good motoring
A pleasure to drive
H.Kishie Singh

In the looks department, the Eeco would definitely get the Plain Jane award. It does come in all the glossy and metallic colours, including decals on the side. The lipstick and nail polish job is good. That is as far as it goes. The panels are flat and upright. It is a bit of Versa and a lot of Omni. It is a no-frills vehicle but holds a lot of promise. It is a family car for the middle class, a cargo mover for the small businessman, and in its seven-seater avatar, it may even do duty as a school bus or taxi.

The Eeco is India’s first green car in the C segment
The Eeco is India’s first green car in the C segment

The engine is a1200 cc petrol, which pumps out 73 bhp at 6000 rpm. In addition, it has an output of 101 nm of torque at 3000 rpm. Fuel distribution is by a multi-point injection, and engine management is via a 32-bit computer. The engine is BS IV compliant, environment friendly, and this makes it India’s first green car in the C segment. The engine is transversely mounted. It is a four-cylinder 16 valve one, and sits under the driver’s seat. It is mated to a five-speed gearbox, which drives the rear wheels. The gear ratio is excellent, making use of the 73 bhp, and in spite of its bulk and a kerb weight of just 900 kg, it is as quick as any compact vehicle in the market.

The gearshift has the diagonal shift assistance (DSA), and is also found in the Estillo. This makes the gearshift more positive and quick, especially from fourth to the fifth gear. Believe it or not, there are some people who have been driving the new cars with a five-speed gearbox without knowing the car had a fifth gear. It helps to read the owner’s manual.

Cutting down on the frills, the Eeco has no power steering. However, with the engine set back and rear wheel drive, the steering is light and easy to manoeuvre. The steering is rack and pinion. The interior is Spartan. The front two seats are well appointed, recline, and only the driver’s seat has a fore and aft adjustment. The front seats have integrated headrests. The second and third row of seats are bench seats on steel frames and bolted on to the floor boards.

The seat belts are just that, belts that hang loose — no emergency locking restraints (ELR). The seats have no adjustments. If the first visual glance shows a rough and ready exterior, it is the sheep clothing hiding the essentials. The vehicle has a McPherson strut suspension upfront and a 3-link rigid suspension at the rear. It has ventilated disc brakes upfront and drum brakes at the rear. Besides, there are side-impact beams in the doors, child locks for sliding doors and windows, a high mounted stop lamp, headlight levelling adjustments and ORVMs.

The instrument panel is back lit with amber colour, easy on the eye. It has a multi-trip meter. It runs on 155 R 13 tubeless tyres. The Eeco comes in three variants. The 5-seater Standard non A/C, the 5-seater with A/C and the 7- seater Standard. The 5-seater Standard is Rs 2.64 lakh (approx); with A/C the 5-seater is Rs 2.94 lakh (approx); and the 7-seater non A/C is Rs 2.80 lakh (approx.).

It is the pricing and the fact that it is a Maruti product that should spell success for the Eeco. The Omni van was the favoured vehicle for taxi operators in Himachal and to some extent in the plains. The Eeco is only about Rs 50,000 more than the Omni, which will soon drive into the sunset since it is not BS IV compliant. Being a regular 7-seater, the taxi operator can easily squeeze in half a dozen more people. A roof rack will take care of their goodies. The 1200 cc ‘B’ series engine should conquer hill and dale. Another plus point. All three variants have heaters in the car. Space wise it is the best vehicle in this class and price. No other car offers these facilities in this budget. As a taxi, its nearest competitor is the GM Chevy Tavera.

The Eeco is half the price of the Tavera. GM vice-president P. Balendran announced last month that the Tavera was temporarily withdrawn because it was not BS IV compliant. The Eeco is a breeze to drive. The high seating position of the driver gives a wide field of vision. In spite of its height, the car is well balanced on a hill road. It is a people mover, it is a cargo mover. It is quirky and different, and that would be its USP.

Just keep in mind, it is not a hatch or a sedan; it is a van. On second thoughts, may be it is the original MPV — Multi Purpose Vehicle. Maruti had called their earliest Wagon R an MPV. The Eeco is a better version of an MPV.

Happy motoring