We've just driven Maruti's new Ertiga and initial impressions are that the company has yet another winner on its hands. The Ertiga gets the basics right. It has three rows of seats, can seat seven and comes with the option of a petrol or a diesel engine. Also, its monocoque construction promises much in terms of car-like comfort and driving manners.
With a length of 4265mm, the Ertiga is a fair bit shorter than the other MPVs in the market, namely the Toyota Innova, Mahindra Xylo and Tata Aria. What’s more, it also sits lower than the others, so those upgrading from a smaller car will immediately take a liking to it. Styling at the front is typically Suzuki. The headlights that sweep back towards the A-pillars remind you of the new Swift and there is more than a hint of the Ritz in the front grille and bonnet. Tail styling, though, is ordinary and conforms to the standard MPV design template. The overall design is pleasing but not what you would call eye-catching.
Under the skin, the Ertiga is based on a modified Swift platform. The wheelbase has been considerably lengthened to 2740mm, which makes it just a shade shorter than the Innova’s and Xylo’s. Interestingly, the Ertiga weighs just 170kg more than a Swift, thanks to the extensive use of lightweight high-tensile steel in its construction. Moreover, a ribbed roof and sturdier box-section steel has been used around the rear wheel arches to counter any loss of torsional stiffness as a result of lengthening the wheelbase.
Maruti and Suzuki engineers have strived to make the best use of the Ertiga’s relatively small footprint. So along with the lengthy wheelbase, the Ertiga’s cab-forward design and the positioning of the wheels at the extremities add up to yield one very spacious cabin. In fact, the brilliance of the Ertiga lies in its packaging.
The front seat occupants get really supportive seats and the view out of the windscreen is good, though the thick A-pillar can be a problem. That said, the driving position is really nice and car-like and the impression is of driving a Maruti Swift on stilts.
Middle row occupants are really well taken care of with great legroom on offer. What’s more, the middle row can be slid back a whopping 240mm, giving the Eritga luxury saloon-rivaling levels of leg space which is simply fantastic. Even after adjusting these seats for the third row passengers, you have more than sufficient legroom. The seats themselves are comfortable, if a tad soft, and feature a very well positioned centre armrest. The flat seat and a near-flat floor bode well for centre passenger comfort. It’s also easy to get in and out courtesy the large rear doors and ideal seat height.
Getting into the last row requires some contortion. The seating position is not ‘knees-up’ like other MPVs, which is good, but the seat squab is a bit short and this compromises thigh support. Shoulder support is good and headroom is decent and, simply put, the cabin is far more useable than the Ertiga’s exterior dimensions would suggest.
With all seven seats in place there is enough space in the back to hold just two soft bags, while a concealed storage bay hidden beneath can hold 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. In case you are wondering, the Ertiga’s spare wheel is mounted under the body as with most MPVs.
The Ertiga will be sold in three variants each for both petrol and diesel models. Save for the base petrol model all variants get ABS, while the top models also get driver and passenger airbags. Climate control is not available on any trim level, though middle- and top-spec cars do get twin air conditioners to help cool the large cabin.
Powering the Ertiga is a new 1.4-litre petrol motor from Suzuki’s acclaimed K-series family of engines. Peak power output is 93.7bhp at 6000rpm and torque is 13.26kgm at 4000rpm. Refinement is impressive with a very quiet idle. There is a good spread of power which makes the engine fit for both city and highway driving. Driveability is fairly good too, though the build-up of power sometimes seem slightly slow, and this is especially true in the mid-range, which is characteristic of smaller engines from the K-Series family too. Also, the engine tends to get quite vocal as you rev harder.
The other engine on offer is the 1.3-litre Fiat-sourced turbo-diesel that also does duty on the SX4. Peak power here is 88.8bhp at 4000rpm while max torque is available at 1750rpm. The engine feels comfortable and quite suited to relaxed cruising on the highway, but it is driving in the city that reveals the diesel motor’s Achilles’ heel – serious turbo lag. This is something we have noticed and highlighted on the Multijet engine right from its first application in the Fiat Linea. Maruti has shortened the gearing (compared to the SX4) to work around the lag under 2000rpm, but even then the lack of power is very evident. With a full complement of passengers in typical stop-go city traffic this is likely to be a serious irritant. But once the turbo kicks in, there is a strong surge accompanied by an even spread of power. What’s good is, like the petrol variant, the diesel car’s smooth-shifting five-speed gearbox is allied to a light clutch.
What isn’t so good is the noise level within the cabin. While it is by no means loud, the Ertiga cabin also isn’t as quiet as a midsize saloon’s. And that has to do with the MPV’s cab-forward design. With the passenger compartment sitting closer to the engine bay compared to a typical midsize saloon, more noise is transmitted past the firewall. To minimise this, Maruti has extensively layered the Ertiga engine bay with sound-deadening material. Hydraulic engine mounts have also been used to keep engine vibrations in check.
Maruti’s goal with the Ertiga was to make it as car-like to drive as possible and it has succeeded in its mission. Key to this is the Ertiga’s use of a car-like monocoque chassis as opposed to a more rudimentary body-on-frame construction. The ride is always flat and pliant at speed and there is also no low-speed harshness associated with typical MPVs. Even sharp bumps are tackled with aplomb. But it’s really from behind the wheel that the Ertiga impresses. You can take turns with confidence, body roll is well contained and in general the handling is very predictable. The steering offers good feedback and is light enough at city speeds. Manoeuvrability too is terrific and this is one of the USPs of the Ertiga.
The Ertiga is large inside yet not so large on the outside, which is sure to appeal to buyers who find the current crop of MPVs a bit too unwieldy and large. Its engines score well on refinement and driveability and are expected to be fuel efficient. While prices are revealed by mid April, we expect them to range from Rs 7-9 lakh. This combination of seven seats and a hatchback, and the ease of use it delivers may just be the beginning of the end for old-school MPVs. In many ways, the well-rounded Ertiga is the ideal Indian family car.
See Maruti Ertiga image gallery here
Watch video review here