MAGNIFICENT SEVEN: Suzuki shows compact MPV segment some LUV with new Ertiga

BY CHARL BOSCH - SEPTEMBER 10, 2014

Probably one of modern motoring’s success stories was the much-hyped about return of Suzuki to the South African market. Following a period of being distributed by the then Delta Motor Corporation, the maker of the iconic and diminutive SJ410/413 jeep, opted to go solo when it re-launched its local automobile operations back in 2006.

Having originally started out with Swift hatchback and two SUV’s, the SJ’s spiritual successor in the Jimny, and the last post-Delta model, the Grand Vitara, new names were quickly added to the brand’s portfolio in the form of the Alto budget hatchback, SX4 crossover, Kizashi compact sedan and more recently, a sedan version of the Swift known as the DZire.

Clearly not wanting to rest on their laurels, the Japanese brand sprung a surprise on many of their rivals, including this author, when they announced plans of introducing a compact seven-seat MPV to take-on the only other vehicle in this segment, the Toyota Avanza. Enter, the Ertiga MPV, or as Suzuki prefers to call it, a Lifestyle Utility Vehicle (LUV).

As with the Alto and Swift DZire, the Ertiga is made in India by Suzuki’s Maruti division and despite having been present in that market since 2012, only two other countries have so far been selected to receive Suzuki’s LUV, Indonesia and South Africa.

Based on an extended Swift platform, the Ertiga – its name loosely meaning Swift plus three - was mainly designed for developing countries, as such, its ground clearance of 185 mm rivals many compact SUV’s while still coming in a lot cheaper, more practical and, most importantly, the addition of that third seating row.

From a styling perspective, there is no doubting the Ertiga’s identity as a Suzuki. With large swept-back headlights, a deep air intake and rippled effect on the grille, you would be forgiven for confusing it with its smaller Swift sibling, while the rear is less rounded with a flat tailgate and lights which cut into the rear window and extends well into the rear panels.

Despite its compact dimensions, Suzuki claims that the Ertiga can swallow 482-litres with the third row seats folded flat and the middle row slide forward. With all seven seats up, luggage space measures 135-lites although, by simply pulling the tag mounted inside near the boot lip, a useful underfloor storage compartment is revealed – perfect for hiding valuables or packing small bags.

Inside, the Ertiga’s Southeast Asians roots are most evident with the only interior colour being a light beige hue, topped by a black trimmed dashboard and with silver inserts on the doors, gearknob, steering wheel, underneath the facia air vents, and above the storage shelf on the passenger side.

Although the choice of colour might not be to everyone’s taste, the overall layout of the interior is simple and user-friendly. Dominating the facia, the standard four-speaker radio/CD/MP3 sound system has been lifted directly from the Swift, as has the three rotary ventilation knobs and air-conditioning buttons below. A single 12v power socket and USB port are located as the base together with a small storage area and drinks holder in front of the gear lever.

As our Silky Silver coloured Ertiga turned out to be range topping GLX model, standard spec included electric windows all around, audio controls on the steering wheel, front foglights, central locking, smart 15-inch alloy wheels, electric mirrors, overhead rear passenger ventilation controls, dual front airbags and ABS with EBD.

Shortly after its arrival, and with less than 3000 km on the odo, DB 90 DP GP was taken out of its commuter roll and presented with the R72 to Port Alfred. It succeed with no fuss and even managed to better Suzuki’s claimed fuel consumption figure of 6.6 L / 100 km on its return run to Port Elizabeth the next day.

The trip to Port Alfred also revealed a comfortable car-like ride setup, no-doubt thanks to the Swift underpinnings, that was only blunted by poorly patched-up roads and potholes that seem to characterise this route.

Likewise, the little 1.4-litre petrol engine coped surprisingly well with the somewhat hilly nature of this road, only running out of steam and requiring one or two downshift from the five-speed manual gearbox when caught behind a truck or needing to overtake.

Although the segment it competes in is small, the Suzuki Ertiga should defiantly be viewed as a serious challenger to the Toyota Avanza. With a relatively perky engine, spacious and practical interior as well as class leading fuel economy, it might just have become the new compact MPV benchmark to beat.

To test drive the Suzuki Ertiga, visit Suzuki Auto East London at No.5 Devereux Ave in Vincent, or contact them on 043 726 9377.

 

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