For large families wanting a well-built, slightly upmarket people mover, the Innova has always been the de-facto choice. It is car-like to drive, is very comfortable, has a diesel engine and comes with Toyota’s legendary reputation for reliability. It’s why it has beaten off all comers to the MPV crown over the years.
The only thing we Indians like more than legendary reliability is a tiny price tag. Maruti knows this well and is a master at making good cars for less. It’s the same with the new Ertiga diesel. At Rs 8.45 lakh for the ZDi model it is Rs 5 lakh cheaper than a similarly specced Innova. It has space for seven, a small, fuel-efficient diesel motor, proven mechanicals based on the Swift and, being a Maruti, it will be easy on the pocket. So, is it better than the Innova? We load them up and head out of town to find out.
There’s no masking the fact that they both look like vans, but the Ertiga, with its compact dimensions and aggressive nose, looks more dynamic and is more attractive than the all-too-familiar Innova. But while the front looks sporty, the rear isn’t. It’s a little plain and the tiny wraparound lamps don’t help matters either.
Toyota, on the other hand, has just launched the face-lifted Innova with a new grille and front bumper that sport Corolla styling elements. Built on a C-in-C ladder frame (as opposed to the Ertiga’s monocoque construction), the Innova looks more van-like than the Maruti, and its sloping roof and curved D-pillar don’t do much to hide it. It does have a big advantage though, and that’s with its 4.6-metre length – that’s 320mm longer than the Ertiga. The Innova is also a fair bit wider than the Maruti.
Space for more?
The Ertiga is based on a stretched Swift platform, which means you sit much lower than in the Innova. This makes getting in and out much easier. The front seats from the Swift are big and accommodating andfeel more comfortable than the Innova’s too.
Thanks to the longer wheelbase, the Innova has a much better middle row in terms of space. The wide rear seat can sit three passengers with ease and seats are comfortable too. There is loads of legroom and if we were to nitpick, it would be about the seat squab, which is a tad short. However, the optional ‘Captain’ seats are supremely plush and offer a level of comfort the Ertiga can’t match. The Innova also has a second, dedicated air-con compressor for the rear passengers while the Ertiga makes do with a single one for the whole cabin. Still, the Ertiga’s middle row has good legroom and the soft seats are quite comfy, but the narrower cabin means three-abreast seating is more of a squeeze.
The Innova has the bigger cabin, but the flexible seating and clever packaging of the Ertiga’s cabin mean its third row is more usable than the Innova’s. The Ertiga’s sliding middle row helps generate more room at the back, and unless you’re travelling with a quartet of six-footers, the last row, for most practical purposes, is actually the comfier of the two. The Innova’s middle seat doesn’t slide as much but with all three rows up, it has more boot space. The Ertiga shares its dashboard with the Swift, so quality is quite good and the design is more appealing than the Innova’s dash. Still, quality is not as consistent as in the Innova.
Watch video here
The Ertiga is powered by the same 89bhp, Fiat-sourced 1.3-litre diesel engine you now universally find in cars like the Linea, SX4 and Manza. The Innova, on the other hand, uses a much bigger 2.5-litre unit that produces 100bhp and a healthy 20.40kgm torque.
It doesn’t take long to realise that the Ertiga is not the most comfortable car to drive in traffic. There is massive turbo lag below 2000rpm and you need to keep changing gears to extract respectable performance at low speeds. A full complement of seven passengers on-board further accentuates this drawback. Once past 2000rpm, the turbo spools up and there is a sudden burst of acceleration, which is typical of this engine. It gets better on the highway though, and displays enough grunt for reasonably rapid progress. This is also thanks to the 1.3-litre engine’s strong midrange.
The Innova engine, meanwhile, has loads of torque as soon as you get off the clutch and power delivery is very linear. This makes it extremely easy to drive in town. On the highway things are fine as long as you keep the speedo needle below three digits. Pass 100kph and the engine feels strained and is quite frenzied, even near the 120kph mark.
The Ertiga, thanks to its huge weight advantage (it’s nearly half a tonne lighter than the Innova!) is far more fleet-footed. Its punchy mid-range and strong top end also help. The 0-100kph takes a scant 13.89sec, which makes it nearly four seconds quicker than the Innova. In-gear times of 12.68sec for 20-80kph in third and 13.55sec for 40-100kph in fourth are much quicker too.
Ride and handling
Sharing the Swift platform, the Ertiga uses a modern monocoque chassis. This means its ride and handling are pretty impressive. The soft suspension means irregularities are kept out of the cabin at low speeds. However, it doesn’t feel as settled as the Innova, and at high speeds the soft setup means the car bobs about – driving on uneven roads can be unsettling. It is not particularly uncomfortable, it’s just that the Innova is better. Even in corners there is a fair bit of body roll, but after the initial lean the Ertiga settles down and has predictable road manners.
The Innova, on the other hand, has a stiffer suspension setup and, despite its bulk, feels very car-like to drive. The low-speed ride though is not as good as the Ertiga and big bumps and potholes filter through to the cabin. But as the going gets faster, the Innova feels much better and straight-line stability is very impressive.
As a personal family car, the Ertiga works better. It rides well, is less cumbersome in town and does almost everything the Innova does, with as much grace. It comes with all the features that the Innova has and is substantially cheaper too. In fact, the only significant place the Innova has a true advantage is if everyone in your large family is large – the Innova’s extra space will come in handy. Also, the Innova’s body-on-frame construction and superior ground clearance make the Toyota much better on rough roads. Where the dainty Ertiga bobs up and down, the Innova thumps through. However, in the final analysis, the Ertiga does almost as much as the Innova (and in some cases more) for just 60 percent of the price. You simply can’t argue with that.
Issue: 166 | June 2013
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