7″ I could get my elbows out in the cockpit without hitting the glass on my right and Viddy on my left. Terrific packaging. XL6 is adequate by comparison.
  • 2nd row: Both good for average height folks, but taller occupants (like Viddy) would deem it adequate in Carens, not expansive. Hard seat-back on both front seats for Carens, cabin air filter mounted on driver seat-back eats into 2nd-row knee-room. Push the front row passenger seat all the way forward for a full ‘Seth-ji’ experience in the 2nd row, on both cars.
  • 3rd row: Carens, no contest. Usable by actual full-grown adults, and accessible via the neat electric tumble & fold on the LHS 2nd row seat (manual on the right). XL6’s, by comparison, feels like those scooter riders who suck in their butts an inch to give space when blocking traffic. Serious consideration warranted before putting even your kids there for long drives, if you harbor hopes of being cared for in your old age.
  • In-cabin storage: Carens nicks this one, with nifty cubbies all over the cabin, including cooled drink holders for the 2nd row on the back of the driver armrest console. The XL6, for a family car, doesn’t offer too many spaces to stow away bits & bobs a travelling brood is bound to carry.
  • Luggage space: Enough for a few small soft bags/backpacks on both cars with all seats up, much larger on Carens’ with seats folded down. XL6 is further restricted by the 2nd-row seats neither tumbling nor folding flat. Carens can move house with 2nd and 3rd rows down.

Features & Cabin Experience

  • Sunroof: Carens, yes (not a panoramic unit though), XL6, no.
  • IRVM: Auto-dimming unit on Carens, with SOS, RSA & Telematics (Kia Connect) buttons. Manual specimen on XL6. Really, Maruti?
  • 360 view camera: XL6 yes, Carens no.
  • Ventilated seats: XL6 wins butts down. Back & butt go brrrr. Carens’ is adequate.
  • Dashboard: Understated on XL6, too many shiny piano black plastic bits on Carens. Not a deal-breaker, but glare is a thing on sunny days. For the fitness-inclined, Carens’ ICE touchscreen chimes in with shoulder-stretching exercises to reach the top left quadrant.
  • Ambient lighting: 64 color options on Carens, a proper festival of lights. XL6 gets one to tick the box. Not a fan of distracting lights myself (I even turn down the cluster to minimum brightness), cool party trick nonetheless.
  • Air conditioning: Roof-mounted rear vents on Carens are arguably ergonomically better, but the LARGE glasshouse means it’s never chilled inside, even with a majorly light-coloured cabin. The XL6, on the other hand, manages to chill the all-black cabin, albeit a smaller glasshouse aided by the noticeably tinted UV cut glass windows. Impressive.
  • Power & accessory ports: Important in today’s gadget-centric world. Carens gets a host of them sprinkled in all 3 rows, including a wireless Qi charging pad upfront. XL6 has 12V and USB ports front row & another 12V port in the 3rd row (left side).
  • Materials & fit/finish: Carens has the upper hand here. Some premium touches and the car feels well put together overall. XL6 goes for the utilitarian and does it well, but premium-ness is still at a real premium.
  • ICE: Both cars have an intuitive, high-quality touchscreen. Both suffer from mediocre sound quality, esp. the Carens not living up to the Bose branding. Discerning buyers will probably go for upgraded sound hardware on both cars.

Powertrain

XL6 is petrol-only, 5 MT & 6-speed Torque Converter (TC) AT transmission options, with Smart Hybrid assist.

Carens gets a 1.5 NA petrol (6MT) and 1.4 turbo petrol (6MT & 7DCT), plus a 1.5 diesel (6MT & 6-speed TC AT). Kia should offer an NA petrol + IVT option (available on sibling Seltos) to cover all bases.

The driving experience is a no-contest, with Carens having something for almost everyone, and the motors themselves thoroughly competent. The diesel is a good sedate cruiser but could use some more poke to round it off. The turbo DCT powertrain is surprisingly fun-to-drive too, not something one expects to say for an MPV often.

That said, DCTs have an iffy reputation reliability-wise, and the lack of an old school conventional AT on the Carens petrol variants might pull some customers to XL6. Maruti’s unparalleled service coverage and long-standing fuss-free service experience will also attract loyalists, something Kia cannot match today. Add in the phenomenal fuel efficiency Maruti has managed to eke out of the K15C (albeit at the cost of performance) – hugely relevant with ever-increasing fuel prices – and the XL6 claws its way back a bit further.

Ride & Handling

XL6 will provide no cause for complaint, but Carens is car-like in a way no other MPV currently on sale is. Ride quality over rough patches had Viddy commenting, ‘I would never try that in my Kodiaq!’, and it maintains composure remarkably well through quick lane changes and over undulating roads. For someone who’s spent long hours commuting in Innovas and assorted MPVs of different generations, I’d rather ride in a Carens. Every single time.

Check out BHPian comments for more insights and information.

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