After tasting a huge success of Omni, the first van by Maruti Suzuki, in late 2001 it released the bigger sibling called “Versa” which was a clone of Suzuki “Every” sold in foreign markets. It’s commonly believed that support of popular personality as a brand ambassador could prove hit of the product in market. However, despite the fact that famous film actor Amitabh Bacchan was chosen to promote Versa in advertisements, the car didn’t proved any success in Indian Automobile Market and main reason being over-priced tag with bland styling.
Now, with the new year, On 7th January Maruti Suzuki released good ol’ versa in an un-expected and all new ‘avatar’ named Eeco to meet stricter emission norms and to give a new lease of life in this tough competitive market. The Automotive India Team took “Eeco” out on the Roads to Test how “Economical” & Value For Money this refreshed war-horse is?
The bonnet has a beak type appearance. This area actually houses the engine, unlike the Omni which had the engine placed below the front seats. Also it tries to take you away from the Van look. The Maruti Eeco gets clear head lamps for better illumination during night drives. From the side its is the same tall, long, matchbox design with sliding doors behind. This makes ingress and egress very convenient. The wheels appear small for a car of this dimension, however it keeps the cost low as well. The rear is flat, typical of a UV. The boot lid opens full and reveals a large loading bay. Along with the headlamps now even the tail lamps are clear. For Price details of Maruti Suzuki check out in Carzprice
Inside the car your are greeted by bare utilitarian interiors which are spartan but functional, the dashboard layout is decent and simple as you would expect in any car in this segment, the driving position is upright and gives a good view of the road ahead. The Maruti Eeco comes with many storage places, also it is equipped with many goodies like power windows, centre row roof mounted A/C vents(for the 5-seater A/c Variant), tubeless tyres. The fit and finish of the interiors is much better than OMNI but cost-cutting is evident in many places. The HVAC knobs seem to be carried over from the old generation ZEN.
The small 1.2L engine still manages to make 73 bhp which is a lot for such a small engine but is required to move this big box around. The 101 nm torque seems to be fairly enough to take either people or luggage around. Maruti finally shifted to a 5-speed manual gearbox from a 4-speed manual.
This engine has good power, and the efficiency is also decent enough. If we consider 10 km/l we still can manage a 400 km range till we require fuel again. The 40-litre tank is sufficient.
DRIVE RIDE AND HANDLING ;
The feeling of driving a utility vehicle is pretty much there. Ground clearance is excellent. A couple of wild swings with the steering left and right kept the vehicle planted and me impressed. Body roll was noticeable but expected. The acceleration is good but did’nt time it. The engine is definitely _not_ rev-happy and growls loudly when tried out. It FEELS tuned for mileage rather than drivability – very understandable given the target market.Very pleasant for light footed driving.The vehicle I drove had 204 km on the odo. The small nice thing is that the fuel gauge as well as odo are digital displays.Nice touch but not too different from the usability perspective.The acceleration is good and, important to note, much better than Maruti’s KB-series engine as well as the one that runs on the Wagon-R/Old Estilo. Did not run it beyond 95 kmph or rather could not given bangalore’s morning traffic on the ORR. It was easy to zip in and out of traffic gaps and power was good for overtaking.Very suited for zip-zup driving if you get what I mean. The cabbies will love it! The driving experience was a touch above my wife’s 2009 older-looking Zen Estilo.Not bad at all for this bread-box on wheels.Won’t be surprised if many alto/old wagon-r owners switch over to this if they can live with the basic interiors. This does look like a good highway vehicle too unless you want to compete with the sedans. I would say cruising at 110-120 would be possible but that’s about it. A pleasant cruise would be one at 90-100 speeds.
There is no power steering for any of the models but that is expected given the pricing. But to my surprise the steering is light, effort is minimal and feedback is good. Only time you really know there’s no PS is when you turn the steering when the vehicle is at a standstill . But that is very “livable-with”!!
This car comes with coil springs at the rear (surprise!!). Very good ride even on bad roads but the car can be thrown off-balance at high speeds. Normal for a vehicle with a high stance.Nothing out of expectation but.
The DSA gearbox is the surprise package and allows for finger-shifting. Nothing compared to the best in the business and miles away from the Swift gearbox of course. But very good VFM for the price. I drive a Fiesta and that gearbox is the gold standard so could’nt help comparing.Shifting from 1st to 2nd and back is very rough and can be improved. But forgiveable given its a new vehicle and probably will improve as it is driven. The 2nd-3rd (most important in city driving) swap and back is fantastic and I can make direct triangular shifts. 4-5 is also a breeze and better than most of maruti’s current crop – including my wife’s car which I don’t find very easy to use. This part is very praiseworthy. I think this will be a major USP of this car.
Being realistic about a car in this class, I think the EECO is very well equipped. Maruti has given a thought on safety as well by providing crumple zones and side impact beams. No other MPV is sold at such a low sticker price as the EECO and its followed by Maruti’s tried and tested extensive After Sales Service. The previous version i.e VERSA was positioned badly and overpriced considering the market condition at that time which is definitely not a complaint you can make about the EECO. Practically speaking the EECO has no competition apart from TATA’s new car VENTURE but its expensive than EECO by almost a Lakh for the base variant which makes a huge difference for people looking out for a big yet cheap to maintain car with good space and decent fuel economy.
Extremely Economical and Compact Omni, That is what we call “Eeco” to be. Maruti Eeco is currently the most spacious MPV available at this price, Though the car has no frills in terms of basic equipments like power windows, power steering etc and the interior as well as exterior designing is plain too but what it will make sell is the attractive price tag. If you need to carry joint family but are on a tight budget, Eeco is the car you should look at or even small businessmen who need to transport the goods in or across the towns, Eeco could prove to be a perfect buy because those days will be over soon when people with such requirements considered the Omni as it will be discontinued in all major cities to meet stricter emission norms which go on force in April this year and that is why the stripped down Versa a.k.a Eeco has been introduced to compensate its place. We wonder if Maruti would have introduced Versa at this attractive price way back on its release in October 2001, The name “Versa” might have never entered in “Indian Flop cars” list.