Published on Mar 04, 2019 08:00:00 AM
MPVs are almost never the subject of impassioned conversations among ‘car guys’ and are rarely ever the first body style of choice for buyers. There’s no denying that they lack emotional appeal and can’t quite match like-priced SUVs and sedans on image either, but see MPVs for their virtues and you’ll find that they are immensely sensible solutions for anyone with requirements of space, practicality and three-row versatility.
The MPV segment has actually shrunk over the years and there aren’t as many options as there once were, but the contenders are strong. We have the second-gen Maruti Suzuki Ertiga, the new Mahindra Marazzo and the Renault Lodgy that was our pick of the MPVs in our last big group test. We’ve left out the Toyota Innova Crysta, which if you look at its specs and price, is in a segment higher. Where the Innova diesel range starts at Rs 15.95 lakh, the priciest Ertiga, Marazzo and Lodgy 110PS cost Rs 10.9 lakh, 14.3 lakh and 12.11 lakh, respectively.
What we want to know is which of this trio is the best MPV. To arrive at the answer, we’ll have to find out if the well-priced Ertiga is all the MPV you need; or if the Lodgy can hold its own in the face of fresh competition; or if the biggest Marazzo is worth the stretch.
Form follows function
Don’t judge a book by its cover; and as MPVs go, don’t judge one by its exterior. In the world of MPVs, desirability takes a back seat to practicality and versatility. So we won’t go on and on about every design detail and will instead keep the focus on the stuff that really matters. For starters, isn’t it a bit unusual in an MPV comparison that all the featured models use a front-wheel-drive set-up? Yes, FWD is more space-efficient but rear-wheel drive has its advantages when lugging heavy loads. Even more unusual is the Marazzo whose engine sits transversally amidst a ladder-frame chassis. The Marazzo’s body-on-frame construction is part of the reason why it is so much larger than the mononcoque-bodied Ertiga and Lodgy.
The Ertiga is the smallest MPV of the trio. We’ll get to how that manifests into space on the inside soon, but it must be said that the relatively small dimensions do make the Maruti MPV easy to live with in town. The new Ertiga is also easy on the eyes with a neat look to everything. Some may see some resemblance to the Toyota Innova Crysta at the front; and that’s not a bad thing.
The Marazzo is well-turned-out in its own right. The styling is uncharacteristically restrained for a Mahindra and there’s nothing polarising about the look. Even the Ferrari 456-like crease on the doors works well. And top-spec M8 trim versions (pictured here) also have some flash value by way of their attractive 17-inch alloy wheels and LED daytime running lights.
The Renault Lodgy, in comparison, looks a bit plain. The top-spec Stepway version’s rugged embellishments do add some distinction but even so, the Lodgy appears decidedly utilitarian in this company. Interestingly, while the Lodgy is not the longest MPV here, it’s got the largest wheelbase which ideally should hold it in good stead when we talk about cabin room later.
|Ertiga vs Marazzo vs Lodgy: Dimensions|
|Ertiga ZDi+||Marazzo M8||Lodgy 110PS RXZ Stepway|
|Tyre size||185/65 R15||215/60 R17||195/55 R16|
Space: the first frontier
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of the in-cabin experience, you should know that the Ertiga is offered in a sole seven-seat (2+3+2) configuration, while the Lodgy and Marazzo can be had in seven- (2+2+3) and eight-seat (2+3+3) avatars, with either captain chairs or a bench in the middle row, respectively. Be rest assured, we’ll talk of all versions.
Take a long hard look at the dimensions and you’ll probably rule out the relatively small Ertiga as a family car. Fact is, the Maruti is surprisingly spacious on the inside and middle-row legroom is actually just shy of the best here. The large rear doors open up to a bright and airy cabin; and what also makes the Ertiga more likable still is the low floor height that makes getting in and out a breeze. Middle-row seat comfort is really good too and the option to individually slide the 60:40 split seats far back and recline the backrests give a lot of flexibility.
You get the same sort of flexibility in the Lodgy’s middle row. That’s because Renault has wisely added a sliding mechanism to the middle-row seats, in both seven- and eight-seat versions. You can take the seats far back to free-up lots of knee room and can also recline the backrests to a great degree. However, for buyers who won’t be travelling with a full house at all times, we’d recommend the seven-seat Lodgy, whose captain-chair seats are comfier than the eight-seater’s bench. That said, the Lodgy’s middle row bench is more accommodating for three passengers than the Ertiga’s.
