Maruti hasn't given up the mini-van platform and Maruti Eeco is proof. It is a Versa with minor changes to the exterior, says Ashish Masih

So you thought the Versa was dead. Not quite. Maruti isn't giving up on the mini-van platform just as yet and here's proof. The car maker decided to update the 1.3-litre petrol shared till recently with the Swift. It's been downsized to 1.2 litres from 1.3 and there are other changes as well to make it meet Bharat Stage IV emission norms, which come into effect from April this year.

One look at the Eeco, and it's immediately apparent that this is the same Versa with minor changes to the exteriors. The head- and tail-lamps have subtle modifications as do the bumpers, which improve the looks. But there is 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 into the cabin — you simply walk into it.

Steering and seats

The dashboard is very similar to the Alto in design. There's a big scoop above the glovebox to keep items in and very similar AC vents as well. The steering wheel is also borrowed from the Alto. Overall quality is poor — the plastic on the seat-recline knob came off on our vehicle.

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, no power steering and no central locking. In fact, in its bid to keep costs low, Maruti won't be offering boot or fuel release buttons inside the cabin. Both will have to be manually opened with the key. You do get an AC and heater on the five-seater, though. The high-set seats offer a supreme view of the road and this, combined with the huge glass area, make the cabin feel bigger than it actually is.

The 1.2-litre engine delivers 73bhp of power. While engine refinement is never 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 the car 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 too.

The positive gearing along with the light clutch make driving a breeze.

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 delivers 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 crevices are felt in the cabin.

The five-seater option comes with a massive loading area, which is ideal for hauling large items, making the Eeco a great vehicle for activities such as moving house.

Prices for the Eeco start at Rs. 2.59 lakh for the base five-seater and go up to Rs. 2.90 lakh (both ex-showroom, Delhi) for the AC variant. This undoubtedly makes the Eeco the cheapest point A-to-B mode if you want to transport more than five people and their luggage.

Keywords: MarutiEecoVersa