Nexa Fronx Drive Review. A Bold Fusion of Style and Performance

Sub compact SUVs and coupe-style SUVs seem to be two of the most significant and sweeping trends in the automotive sector in the last few years, with manufacturers jumping at any chance to jack up their hatchbacks and slope the rooflines on their SUVs. But although the compact SUV and rugged hatchback approach has become all too common, even in the more affordable segments, the coupe-SUV style has been more or less restricted to the premium segment. That is, until now. With the introduction of the Fronx, Maruti Suzuki has designed a head-turner that emerges as a refreshing contender in the sub-4 metre SUV segment. Fronx, which retails through Maruti Suzuki’s NEXA network, is a compact SUV-style hatchback based on the Baleno, and brings a much needed sense of modernity to the brand’s portfolio. It represents the automaker’s shift towards a more urban and style-conscious approach.

However, in a segment teeming with competitive offerings, how does this compact vehicle fare, especially when compared to both rival models and Maruti Suzuki’s own lineup? We spent a couple of weeks with the Fronx’s 1.0 litre turbo and 1.2 litre manual transmission variants to find out. And after driving them for over 1000 kms, here’s what we think.

In terms of exterior design, Fronx by NEXA introduces a breath of fresh air into the segment, and stands out as one of the few offerings that is embracing an adventurous design approach over the mundane. Fronx is by far the best looking and most aesthetically aggressive car across the Maruti/ NEXA stable, thanks in large part to the mean front fascia and the higher ground clearance, which give it a tonne of presence on the road. The front headlamps are split into an upper section which houses the LED DRLs and a lower cluster with a trio of projector headlamps. The overall design is a striking departure from Maruti Suzuki’s conventional styling. A well-proportioned side profile, marked by clean lines, squared off wheel arches, and an overtly sloping roofline, contributes to a sporty and premium look that makes Fronx stand out from its competitors. The rear end is characterised by a full-length LED bar joining the well-designed tail lamps on either side, and although we love how the rear makes the vehicle appear wider than it is, we aren’t big fans of the slightly compromised plastic cladding on the bottom of the rear bumper. Overall, Fronx is a win for Maruti Suzuki and NEXA, when it comes to exterior design. The design team has done a fantastic job at reinvigorating the company’s existing design philosophy to incorporate principles from more premium segments, and we can only hope to see more such progress from their upcoming offerings. 

Step inside the Fronx and you’ll discover a well laid out but overtly familiar cabin. The interior design has been pretty much completely carried over from the Baleno, with some slightly reworked design elements and a burgundy/ brown colour palette. The cabin is inviting, spacious and has a contemporary design which gives Fronx a leg up over competitors like Renault Kiger and Nissan Magnite. The dashboard’s layout is intuitive, with the infotainment screen up top and HVAC controls positioned at the bottom for easy access. The switchgear and HVAC toggles seem to be of much better quality than earlier, but the cabin could benefit from an enhancement in the quality of hard plastics. Additionally, addressing minor creaks and rattles through better padding and insulation would enhance the overall experience. On the brighter side, the front seats do provide a comfortable and supportive experience, ensuring decent comfort even on longer drives. There’s also ample headroom and legroom at the rear, and Fronx enjoys the same acres of backseat room that the Baleno is endowed with. In terms of comfort and spaciousness, it’s hard to beat this one in its segment.

Equipment levels on the top of the line Alpha variants are great, with some features seldom seen at this price point. The top end variants come with a slick and responsive 9″ infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 6-speaker ARKAMYS sound system, automatic headlamps, push button start, cruise control, and parking sensors with a 360-degree camera. Thankfully, Fronx also gets the Baleno’s much-loved heads-up display, which shows information like speed, revs and even navigation guidance. Maruti’s move to enhance accessibility to premium features within this segment is a commendable decision. Incorporating additional features like a sunroof, for instance, could significantly bolster its value proposition.

The mid-level variant of Fronx we drove, was the Delta 1.2L, and the cut-backs in the equipment list was significant. Lower end variants get a smaller, 7″ infotainment display with less advanced features built in, and the part-digital instrument cluster also takes a hit, with lower-end black and white graphics.

In terms of safety, Fronx comes with six airbags, ABS with EBD and Hill Hold Assist, in addition to the usual standard safety features. 

