The car you see on these pages isn’t really new. It was launched in 2015; however, the Multix never reached most parts of India because of the phased launch pattern that the company followed and the non-availability of BS-IV trims for metros. Now armed with a new BS-IV motor, the Polaris Multix is available across India and the company also offered us a test drive of the product. Here is what the Eicher-Polaris Multix is all about.
The Multix was built because Eicher-Polaris thinks there is a space in the market for a personal as well as commercial vehicle. The car was designed from the ground-up for the rural businessman – a person who will not use multiple vehicles for personal use and as a load carrier. In that sense, the Multix claims to transport their goods as well as carry five people in reasonable comfort along with their luggage. It also has a smart X-Port (power take-off) point as an accessory which the company claims can power a refrigerator, a washing machine, a generator or even a water pump. The X-port is basically a driveshaft that transfers power from the Multix’s engine to the device it is connected with (refrigerator, water pump…). This will be useful in the rural areas where power supply is usually irregular. We were given a small demonstration on how it works when connected to a generator. The connection process took approximately five minutes. Polaris claims that for one hour of generating electricity, the Multix’s engine will consume less than a litre of fuel. This with a claimed fuel efficiency of 27kmpl and a tank capacity of 11.5 litres means less stops at the fuel stations.
I liked the Multix when the first images came out. It looks cooler than the other small utility vehicles available in the market. A quick glance and you may also confuse it for Bajaj’s Qute. However, the latter doesn’t sell here and the Multix will not go through any identity crisis because of it. The tall cab design, the relatively short front overhangs, and those cute-looking headlamps all add to the appeal of the vehicle. The grille and the bumpers as well as side claddings are done in black. The Multix is available with doors (MX+) and without doors (AX+) trims. The one we drove was the MX. It’s a four-door car with a load bay. The tail lamps are also simple with a vertically stacked pattern. The engine peeks out from below the load bay.
Open the door (coming from a regular car, the doors do feel flimsy) and an all-pasticky cabin will greet you. You sit relatively high up, but the entry point to the cabin is a tad tricky with the wheel well intrusion taking up significant space.
Once perched in the cabin, you notice the rudimentary layout with a non-adjustable three-spoke steering wheel and a simple instrument cluster that houses the speedo, odometer as well as the fuel and temperature gauge. There are also the telltale lights for the indicators, engine check light and handbrake. The gear knob is placed on the dashboard within easy reach. This pattern also liberates space for a middle passenger in the front, similar to the KUV100. However, unlike the KUV100 that uses an umbrella-pattern handbrake, the Multix has its handbrake positioned on the right-hand side of the driver’s seat, closer to the door. Apart from the cupholder to the right of the steering wheel as well as a lockable glovebox on the passenger side, there aren’t any storage spaces in the cabin. If you’re looking for modern-day amenities, there are none. Forget a music system, the Multix doesn’t even come with an air conditioner. Two non-adjustable headrests for the front row drop down from the roof like stalactites. While the seats are hard, they have good space for six grown-ups, including headroom as well as kneeroom. There, however, are no seat belts for the rear passengers as well as the front middle one. Build quality is strictly acceptable for a vehicle of this class.
When you fire up the engine, you realise how the modern-day diesel motors have evolved. This Greaves-built single-cylinder engine sounds archaic and starts with a proper shake-up. The sound doesn’t settle into a refined idle even after warm-up. The 652cc direct-injection naturally aspirated motor is a new unit and makes 12.98PS at 3,000rpm and 37Nm at 1,600-2,000rpm. The previous 511cc BS-III motor used to make 9.92PS/27.1Nm and is now no longer in use. Eicher-Polaris sells only the BS-IV unit in accordance to the upcoming emissions norms which will be applicable from April 2017. On the move, you feel the torque kicking in right from the word go. The Multix smartly moves ahead even from second gear starts. While I don’t have much of an experience driving commercial vehicles, to get a perspective, I drove a friend’s Mahindra Maxximo food truck. In comparison, the Multix feels like it has a much torquier engine. Polaris quotes a top speed of 60kmph, and according to what I experienced, it will be easy for this 775kg kerb weight vehicle to reach it with a full load. On one stint with the Multix, she climbed the purpose-built mound in third gear. The drum brakes at the front and rear though felt inadequate at stopping the vehicle, and I wish they had a bit more of bite. For a regular commercial vehicle or a first-gen Tata Nano driver, this will not be a problem though. Driven the first-gen manual steering Nano? If yes, you should be at home driving the Multix.
Eicher-Polaris harped big time about the Multix’s suspension. The Multix uses independent suspension at the front and rear, the first commercial vehicle to do so. The vehicle boasts 172mm of ground clearance. The drive with six on-board revealed that Eicher-Polaris’ claims weren’t wrong at all. The Multix drove beautifully over all the ruts and imperfections with no road shocks transmitted to the occupants. This means a poultry owner can transfer his farm eggs without worrying about them breaking en route. However, drive it without any on-board load and the vehicle feels bouncy. The turning radius of less than 4m means that the Multix is nimble in traffic.
Honestly, those in metros will not buy the Multix for airport runs or even to visit the neighbourhood mall. It is solely aimed at the rural customers – the ones who will use it to drop the kids at school, transport their laundry and at the same time return with the veggies for the day. It is crude at places though, including fit and finish. However, given the terrain it is supposed to operate in, I don’t think it will be a deal-breaker. Eicher-Polaris should have around 150 showrooms in India by mid-2017. The price of Rs 3.19 lakh for the AX+ and Rs 3.49 lakh for the MX –– all prices ex-showroom pan India –– only sweetens the deal. You can register it as either a personal or commercial vehicle depending on your choice. Eicher-Polaris CEO Pankaj Dubey also says that there is a Multix with ABS as well as airbags in the works. It will be available once the safety norms come into play by October 2017.