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The Best MPV Trophy Challenger. Evalia Vs Innova Vs Xylo.

Comparing a Mahindra with Toyota and new comer Nissan is full of pitfalls. Questions like; how can one even dream of comparing Xylo and Evalia to market leader Innova, unthinkable for many, but car experts relish such challenges, challenge of finding that fine difference between competent cars like Evalia, Innova, Xylo. Read. Decide!

Innova Vs Evalia Vs Xylo - Competing for Space

With the promise of a spacious cabin, car-like driving manners and good fuel economy, the Nissan Evalia hopes to take the Toyota Innova and Mahindra Xylo head on. We find out how it fares against India’s big-selling large MPVs.

The Toyota Innova and Mahindra Xylo are familiar faces across the length and breadth of India. Popular among private buyers and tour operators alike, this duo has helped cement the image of MPVs in India as spacious, practical and versatile alternatives to similarly priced mid-size saloons. Over the years, we’ve tested the two individually and have even pitted the MPV heavyweights against each other. In fact, their last face-off was as recent as March 2012 and just as before, it was the Xylo’s living room-rivalling space and the Innova’s car like dynamics that won them praise.

Fast forward to the present and there’s another model vying for your money – the new Nissan Evalia. While it may not look particularly exciting, you shouldn’t discount the Evalia solely for its appearance. That’s because the Evalia brings the benefits of monocoque (read : lightweight) construction to the large MPV segment. On paper at least, the Evalia should hold an advantage over its body-on-frame rivals in terms of interior space, efficiency and how it drives. If the Evalia manages to deliver on these fronts, it could very well upset the established order in the MPV segment. To find out, we’ve put the Evalia to the test with its chief rivals. Be prepared for some surprises.

DESIGN & ENGINEERING

MPVs are more about substance than style, but even there’s no escaping the fact that the Evalia looks a bit too utilitarian for its own good. Sure, the frontal sytling is neat, the V-shaped grille and rising headlamps are smart, and those upswept front windows look distinctive and offer a great view out. But that stubby bonnet section, the sliding rear doors and the squarish tail combine to make the squarish tail combine to make the Evalia look more van than modern MPV. If anything, that association is bound to be a turn-off for many image-conscious buyers.

Not helping matters are the small rear windows and tiny wheels, which only accentuate the tall Evalia’s slab sided appearance. Nissan made the decision to opt for 14-inch wheels instead of a more substantial size essentially because smaller wheel wells free up more space inside the cabin and allow for a tighter turning circle. In fact, the Evalia’s 10.4-metre turning circle is the tightest of the lot.

Maximising cabin space was also given precedence over outright style when Mahindra set about designing the Xylo, and the result of this ‘designed from inside out’ philosophy is an MPV with gawky proportions. Its upright A pillar, drooping bonnet and skyscraper height just don’t gel together. Tweaks to the bonnet, headlights and grille earlier in the year did help make the Xylo more palatable than before, but it’s still no looker.

To be honest, it is the Innova, with its traditional MPV silhouette, that is most pleasing to the eye. That said, the Innova is beginning to look a bit long in the tooth now, something that the recently revised headlights and grille have been unable to camouflage entirely. No complaints for build quality though, which is the best in this trio.

As mentioned earlier, the Evalia differs from the Innova and Xylo in the way it is put together. Its monocoque construction and front-wheel-drive layout is not only more space-efficient than the truck-derived body-on-frame, rear-wheel-drive setups of the Xylo and Innova, but also gives it a crucial edge in terms of weight. Tipping the scales at 1426 kg, the Evalia is about 250 kg lighter than the Innova and almost 400 kg less than the Xylo.

Suspension duties on the Evalia are handled by MacPherson struts up front and rather rudimentary leaf springs at the rear. The Xylo and Innova come with more sophisticated suspension, with coil springs on all four wheel and double wishbones with anti-roll bars at the front. Where the Xylo uses a non-independent, five-link setup at the rear, the Innova features a non independent four-link layout. Front disc brakes and rear drums with ABS are the norm here, though the Evalia and Xylo additionally feature EBD. Each of these MPVs can be had with dual front airbags.