For sheer sense of space, however, there’s no beating the Marazzo. The generous interior width and the commanding view out from the high-set cabin make all them difference, and make the Mahindra feel a size larger than the other two MPVs. The only catch, and a big one at that, is that you have to step up into the Marazzo’s cabin and can’t walk in as you can into an Ertiga or Lodgy. As for the middle row, both bench and captain chair versions are comfy but the top-spec M8 trim’s leatherette upholstered seats are a touch on the firm side. Of the other things, while you can slide the middle seats, the backrest recline angle is a bit limited. Also, the rear-door pockets are hard to access.
Row three’s company
SUVs can get away with ornamental third rows but MPVs can’t. So we’ll give the rearmost section of these MPVs their due importance.
The Ertiga gets a one-touch operation to slide the kerb-side middle-row seat forward to allow access to the back. While there is enough room to pass through, it would be easier still if the middle row tumbled forward as on the other two MPVs. The big surprise, however, is how useable the Ertiga’s third row is. For one, it’s easy to reach a happy knee room compromise with the middle seat passenger, making it possible for three adults to sit in comfort. The Ertiga’s third-row seating position is fairly nice, you have the option to recline the backrest and the theatre-like seating and large windows also equal good all-round visibility.
Getting into the Marazzo’s third row is a straightforward exercise. The kerb-side, middle-row seat has a user-friendly, one-touch tumble mechanism and access to the back is convenient enough. There is a good deal of space too, and the seatcan even host three at a pinch. But all’s not perfect here. Occupants will have to wiggle their feet to find space between the middle seat rails, while the knees-up seating position and upright backrest are sure to have them want to trade seats on long journeys.
An awkward third-row seating position is a spoiler in the Lodgy as well. Occupants are sat with their knees pointed skyward and the uneven floor is not ideal either. Also, the rearmost section is not wide enough for three to sit in comfort. However, space for two is fine and the large windows also help the impression. Getting in and out of the Lodgy’s third row is not much of a chore thanks to the easy-to-use tumble-forward middle-row seats.
And what of luggage space? Well, the short answer is none of the MPVs offer enough room for seven passengers and their luggage. Still, with all seats in place, it’s the Ertiga that offers the most luggage room with enough space for two hardcase cabin bags. Hidden recesses under the Ertiga’s boot floor also come handy to keep valuables safely stowed away. In comparison, the Lodgy and Marazzo can only hold a few soft bags with all seats up. All three MPVs let you fold the rearmost seats down to create more room for luggage but the execution is quite different. Once again, it’s the Ertiga that has a slight edge. Its third row seats deftly lower down and sit flush with the boot floor, while the Marazzo and Lodgy’s backrests merely fold down, resulting in a pronounced step in the boot. However, with some effort, you can remove the Lodgy’s rearmost seat altogether to create a massive luggage bay.
Time to switch focus to the driver’s environment. You sit relatively low in an Ertiga and the driving position is tall-boy hatch-like. Still, outside visibility is good and, in general, the cabin is a user-friendly space with everything where you’d expect it to be. There is some flavor to the Audi-esque dashboard too and the faux-wood inserts don’t look half bad. Be in no doubt, however – this is very much a Maruti interior. You’ll see a lot of familiar bits like the steering wheel, window switches, touchscreeen et al. The quality of these is good but not great. What is great, though, is seat comfort. The front seats are well padded and supportive.
You sit marginally higher in a Lodgy and outside visibility is further helped by the large windscreen and low-set dashboard. The dash is simple in look – and actually, that’s a recurring theme in this cabin. It doesn’t feel special enough by today’s standards. The mass of hard plastics and elements like the rudimentary seat height adjust lever and clunky climate control knobs further drags things down.
The Marazzo is at the other end of the perceived quality scale. There’s a certain premiumness to the cabin that’s missing in its rivals. All the touch points are nicely finished and even things like its woven roof lining do their bit to uplift the ambience. The dash is smartly done as well, even if the gloss black finish is very reflective. You sit high up in a Marazzo, the cabin appears relatively vast (the conversation mirror is a boon) and the feeling from behind the wheel is of piloting something substantial. Frontal visibility is good but the thick A-pillars do create blind spots. The Marazzo is not free from ergonomic issues either. The centre storage bay is a full arm’s length away, the USB ports are hidden from view and the thrust-lever handbrake isn’t the nicest to use either. ‘Healthier’ occupants will also find the front seats a touch snug.
