It’s easy to see why the MPV (Multi Purpose Vehicle) segment is one of the most successful here in India. With large families predominant here, the average sedan is just not enough. The MPV, however, not only seats 5 or 7 in comfort but also carries everyone’s luggage with room to spare. And to top it all, it drives just as well as your everyday sedan. The Toyota Innova has been leading this scene ever since its inception, and Maruti Suzuki’s all-new Ertiga (Read : Maruti Suzuki Ertiga First Drive), though not the same size, aims to offer almost the same at a lot less. Has Maruti succeeded? Let’s find out…
There is no mistaking the Ertiga as anything but Japanese. Right from the large swept back headlights, the sporty bumper with the massive air dam and minimal overhangs, the Ertiga reeks of Japanese lines all over. Look at it from any angle but the side and the Ertiga manages to hide its length very well. Its only when you look at it side on that you realise how long the car really is.
The bold wheel arches add a lot of character and blend quite well with the overall design, however, they also highlight the small wheels which don’t really gel well with snazzy design. Bigger wheels would not only have filled the wheel wells better but would have added more character to the overall design. The doors are quite large; in fact quite noticeably so to allow easy ingress and egress. The blacked-out B and C pillars add contrast and really make the car stand out. The rear follows suit with smart crystal-shaped taillights and a well-designed integrated spoiler. Overall, the Ertiga comes across as the smartest looking people mover we have. Chic, modern and very well proportioned.
The smart seater
When it comes to MPVs, it’s not the outsides that matter, it’s the insides and Maruti Suzuki has done a pretty good job here. Opening the wide opening doors, the Ertiga welcomes you into very familiar looking insides. The donor here is the Swift/D’zire from which most of the Ertiga’s insides have taken shape. It’s a roomy car already and the beige-grey combo make it look roomier. Getting behind the wheel makes you feel pretty comfortable with a nice all-round view of the road with no blind spots. There are plenty of storage places and cubby holes and as a result one finds a place to store any and everything. Two days with the car and every other crevice in the car was crammed with wafer packets, chocolate wrappers and then some. It really spoils you, the Ertiga.
While I never left the driving seat, my colleagues who were entrusted with the rear seat testing of the Ertiga looked comfortable. With the seniors, Vikram and Muntaser, claiming the middle bench, the juniors, Ravi and Rahul, had no choice but to get into the third row. If you can notice in the picture, the middle row is quite wide and even though both the passengers are a little on the healthier side (I might get walloped for this), there is still adequate space for a slightly less healthier third passenger. The legroom is pretty impressive too with the little-above-6-feet Vikram not scraping his knees at all. The occupants in the last bench weren’t complaining either. There is adequate knee room but what is lacking is sufficient under thigh support which makes the last bench good for short commutes at best.
Coming to the boot space, with all seven passengers, there is enough place for your average shopping bags. There is also a concealed storage bay in the boot which had the tool box but can be used for other small items. For more space, the third row can be folded flat. You also have the option to fold the middle row and the 60:40 split further aids flexibility.
With such cavernous insides, the Ertiga’s air conditioner better be up to the task, especially in peak summers and from what we felt, it pretty much is. The middle and top variants get a separate unit for the rear passengers, pretty much like in the Innova. With both the units on, it got cold enough with just the snow-fall missing.
The only grouse we felt was the quality of plastics in some areas. While overall quality is acceptable, certain knobs and switches felt quite flimsy. On the whole, the Ertiga is a very smartly packaged vehicle and the interiors are far more spacious than the exterior dimensions suggest.
Making space is the easy part, but what is paramount in a good people mover is whether or not it has the heart to haul all those people easily. Powering the Ertiga are two engines, a K-series 1.4 litre petrol and the one we have here, the tried and tested, multifarious, Fiat-sourced 1.3-litre DDiS turbo diesel unit. It's the same engine that powers the Maruti SX4, Fiat Linea and the Tata Manza. While powering these sedans is one thing, carrying seven passengers with a fair bit of luggage is another. But Maruti have done well to tune the engine to suit the Ertiga’s characteristics. Though engine output remains similar to the SX4 and the Manza (Linea is slightly higher) at 90PS @ 4000 rpm and a maximum torque of 200Nm @ 1750 rpm, it’s the short gear ratios that make all the difference in the Ertiga.
So what’s the performance in the real world like? Well, for starters we have turbo lag, not too much of it but it definitely makes its presence felt, however, once you're above 2500 rpm, so does the turbo boost! While acceleration is decent, the midrange is where all the action is and the Ertiga never feels breathless here. Even with seven people on board, the motor does not feel restrained as long as you keep it in the powerband which is not really a difficult task. Uphills with a full load and air-conditioning on, however, does take a toll on the small capacity engine and frequent shifting is required to keep the Ertiga moving at a fair pace.
Talking about numbers, the Ertiga lighted up its front tyres (yes, this one’s a front wheel drive) and launched its way to a 100km/h in 14.09 seconds which is mighty impressive for an 1800-plus kg vehicle. But it’s never about outright acceleration when it comes to MPVs. Slotting the gear lever in 3rd, this big momma did the 40-80 km/h stint in a scant 6.02 seconds. Considering our traffic conditions barely let you get into 4th or any other higher gears, the Ertiga can just laze around in 3rd all day. Just for the record, the Ertiga also managed a true top speed of 164 km/h, which means it can cruise at 120 km/h all day without breaking into a sweat.
Retardation was pretty good too. Our test vehicle came with ABS with Brake Assist & EBD and did a great job when the anchors were dropped. Standing on the brakes at 60 km/h, the Ertiga managed to show zero on the speedo in 2.63 seconds over a distance of 21.86 metres and quite steadily, too, while from a 100, it took 3.81 seconds and all of 52.10 metres to come to a halt.
And the best part is that the Ertiga does all this feeling just like any other sedan. The ride is a tad bit on the stiff side, which is filtered inside the cabin only when the roads are really bad, but other than that, the Ertiga feels pretty well damped under a full load. Handling is more than acceptable too. It’s not exactly a fun experience with the higher centre of gravity but the big van can pretty much hold its own when the competition is brought into the picture.
Small displacement, Big efficiency!
It’s easy to see why Maruti decided to stick with the DDiS unit. While the power is acceptable, the efficiency is brilliant. And in our “Kitna deti hai” obsessed market, the Ertiga will win itself a whole load of admirers. Trundling around in town, the Ertiga ran 11.4 km to the litre while on the highway the figure rose to an amazing 18.6 kmpl. Combine those figures and you get an overall mileage of 13.2 kmpl which is fantastic for a big vehicle like the Ertiga.
The perfect family car then?
Well, almost. Maruti Suzuki understands the pulse of the Indian market extremely well and as a result churns out just what the people need. The Ertiga then comes across as another feather in the cap for Maruti. Offering loads of space, a refined fuel efficient engine and all this in a good looking compact package, the Ertiga is just right for the big Indian family. With the price ranging from Rs. 7.30 – 8.60 lakh, ex-showroom Delhi, for the diesel variants, it's pretty well priced too.
But there are a few chinks in the Ertiga’s armour, too. Besides the slight lack of power, there is the buying process. A 6-week waiting for the petrol variant and an unbelievable 40 weeks waiting for the diesel variant in Delhi is not something you want to hear when you want to buy your Ertiga. While this waiting is only for the top-end variant and you might get the lower variants quicker, Maruti Suzuki needs to attend to the demand quickly especially when competition like the Nissan Evalia and the new Chevrolet MPV are just around the corner. But until then, the Ertiga has the more the merrier mantra well and truly covered!
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