INTERIORS

With no separate frame under the body (as with ladder-frame vehicles), monocoques traditionally have lower floors, which translates to easy ingress and egress. Not so with the Evalia, whose high-set cabin requires quite a step-up to enter. It’s not as bad as the Xylo, but it’s nowhere near as convenient as the Innova, which places its seats at just the right height, allowing you to literally walk in.

Just like its exterior design, the Evalia’s canted steering wheel and the gear lever that sprouts out of the dashboard remind you this is a van trying to be an MPV. To be fair, it doesn’t take much time to get comfortable with the controls, and once accustomed you’ll like the commanding view at the helm. An interesting detail here is the digital readout beside the analogue speedometer. It displays the tachometer. It displays the tachometer, real-time fuel economy, a distance-to-empty meter and, on the top XV variant it even acts as the display for the reversing camera. However, the screen does get obscured by the steering wheel at certain degrees of lock, and the rev counter is not particularly easy to read.

The rest of the dashboard is neat and clutter free, and quite practical too, with a bottle holder at each end. Nissan has also positioned a usefully large and concealed storage compartment between the front seats, which is just as well, because the glove compartment, oddly, comes without a lid, leaving your belongings visible to prying eyes. Worth a mention here is that some bits, like the faux aluminium shroud for the centre console, look nice but overall levels of fit and finish are still a notch or two down on the Innova.

In terms of cabin quality, though, the Xylo simply disappoints. Bits like the door pockets are crudely finished, the faux wood on the doors, dash and gear knob looks unconvincing, and panel fit is inconsistent throughout the cabin. The well-bolstered leather seats on the E9 variant do add an element of luxury to the cabin and, for its part, the Xylo’s dashboard looks unique, while the large windows provide excellent all-round visibility. As before, the Xylo features Mahindra’s Digital Drive Assist system atop the centre console that displays speed, outside temperature, current fuel economy and, to bring some piety into the picture, an image of your favourite deity.

The top-end Innova VX goes one up on both the Evalia and Xylo with its touchscreen interface for the audio system, Bluetooth telephone function and reverse camera. That the system is easy to navigate through only adds to the rest of the smartly styled dashboard’s user-friendliness. You’ll also like the Innova’s front and sliding middle-row seats for their comfort, and space, though they still can’t quite match the Xylo on either count. Do note that, like the Xylo, the Innova can be had with either a pair of captain chairs or a bench for the middle row.

The Evalia is roomy in its own right, but it’s unable to capitalise on its space to deliver on the all important comfort factor. A large part of the blame goes to its small middle-row windows that, with their restrictive butterfly-type opening, actually reduce the feeling of space inside. The flat seats don’t feel all that nice over long stints either, and the sizeable gap between the middle-row seat and the sliding doors on either side means occupants’ arms are left unsupported. A flip-down armrest on either end of the seat could be a cost-effective solution for this.

The Evalia does win back some points with third-row comfort. Access via the sliding rear doors is quite convenient, there is good headroom and even legroom is decent as long as the middle-row backrest seat isn’t reclined too much. The Xylo does have the better last-row seat, but taller occupants will find the area lacking in headroom. In comparison, the knee-up seating position in the Innova’s third row makes this a place best suited for short journeys at best.

The Evalia also scores a small but significant victory when it’s time to load luggage. With all seats up, the Evalia has enough room to store two large suitcase vertically, while the Innova will hold a couple of soft bags and you’d be lucky to fit anything into the Xylo at all. All three MPVs do allow you to fold and flip the last and middle rows (only seven-seat versions) to make more space, though the Evalia’s low loading lip and flat floor make it the most convenient. All MPVs have ample storage for small items, but the Xylo and Evalia do well to offer foldable trays for the middle-row occupants.