Feature of habit
We’ve considered the top-spec variants of the three MPVs, all of which feature dual airbags and
anti-lock brakes. The Marazzo M8 does go one-up on the others with its rear disc brakes, while the Lodgy is the only one without Isofix child-seat mounts. Rear parking sensors and reverse cameras are useful inclusions on the three MPVs but the Marazzo camera came across as the lowest in pixels.
7.0-inch touchscreens are the norm but all three units have their own quirks. The Maruti unit’s stock interface, for instance, isn’t the most user-friendly on the go. Mahindra’s screen is feature-rich but feels aftermarket, and what’s with the Stephen Hawking voice sound alerts? The Lodgy’s system looks a bit basic and also misses out on Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which the other two get.
The Lodgy is also the only one with mechanical climate control; the others get one-zone electronic auto climate control. While on the subject, it’s the Marazzo’s overhead air-con vents that provide the most uniform cooling in the cabin. The Lodgy does offer vents for all three rows, while the Ertiga’s rearmost passengers will miss dedicated vents. You could make amends to the said lot by offering beverages chilled by the Ertiga’s unique cooled cupholders!.
Elsewhere, it’s a mixed bag. Where the Ertiga is the only one to get keyless entry and go, it’s also the only one without cruise control. Handy manual sun shades for the middle row windows, on the other hand, are exclusive to the Marazzo.
|Ertiga vs Marazzo vs Lodgy: Equipment|
|Ertiga ZDi+||Marazzo M8||Lodgy 110PS RXS Stepway|
|Keyless entry and go||Yes||No||No|
|Apple CarPlay/Android Auto||Yes/Yes||Yes/Yes||No/No|
|Auto climate control||1-zone||1-zone||NA|
|2nd/3rd row air-con vents||Yes/No||Yes/Yes||Yes/Yes|
|2nd row slide/recline||Yes/Yes||Yes/Yes||Yes/Yes|
|3rd row recline||Yes||No||No|
|Sun shade||No||2nd row||No|
|Price (ex-showroom, Delhi)||Rs 10.90 lakh||Rs 14.30 lakh||Rs 12.11 lakh|
Power to the people
Hauling seven (or eight) people is no mean feat, and if you think about it, MPVs have some of the most hard-working engines.
The Ertiga’s bonnet is home to the ubiquitous 1.3-litre DDiS 200 diesel engine. The engine makes 90hp and 200Nm of torque, which is not much for an MPV. SHVS hybrid tech does give mild electric assistance (so we are told), and if you’ve driven the old Ertiga diesel, you’ll know this engine needs all the help it can get at low speeds. The good news is, the engine is not entirely dead in the bottom part of the rev range any more. Yes, you still need to be ready to downshift if speeds drop but it’s not as much of a bother as before. As ever, the engine gets into its stride after 2,000rpm when the turbo spools up and pulls gamely after. A 6-speed gearbox would have made highway cruising a more relaxing affair and helped reduce the din from the crude-sounding engine. The selectable auto start-stop function that switches the engine off and on at long enough halts will reacquaint you with the engine’s gruff idle at every traffic light. Hopefully, the new 1.5 diesel that comes in a few months will address our long-standing grouse with Maruti’s diesels.
Incidentally, excellent refinement is the highlight of the Marazzo’s 1.5-litre engine. The engine is the quietest, smoothest and sounds the nicest here. Sure, it does get loud when you really extend it but this isn’t a unit that really eggs you on to drive hard. It’s an easy-going engine that delivers power in a smooth and friendly manner. The Marazzo is a relaxed cruiser and will also chug along at low speeds with a full load but more pulling power would have made it nicer. Sure, the Marazzo’s engine tops the power and torque charts with 121hp and 300Nm of torque but it’s also burdened with 1,650kg of MPV. That’s about 400kg more than the Ertiga! The Marazzo is easy to drive even if the clutch is long in travel (albeit light) and the long throws and high-set position for the 6-speed gearbox’s lever are a bit commercial-vehicle-like.
