Editor-in-Chief Adil Jal Darukhanawala unmasks the all new Maruti Suzuki Ertiga MPV after a very spirited first hand drive experience in Goa
Is it a van? Or is it your stereotypical Multi-utility vehicle that's fitted with enough seating for 6-7 passengers, but compromises on comfort and in-car entertainment features? Where does Maruti Suzuki's newest MPV, the Ertiga really fit into the country's multi-faceted utility vehicle market, where competition exists more in the numbers sold than passengers satisfied. Having experienced the soon to be launched Maruti Ertiga on a recent media exclusive drive in Goa, Editor-in-Chief Adil puts pen to paper and tries to make sense of the new compact vehicle from the eyes of the customer. Out of the countless queries that have surfaced here are the most relevant answered by Adil himself.
Is the Ertiga the final outcome of the Suzuki RIII concept which appeared at the 2010 Auto Expo?
Yes, that indeed was the ideas car, the basic concept behind the Ertiga. It was used to gauge public opinion for a small-size people carrier which was more car-like than van-like. Maruti Suzuki already has people moving vans like the Omni and the Eeco but the RIII was a move towards the personal space, more car-like and certainly in sync with upward aspirations. The RIII dazzled everyone with its concept-car turn-out but there was no denying the internal packaging which is what lies at the basis for the Ertiga's evolution.
Describe the basic make-up of the Ertiga which seems to be a conglomeration of many Suzuki models.
On the face of it, the outward visual cues hint as if the whole package was a lash up, albeit a tasty lash up conjured up by the simple expedient of diving into the ample Maruti Suzuki parts bin and coming up with a car which has the look of the Ritz up front but based on an extended floorpan of the Swift with a sporty Honda-like rear-end treatment thrown in for good measure. Keeping these observations aside, the rest of the structure, the build and the internal packaging are sterling qualities which deserved much better on the exterior treatment. Maruti Suzuki shouldn't have let itself down by doing very little on the front end and that too so very obviously by using many parts already in production thereby depriving the new model of its individuality.
Speaking with a Maruti official on this very detail, he said that this was done so as to keep this vehicle within the Swift family and while I agree on the concept, the fact that they went out and named it differently does give rise to this line of questioning. However, with a floorpan having an extended wheelbase of 300mm (that's 12 inches mind you) and yet having a finely pencilled profile with the right glazed to sheet metal proportioning makes the Ertiga come across as very pleasing.
Maruti Suzuki had earlier done the same, if we are not mistaken, on a three-row seat vehicle with the earlier Versa. Will it finally banish the horror story from Maruti's psyche or what exactly is your take on this front?
Good question but again it stems from a van and a car approach. The Versa was more commercial vehicle application put to personal use and the high tall stance plus one critical element which hampered sales was the atrociously high price point meant only the Bachchans - father and son, were the big winners with Versa! Jokes aside, this line of pricey thought can't very well be used by Maruti now and the second and most telling aspect is that the new vehicle is bang on in the concept which is for a maturing market and a niche that's waiting to unfold. If anything, this sort of a vehicle should have come much earlier, if anything the leader was guilty of not having gone down this route at least five years ago.
It doesn't look too big, Does it really have the space for three rows of seats?
This is the beauty of the vehicle's build and design - the small visual proportions disguise the fact that it has added a third row of seats which make it appealing to a small family. Having seen the seat configuration, the access into and out of the vehicle plus the H-points for the Indian physique, the Ertiga scores high on every count and yet has the means to take in seven in reasonable comfort.
Must be really cramped on the last bench then. Can an adult fit in there at all?
Yes, this is another obvious question and while the third seat should be pressed into operation for two adults in an emergency, this is an emergency which can happen every day and the Ertiga will be more than capable of living up to its designed application. The important thing here is about the rear seat back which can only incline so much and not more plus there is a limit on the headroom so very tall passengers need not get tied down into contortions by selecting the middle row rather than the third. However, on most occasions the third row does very well and with great space for the feet underneath the second middle row playing an important role to make the third row seat occupants comfortable.
Can the second row accommodate three full sized adults?
The answer to this is a resounding YES and this is the most versatile of the seat configs here in the Ertiga. In fact, the slide rails for the second row in the vehicle allows a large operating span for the occupants and with a fully reclining seat back this is the place to be for the junior after he returns home from a triumphant outing in the school cricket tournament!
It must get very stuffy in the last row. Any kind of air con vents for the back benchers?
The air con throw from the blower just ahead of the middle row is adequate though I think that this could be an issue given the Ertiga comes with small motors and there has to be a quid pro quo on performance vis-a-vis comfort and convenience across the length and breadth of the vehicle. In our first drive the air con seemed to be just about adequate but lets wait for the full impact of the typical Indian summer to kick in and we will have the answers.
With the added weight, fuel efficiency must definitely be much lower than the Swift and Ritz, right?
This is another question for which the answers should be in within the next few weeks when we put the Ertiga through its paces in the course of our test drive. Of course, physics cannot be asked to do the unthinkable and there is both more bulk and mass to move plus also the fact that the new petrol engine is perfectly sized to do the business in such a vehicle and this could be a real eye-opener! That said, expect the Ertiga to be ultra reliable and also on par with best in class as regards fuel efficiency - a hallmark of vehicles built by Maruti Suzuki.
How much space is left in the boot when the third row is in place?
The one area which suffers the most in the Ertiga is the minimum amount of luggage space. For a car that is a family-carrier, the amount of luggage space or the lack thereof is pretty telling! Not exactly the LUV which Maruti Suzuki suggests, LUV as in Life Utility Vehicle which is the clarion call for the vehicle by its maker.
Do you see this more as a family car or is it something that will be a hit with fleet operators?
In India the first and most obvious choice will be the personal family type of buyer who will take to this sort of a vehicle but then fleet operators enamoured by a lower price point will also try and take to this. In the overall scheme of things for the latter class of car operator, it is return on investment which will make them take to this vehicle as also customer requirement. If the price points for hiring an Innova and an Ertiga are the same, it is a no-brainer, the Innova will be there ten times out of ten and only if the hire charges for the Ertiga are lower then there could be some movement against the Innova on the hire taxi front.
Suzuki is saying that the Ertiga is going to start a new segment with Ertiga. But how different is it really from the Innova or the Xylo?
It is completely different from the Innova and the Xylo in that the essence might be the same but the execution and the turn-out is mighty different. Also it operates in a segment much lower than where the Innova and the Xylo operate in plus the fact that it is in the way Maruti Suzuki spreads out its product portfolio, offering everything from the most basic entry level mini to the mid-range sedan at pleasing price points, the Ertiga adds to this thought and marketing process and just builds on that.