With the Fronx, Maruti has brought back the 1.0 litre 3-cylinder Boosterjet engine which was loved by many when it powered the last generation Baleno, and the reintroduction of this sweet little motor has enhanced the driving experience of the Fronx manyfold. The Boosterjet engine, which produces 100 bhp and 147 Nm of torque, comes paired with either a 5-speed manual or a 6-speed torque converter automatic. The other engine option available is Maruti’s tried and tested 1.2 litre K-Series engine, producing a tamer 90 bhp and 113 Nm of torque. This engine powers the base and mid-range variants of the Baleno, and can be paired with a 5-speed manual or a 5-speed AMT transmission. We had the chance to drive both engine iterations of Fronx with the 5-speed manual, and although they are geared for efficiency and comfort, the overall driving dynamics left us impressed. 

The 1.0L Boosterjet engine is definitely the one to get, if you enjoy driving. While Fronx isn’t exactly designed for enthusiastic driving, it still manages to hold its own when pushed to its limits. The power delivery of the Boosterjet is smooth with minimal turbo lag, despite it being a turbocharged unit. Put your foot down and you’re provided with gradual power and acceleration, and the engine has enough grunt to power you through, even if you’re in a higher gear. Overtaking is more or less effortless, and we were left thoroughly impress with the Boosterjet engine’s day-to-day performance. Maruti has also nailed the gearing on the 5-speed manual gearbox, the clutch is light and so is the steering, and overall, Fronx is extremely easy to live with in urban settings. With the Boosterjet being the variant for performance enthusiasts, fuel efficiency does take a bit of a hit, but we still got a respectable average of about 14.5 km/l in mixed city/ highway driving of over 650 kms.

As expected, the 1.2 litre K-Series engine is slower to respond and less lively than the Boosterjet, and you can instantly sense that it is tuned keeping efficiency in mind. The 1.2 litre engine is a tad sluggish compared to the Boosterjet, and the lack of low-end grunt means that sudden overtakes are a bit of a struggle unless you’re in the right gear. Unlike the 1.0 litre Boosterjet motor, the 1.2 litre makes you rev it out rather high to harvest its full potential, although good refinement levels ensure it isn’t a tiring experience. Both the engine options stay relatively quiet while idling, and even while driving, the engines feel smooth and refined. There is however a significant amount of road noise which starts entering the cabin at higher speeds, making continuous high speed highway driving a little tiring. Where the 1.2 litre motor does trump the Boosterjet is in fuel efficiency, and our time with the Fronx 1.2 Delta returned an average of about 16.5 km/l with mixed city/ highway driving of around 425 kms. Which is a phenomenal figure to live with in these times. 

In terms of handling, the Fronx surprised us with its nimble yet planted persona. The ride is a bit on the firm side, which we suspect is due to the raised ride height of the Fronx compared to the Baleno. This slightly firmer ride does wonders in making the vehicle feel stable and confident around corners with minimal body roll. In the city, the ride does feel firmer than you’d expect from a car of this kind, but the Fronx manages to do a decent job at smoothening out the average Indian pothole, although larger undulations sometimes manage to rattle the car. The steering is light and responsive, making it a breeze to navigate through traffic, and the compact dimensions and 4.9m turning radius enable the Fronx to negotiate tight spaces with ease and park without hassle.

In totality, Maruti Suzuki has left us impressed and pleasantly surprised with what they’ve done with the Fronx. Yes, it looks like a Baleno in Grand Vitara’s clothing at first glance, but it’s also much more than that. Fronx feels like a new car – one that isn’t just a compact, value-for-money set of wheels designed for practical city living – but a stylish and contemporary offering with a sense of flair seldom seen in this segment. With its gorgeous exterior design, comfortable interior, and good balance between performance and efficiency, Fronx offers a well-rounded package. While it does have a heavily re-used interior, and misses out on a few premium features, it excels in its mission to deliver a balance of style, comfort, space and fuel economy. In a market where affordability and practicality often take precedence, Fronx stands out as a strong contender that takes these values and blends them with an element of desirability. Whether you’re a young driver seeking style or a budget-conscious commuter looking for an efficient ride, Fronx makes the cut and has the ability to appeal to both segments.

Prices for Fronx start at INR 7.46 lacs ex-showroom for the base Sigma 1.2L 5MT, and go up to INR 12.97 lacs for the range topping Alpha 1.0L Turbo Smart Hybrid 6AT. The cars we had on test were the Alpha 1.0L Turbo Smart Hybrid 5MT that is priced at INR 11.47 lacs ex-showroom, and the Delta+ 1.2L 5MT, which is priced at INR 8.72 lacs ex-showroom. 

Images below are of the Fronx Delta+ 1.2L 5MT:

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