You’ll have to make your peace with a notchy 6-speed gearbox and snappy clutch on the Lodgy. The 110hp/245Nm Renault 1.5 engine is not the quietest either. But there’s much to like about the powertrain too. Once past the initial bit of lag, the Lodgy is quick to build speed, the mid-range is punchy and it’s a happy cruiser. It has the best power-to-weight ratio and is a close second to the Marazzo in torque-to-weight. It is the quickest to 100kph but the numbers also reveal the Marazzo as the quickest through the gears. Talk 30-50kph in third, 50-70kph in fourth or 80-100kph in fifth gears, the Marazzo is a second quicker than its rivals which works out to a lot in the real world.
True the Maruti name, the Ertiga comes back into the fight with class-leading fuel economy numbers. Its 15.2kpl city economy is 2.7kpl and 2.9kpl more than the Marazzo and Lodgy’s figures, respectively. The Ertiga also betters its rivals with a 19.4kpl highway figure to the Marazzo’s 15.5kpl and Lodgy’s 17.5kpl highway economy numbers.
|Ertiga vs Marazzo vs Lodgy: Powertrain & performance|
|Ertiga ZDi+||Marazzo M8||Lodgy 110PS RXZ Stepway|
|Engine||4 cyl, turbo-diesel||4 cyl, turbo-diesel||4 cyl, turbo-diesel|
|Power||90hp at 4000rpm||123hp at 3500rpm||110hp at 4000rpm|
|Torque||200Nm at 1750rpm||300Nm at 1750-2500rpm||245Nm at 1750rpm|
|Transmission||5-speed manual||6-speed manual||6-speed manual|
|20-80kph (in third)||11.02s||11.18s||11.64s|
|40-100kph (in fourth)||14.03s||11.18s||14.40s|
|Fuel efficiency (City)||15.2kpl||12.5kpl||12.3kpl|
|Fuel efficiency (Highway)||19.4kpl||15.5kpl||17.5kpl|
We’ve already established the Ertiga sits lowest to the ground and there are consequences to how it drives and handles. Frankly, if you’ve driven a hatchback or a sedan, you’ll feel just at home in the Ertiga. It’s easy enough to steer at low speeds, it changes direction with poise at high speeds and feels nice and planted at all points. There is some underlying firmness to the ride but the suspension rounds off the bumps really well.
After a go in the Ertiga, you’ll feel like you’re sitting on the first floor in a Marazzo. Still, for such a tall vehicle, dynamics are impressive. Yes, it moves about more than an Ertiga and a Lodgy at high speeds but the Marazzo is never nervous. Even at low speeds, there is that bit of body-on-frame typical lumpiness but it’s not uncomfortable. In fact, the Marazzo’s construction makes it feel hardier than the others when the going gets rough. What’s also amazing is how easy the Marazzo is to place. The steering is light and weights up well at speeds.
The Renault Lodgy also feels a bit rugged – remember it’s built on the same platform as the Duster. It will thud through large potholes and there is some kick-back of the hydraulic steering too, but at high speeds you get great stability and body movements are well controlled too. Where the Lodgy loses out is for its heavy steering. When parking especially you realise how much MPV is behind you.
The Renault Lodgy has its strengths in its long-distance ability and the option to convert the cabin into a massive cargo hold is useful for buyers who intend to use their MPV as a load-lugger too. The issue, however, is that the Lodgy doesn’t go much beyond the MPV brief. It’s missing many modern feel-good elements and the fact that it’s not easiest to drive works against it as well.
Mahindra’s appealing Marazzo surprised us at first acquaintance a few months ago and it’s an MPV that’s only grown on us the more time we’ve spent with it. It has its share of ergonomic issues but it’s so good in other areas that it’s easy to overlook some of the Mahindra’s lesser points. A roomy and premium cabin, easy-to-drive character, refined engine and good performance are just some of the Marazzo’s highlights.
The Maruti Suzuki Ertiga might not be as plush as the Marazzo and its last-gen engine costs it points too, but there’s much to like about the Maruti MPV as well. In fact, judged as an MPV, the Ertiga is the best of the trio. It’s got the best third row, a pleasant middle row and even the loading bay is the best thought out. That it’s got a low floor gives it a crucial advantage over the Marazzo. And that’s before you factor in the Ertiga’s keen pricing. Be in no doubt, the Ertiga is not our pick because it’s well-priced; it’s our pick because it’s the best MPV – which also happens to be well-priced. Versatility and value really win it for the Ertiga.