THE one thing that absolutely no one can find fault in with Suzuki’s Ertiga is its simplicity.
There is something very beautiful about the absence of wedges and sharp contours, or massive headlight nacelles and cavernous front grilles. Even with the top of the range GLX, the elegance is understated.
I am not a family man. Not yet. However, I love multi-purpose vehicles, daddy wagons or mom-mobiles. The reason is that I have a bunch of my friends who regularly drive around with me. We’re usually cramped in my dad’s sedan. Thus, the opportunity for an MPV means space and comfort even for six of my rowdy dormmates.
The Ertiga’s simplicity contributes to its popularity, which starts at P738K for the entry-level GA in manual transmission. That price proposition is the main reason why in 2019, some 30 percent of Suzuki’s sales came from this MPV. It has proven to be the darling of the driving masses—the value delivered by the car propelled not only the brand’s sales but also its value, impacting on other Suzuki models, especially those that share its powertrains like the Swift and Jimny.
The Ertiga I tested was the top-of-the line GLX A/T. It had all the necessary equipment and luxuries to justify its P988K price tag. This was the latest model, which we test drove in Tagaytay. The upgrade from the previous model was mostly with the front appendage and a European inspired rear tail light cluster. The changes did not alter its simple nature.
Although definitely not as utilitarian as the bulbous APV, the Ertiga did inherit a lot of practicality from it.
Max power: 103 hp
Max torque: 138 Nm
Transmission: 4-speed conventional A/T
Fuel economy:17.78 kms/liter (as tested)
Length: 4395 mm
Width: 1735 mm
Height: 1690 mm
Price: (as tested) GLX A/T: P988K
From space management to engine power, to maintenance and fuel economy, the Ertiga makes a lot of sense. The improvements from the last model have literally changed to a beautifully practical, yet simple proposition.
I just came from test driving the Mitsubishi Xpander just a month before I got the Ertiga.
So I had fresh memories for comparison. The philosophies are very different for the same job. And if the Xpander or the Toyota Rush go for that anime grip on style, Suzuki prefers the ikebana flower arrangement school of design. Each line simple and useful.
Usefulness is what the Ertiga is all about.
First, the fuel economy is impressive. I clocked about 9.2 kms/liters city driving in Lipa and Batangas and about 16.8 kms/liter highway driving from our home 83 kilometers away in Laguna including the congested section from Biñan to Alabang which Waze described to be “estimated time in traffic 59 minutes.”
I guess it is partly because of the conventional 4-speed automatic transmission which allows one to shuttle through the gears, and the actual power to weight ratio of the vehicle. Mind you, these readings were done with 6 medium built millennials on board.
My dad said that the gear ratios and shift timing being well balanced was the reason for the great fuel economy. He said he’d played around with it to eke out better mileage to best my fuel economy figures. And he did this with 5 obese people riding. No fat shaming here, but fuel economy does depend on weight. And in a route that was 13 kilometers longer via Los Baños, he did 17.78 kilometers on a liter of petrol. Truly impressive for an MPV full of obese fifty-year-olds.
Second, the interior of the car is not just about pizzazz. It’s all about practicality. So, there are no fancy mood lighting bits or ultra-complex head units and other oddities. There is something subtly beautiful about the faux wood finish, the black and grey two-toned colors not being so loud and the chrome pieces being so well placed.
Though there is much plastic there are also many cubby holes and storage bins, useful little places to keep cellphones and cords and the like. What could be more practical than a conventional airconditioning system as opposed to a fancy one with digital controls?
That’s now practical this car is.
The GLX has a 10-inch screen touch screen to control the infotainment system. Is there a practical use for such a large dashboard-mounted tablet, you can’t even take out? Of course, there is. It has huge icons the visually challenged would appreciate very much. And it is simple to operate a device with a crisp display plus a smart interface.
Rear video feeds for the parking assist to come out vividly on the screen—even in bright sunlight. Connecting via Bluetooth is almost instant. And there is, for the flash drive freak, a USB input, which does not do well as a phone charger. It only outputs about 3 amperes.
Current phones need at least 5 amperes to get the juice in. It still works though. Slowly. All audio comes out via four speakers. It is no Bose, but it ain’t an AM radio sound neither. So that is practicality. You’ll not get a chest-thumping boost, but it will deliver what it has too.
The built in navigation system is a slug. Better use Waze.
Third, the Ertiga’s got grit. Yeah, that is what I really like about it.
The ride comfort is compromised a little by short shock travel but keep in mind you aren’t going off-road on this. On the highway unladed it is a bit bouncy but it is easy to forget this when you start learning how to modulate the gas and the brakes. Fully laden it is smooth.
The grit comes from the acceleration and handling. If you’ve driven the 1.3-liter version you will always want more power. This KB-15 engine now a more responsive power delivery and heftier torque. Even with 7 medium built millennials or 5 obese baby boomers.
It is in the handling department that all the grit gets tested. The weighted steering feels taut in the highway and more maneuverable in the city. I asked Suzuki if it was a speed sensing device. It is a motor drive steering assist, which needs less power input at high speed and more of that in the city.
Fourth, cabin space is tops. Even the third row, the frontal view is unobstructed and tall, which my always seasick mother appreciated very much. The third row is usually the least designed section of an MPV, the Ertiga built it seem a little higher to provide more legroom and the “balcony” arrangement allows the third-row passengers to see more of the front—great news for those who suffer sight-induced vertigo. Also, a single lever is all that is needed for effortless third-row access.
The second-row seats are handled with one lever, to push it forward which at first needs a little getting used to. The seats recline as well, but doing so may hamper the comfort of the third-row passengers.
Fifth, aside from a safety-rated cabin that got a 4-star ASEAN N-CAP rating, there are ISOFIX child seat tethers in the front and second-row seats. Other safety features include dual front airbags, ABS with EBD, side-impact door beams, and immobilizer as well as a security alarm. This range-topper GLX media test unit has extra rear parking camera with sensors and guidelines.
My conclusion comes from a discussion we had in the car while driving to Pililia to see the windmills. MPVs are for millennials. The fact that we believe that mass transport is one solution to the world’s traffic problems, vehicles with more seats that can ferry more friends should be the norm.
The Ertiga should make it to the top of many people’s lists.