As for equipment, the Innova comes with the most kit (including automatic climate control), provided you opt for the pricey VX trim featured here. The Xylo with the new mHawk engine is only sold in a single E9 variant and comes with a long features list that also includes a unique voice-activation feature to operate the door locks, wipers, lights and radio. Nissan sells the Evalia in four variants, but even the top XV version does not get steering-mounted audio controls or driver-seat height adjustment as is available on the other two MPVs here. There are no dedicated air-con vents for the second-row passenger either, though the last row gets a separate air conditioner with blower controls.

ENGINE, GEARBOX & PERFORMANCE

Common-rail diesel engines with turbochargers and intercoolers, and five-speed gearboxes are common to the three MPVs here. But where the Evalia’s transversely mounted engine powers the front wheels, the Xylo and Innova’s longitudinally placed motors channel power to the rear wheels.

Big as it is, the Evalia comes with the relatively small 1.5-litre K9K motor that does duty on various models from the Renault-Nissan Alliance. On the Evalia, it produces 84 bhp and 20.4 kgm, the same output as in the Nissan Sunny and Renault Scala saloons. But don’t go by the engine size and power figures alone, because there’s quite a lot to like about this motor. It is responsive-from as low as 1000 rpm, the build-up of power is linear and there’s also sufficient pulling power to transport a full complement of passenger in average city driving scenarios. Clever gearing helps keep the engine in its 2000-4000 rpm comfort zone, which is where the bulk of its power is concentrated. This city-friendly nature apart, the 84 bhp motor lacks grunt for sustained high-speed cruising, and even uphill sections will require you to stomp on the accelerator pedal to maintain steady progress. Worse so when you have seven occupants on board.

After driving the Evalia, you’ll appreciate the natural power advantage the larger-hearted Xylo comes with. The Xylo, in E9 avatar with the Scorpio’s 122 bhp, 2.2-litre mHawk turbo-diesel engine, feels particularly peppy. There’s easy access to power from the word go and even out on the highway you won’t be left wanting for more grunt. The significant power advantage also helps the Xylo deliver the quickest time to 100 kph, as well as the best in-gear performance.

The Innova’s 2.5-litre engine may be the largest here, but with 102 bhp, it slots in right between the Evalia and Xylo on the power scale. Its 20.4 kgm torque figure is identical to the smaller-hearted Evalia and a full 8 kgm less than the Xylo’s. However, the engine’s good drive ability and overall shorter gearing make the Innova feel really well suited to the urban environment. The Innova pulls cleanly from very low in the rev band, so just like on the Xylo, you can get by with stayin in a higher gear than ideal. But out on the highway, the short fifth gear means the engine loses steam above 80 kph and gets quite noisy too. Speaking of refinement, the Xylo has the smoothest motor, but the Innova’s better sound insulation makes it feel quieter. In comparison, the Evalia’s engine tends to sound strained at higher revs. The Innova’s smooth-shifting gearbox and light clutch also make it easier to drive in city traffic then the Evalia (notchy gearbox) and the Xylo (heavy clutch).

RIDING & HANDLING

The large Evalia may not look nimble, but it is really easy to drive in the city. It’s got a light steering, manoeuvrability is surprisingly good and the handling is also always within safe limits, so long as you don’t drive it faster than you should. You’ll also have to keep your speed in check on the highway, because the tall Evalia gets rocked by strong crosswinds. At higher speeds, the Evalia also tends to feel a tad bouncy, and that’s a function of its small wheels and rudimentary leaf-spring rear suspension. In the city, though, the suspension works well enough to keep you and your passengers comfortable.

Dynamics were never a Xylo forte and, despite Mahindra’s efforts to improve things with the update, it’s still sub-par in this department. The suspension still feels too soft, be it in the city or on the highway, so there’s a constant bobbing motion on anything less than perfect tarmac. The high centre of gravity and sheer bulk also equate to lots of body roll around the mildest of bends. And, thanks to its relatively heavy steering, it also requires more effort to turn and always feels its size.

The Innova has always been a favourite for its car-like driving manners and it’s no different even today. Its well-weighted steering, decent low-speed ride and composed high-speed manners make it a comfortable car for both driver and passengers alike. And, thanks to its good body control, you can actually have some fun behind the wheel on a twisty road. The Innova’s also got the nicest brakes. The Evalia’s brakes seem over-served, wheel the Xylo feels nervous under, hard braking.

