Sufficient mini-MPV

Suzuki's all-new Ertiga isn't the best mini-MPV around, but it hardly does anything bad

Competition in the Thai mini-MPV market is certainly intensifying. Suzuki will launch the all-new Ertiga next week on March 19 and becomes the fourth brand to offer such a body style after Honda, Proton and Toyota.

As well, the Chevrolet Spin will be previewed to the public in full at this month's Bangkok motor show before going on sale officially in the second half of this year.

While the Ertiga hasn't been exactly described by Suzuki as a direct replacement for the gawky APV, it actually is. That's because the Ertiga also comes from Indonesia, has three rows of seats in a similarly sized package, and is set to hunt the Toyota Avanza in price.

The good news is that the Ertiga not only looks ages ahead in design over the APV but also against the frumpy Avanza. The Ertiga has a more car-like proportion and dynamic appearance than both those models.

Interior design is simple and well finished.

But since MPVs are all about practicality, design couldn't obviously be a priority in the Ertiga. That's why both the exterior and interior design are simple rather than inspiring.

The Ertiga has conventionally hinged doors, unlike the practical _ but expensive to produce _ sliding doors of the Honda Freed.

You may note a whiff of some styling cues from the Swift hatchback, principally because the two are actually related. Both share a common platform (expanded and fortified for the Ertiga), interior dashboard and a 1.4-litre petrol engine (in the Thai-built Swift made for export).

The Ertiga sits on a competitive 2,740mm wheelbase length, but the interior space is ample, rather than exceptional. Legroom space in the Ertiga's third-row seats are only enough for adults if second-row occupants are willing to sacrifice some space by sliding the seats forward. While the seats don't tumble in an utterly fuss-free manner, the space created when they fold down is practically flat for outright cargo area. This is to say that the Ertiga, like in rival models, is more suited as a people-carrier for short distances. The more luggage space you want, the more people stay home.

Third-row seats have cramped legroom.

A good thing about the Ertiga's cabin is the simplicity in the way most things work from the driver's seat. Despite the lack of visual aesthetics, the light-coloured cockpit is well finished.

The Ertiga test car we drove on Thai roads came in range-topping GX form that's expected to cost around 700,000 baht. There will be a cheaper GL variant but omitting crucial safety features and several convenience items. Better to pay more, we think.

The 95hp output the 1.4-litre boasts on paper may sound a little short on power. But in reality, performance is okay with sufficient progress made when accelerating linearly from standstill.

Grunt can be lacking a little when overtaking at medium to high speeds but can be solved by going into kickdown. The automatic has apparently been geared to cope with load, explaining the rather high operating engine speed in top gear during cruising.

Seats fold flat for increased practicality.

Nevertheless, the 15kpl average we recorded on a drive to Pattaya can't be considered that bad. And that's an auto with just four forward ratios.

The chassis is obviously tuned for comfort, meaning that ride is generally comfortable.

But as soon as driving conditions become more demanding, there's body roll and the steering loses its precision. As well, you need to put more strain on the engine.

At least the Ertiga handles and rides in a better fashion than the Avanza, but never to the extent of the finely balanced Exora.

Which practically sums up the Ertiga on the overall. Suzuki has seemingly settled to make the Ertiga a better MPV than the Avanza in most conceivable aspects, be it the design, driving bit or perceived quality.

But the Ertiga hasn't topped the class, even if it had the best price and specification balance because the Freed has higher levels of livability and the Exora more appreciable road manners.

Some say you can't have everything in one. So, you could consider the Ertiga to be a mini-MPV with self-sufficient product attributes.

AT A GLANCE

Styling ................................. 7/10

It may not be sensual, but it looks tidy and isn't frumpy like some rivals.

Engine and economy.............. 6/10

It goes amply and is reasonably frugal, if conditions aren't demanding.

Handling and ride .................. 6/10

Chassis and steering is tuned for comfort, while straight-line grip is okay.

Practicality .......................... 7/10

Prepare to make some compromises with a full house on board.

Safety kit ............................. 6/10

Dual airbags and anti-lock brakes are only available in the range-topper.

VERDICT .............................. 7/10

If the Ertiga's prices go head-on with the Avanza's, then it should sound good value because it looks better, drives nicer and is easier to live with.

‘The Ertiga handles and rides in a better fashion than the Avanza’

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About the author

columnist
Writer: Richard Leu
Position: Motoring news Editor