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The van is back

autos Updated: Feb 19, 2010 23:31 IST
Ashish Masih

So you thought the Versa was dead? Not quite. Maruti isn’t giving up on the mini-van platform just yet.

The company has downsized the engine to 1.2 litres, from the 1.3 litres shared until recently with the Swift. There are other changes as well to make the car meet the Bharat Stage IV emission norms.

Looks : boxy design

It’s apparent that this is the same Versa with minor changes to the exteriors. The head and tail lamps and the bumpers have subtle modifications, which improve the looks. But there’s no getting away from the fact that this is a boxy design. The narrow 155-section tyres, which come on 13-inch rims, look small when compared to the tall dimensions, giving the car a very odd stance.

Step inside and you’ll instantly appreciate the fact that you do not have to crouch or bend to get in — you simply walk. In design, the dashboard is similar to the Alto’s. There’s a big scoop above the glovebox and similar AC vents too.

Even the steering wheel is borrowed from the Alto. Unfortunately, the overall quality of the interiors is poor — the plastic on the seat-recline knob came off on our vehicle.

Features : keeping it cheap

If you are looking for any creature comforts, you will be disappointed. While there’s a choice of five or seven seats, there are no power windows, power steering or central locking.

In a bid to keep costs low, Maruti won’t offer boot or fuel release buttons inside the cabin; both will have to be manually opened with the key. There is, however, an airconditioner and a heater with the five-seater.

The car’s high-set seats offer a great view of the road. Combined with the huge glass area, this makes the cabin feel bigger than it actually is.

The 1.2-litre engine delivers 73 bhp of power. While engine refinement is not an issue, its positioning below the seats means that the cabin gets loud when you rev hard. Power delivery is good, but you will need to rev up the engine a bit to get going, especially with a full complement of passengers.

The gearbox is a crisp unit, offering short throws and a positive shift.

The gear lever has been borrowed from the Alto. The positive gearing along with the light clutch make driving a breeze.

Performance : Bumpy ride

The fact that the engine lies below the front seats and not directly above the wheels means that there is very little weight on the front tyres. So you won’t really miss the power steering, except when reversing into a tight spot.

The steering gives plenty of information from the road. However, the short wheelbase and the fact that the occupants sit directly over the front and rear axle mean that the ride is bumpy on anything less than smooth roads. Even the smallest of potholes are felt in the cabin.

The five-seater option comes with a massive load area, which is ideal for hauling large items. Also, the price makes the Eeco the cheapest if you want to transport more than five people and their luggage.

In association with Autocar India.