FUEL ECONOMY

Weight, engine size and kerb weight have a bearing on fuel economy, so it comes as no surprise the Evalia is far more fuel efficient than the Xylo and Innova. Within city limits, the Evalia delivered 12.8 kpl to the Xylo and Innova’s 10.1 and 10.3 kpl, respectively. Out on the highway, the Evalia stretched its lead with an exceptional 17.5 kpl. Meanwhile, a torquier engine and taller gearing help the Xylo better the Innova in highway fuel economy. We got 14.4 kpl from the Xylo and 13.8 kpl from the Innova here.

Verdict

Nissan Evalia                                                  10/7

Mahindra Xylo                                               10/7

Toyota Innova                                                10/8

With a spacious cabin, a strong engine and a lengthy feature list, the updated Mahindra Xylo ticks the important boxes for most MPV buyers. Its realistic pricing makes it all the more appealing. Sadly, the Xylo is not perfect. Just as before, it is let down by poor dynamics, a choppy ride and unimpressive cabin quality. It also loses out to its rivals for sheer ease of use, which happens to be an Evalia highlight.

The Nissan is really easy to drive in the city and also promises the lowest running costs, courtesy its excellent fuel economy. It is also the most affordable MPV here What’s more, it has loads of space for seven passengers and, for versatility, the Nissan is second to none. But the small rear windows, average seat comfort and mediocre crusing ability mark it down as an MPV you’d like to take on long highway drives. And how many people will take to the van-like shape is another question mark for the moment.

Which brings us to the Innova, which manages to hold on to its position as the best large MPV Cars buy in India. For starters, it is good to drive and works wonderfully as a substitute for a typical car. Good ride quality, a strong build, decent comfort and a smart cabin are other factors that work in its favour. The big downer here is price. At Rs 13.89 lakh, the feature-packed, top-spec Innova VX is simply overpriced and costs a whole lot more than its rivals. But the extra money does buy you an MPV with proven credentials, and one that delivers on the feel-good factor, something neither the Evalia or Xylo can quite match.

TEST SCORECARD

Comfort                                                         

Nissan Evalia                                                  7/10

Mahindra Xylo                                               8/10

Toyota Innova                                                 7/10

Innova is comfy; Xylo has best seats; Evalia has most spacious third row

Perfroamnce

Nissan Evalia                                                    7/10

Mahindra Xylo                                                 8/10

Toyota Innova                                                  7/10

Xylo feels effortless everywhere; Evalia and Innova engines best in the city.

REFINEMENT

Nissan Evalia                                                     7/10

Mahindra Xylo                                                  7/10

Toyota Innova                                                   7/10

Xylo engine quietest, but Innova is best insulated; wind noise an issue on Evalia.

VALUE

Nissan Evalia                                                      8/10

Mahindra Xylo                                                   8/10

Toyota Innova                                                    6/10      

Xylo comes with lots of kit; Evalia is well priced; top-spec Innova is expensive.

SAFETY

Nissan Evalia                                                       7/10

Mahindra Xylo                                                    6/10

Toyota Innova                                                     8/10

All feature airbags and ABS, but Innova has the safest dynamics.

RIDE

Nissan Evalia                                                       6/10

Mahindra Xylo                                                    6/10

Toyota Innova                                                     8/10

Xylo feels bouncy, Evalia is good at low speeds but Innova has best overall ride.

HANDLING

Nissan Evalia                                                        7/10

Mahindra Xylo                                                    6/10

Toyota Innova                                                     8/10

Evalia easy to drive; Xylo feels sloppy; Innova is always sure-footed.

Build STRENGTH & QUALITY

Nissan Evalia                                                         7/10

Mahindra Xylo                                                      6/10

Toyota Innova                                                      8/10

Toyota feels best put together; Evalia not bad; Xylo’s plastics disappoint.

 

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