Text: Marcus De Guzman / Photos: Marcus De Guzman | posted January 21, 2016 13:38
Packing The Essentials
As far as the local motoring scene goes, the traditional family sedan is on a slippery slope. With the ever growing Filipino family, sometimes fives seats are no longer enough, forcing local buyers to go for much bigger cars.
Enter the compact MPV. With three rows of seats, a slightly roomier interior, and a configurable seating/storage arrangement wrapped in a compact package, these cars are bridging the gap between family car and utility vehicle.
Suzuki PH has been a staple in this segment with the APV since 2005, but last July 2014, they extended their MPV lineup with the Ertiga. Basically a longer and taller Swift, the ‘Life Utility Vehicle’ as Suzuki preferred to call it, the Ertiga was the automaker’s take on combining hatchback performance with van-like practicality. Let’s see if the Ertiga was able to meet those standards.
Beginning with the exterior, the front end features the familiar design cues of the Swift. The sweeping headlights, circular foglights and sloping hood design fits well with the MPV. It may be a stretched Swift, but Suzuki did away with the sloped roofline and opted for a more upright design. This allowed for more headroom and a cleaner overall look. Providing a bit of flair are the 15-inch alloy wheels and defined wheel arches.
The rear somehow resembles the bigger APV in some way with its wraparound taillights and wide rear glass area. It’s not eye-catching in any way, but the sensible design does its job of providing a clear view of what’s behind the car.
Stepping inside, a blanket of beige covers the entirety of the cabin. Despite fabric seats, fit and finish does look and feel a lot more premium, lifting cabin ambiance. Other hues of brown and cream also make their way onto the lower dashboard, center console, headlining and carpets. The only things that contradict the onslaught of beige are the gray upper dashboard and the black steering column stalks. I just wished that they were also finished in beige just so the two are in uniform with the rest.
Both front seats have decent side support, a nice touch if one somehow finds themselves taking a tight corner or rather long bend. Legroom and headroom on the second row seats are fine, while the third row is, again, reserved mostly for the kids. A slight forward adjustment of the second row seats however does provide extra legroom for adults. Just don’t expect anyone towering above 5’8 to slot right in the third row though.
Cargo capacity with the third row seats up is limited only to 113 liters — not bad as it can hold two coolers and still have some space for small items. Fold them down however and it will be able to carry 460 liters. If one would treat it as a mini cargo van, it can hold up to 810 liters of baggage with the second row seats folded as well.
The onboard entertainment system supports AM, FM, CD, MP3 and USB. It might be a bit dated, but all of its tactile controls like repeat, volume, shuffle, and equalizer are within easy reach, not buried somewhere in a digital menu. Audio is channeled through 4 speakers. They're a bit on the tinny side but it does deliver decent audio quality. Steering wheel-mounted audio controls, power locks, windows and mirrors and 12V socket complete the essentials of the Ertiga. There appears to be only one cup holder at the center console but the front and rear doors however can hold several bottles.
Twisting the key brings to life the 1.4-liter K14B inline-four lifted straight from the Swift. It produces 98 PS at 6000 rpm along with a torque rating of 130 Nm available at 4000 rpm. The numbers may not be stellar, but do remember again that the Ertiga is a slightly stretched Swift.
Relatively lightweight and still small in size, power delivery from the zippy 1.4-liter engine was spot on. With Suzuki's VVT (variable valve timing) in play, the MPV can behave like a normal everyday runaround or as a highway runner. It is also no slouch and can keep up with other MPVs, subcompacts and even compact sedans on the road. The electronic power steering (EPS) also helps a lot and does provide a lot of road feel. This is good considering that most EPS systems don't feel as mechanical.
Benefitting from the Swift DNA, handling was surprisingly remarkable. However, to accommodate heavier payloads, the suspension has been stiffened. Still, the Ertiga has a good ride. This is more noticeable when going over potholes or other road imperfections. On the plus side, being a monocoque MPV, it still rode better than most body-on-frame MPVs. Overall, it can take on winding roads with relative ease and still be able to keep seven occupants planted on their seats.
Even though it's mated to a 4-speed automatic, the range-topping GLX still delivered very respectable fuel consumption. On normal traffic with an average speed of 40 km/h, it averaged between 10.5 – 10.9 km/l. Even when faced with congested roadways, it was still able to return 8.0 – 8.4 km/l of fuel.
It was out on the open road where the engine really performed. Averaging 80 km/h with no passengers, the Ertiga easily achieved 19.0 km/l. That number will go down when packing additional passengers and cargo, but we estimate it will still be a marginally acceptable 16.0 – 17.0 km/l while traveling at highway speeds.
When it comes to gripes, there is a noticeable pedal vibration when pulling away from a stationary position. Perhaps better NVH (Noise, Vibration, Harshness) isolation would improve its driving experience and add a touch of refinement to the compact MPV. I also noticed that the instrument panel is somehow placed too low for taller drivers. A slight inconvenience as some drivers may have to look down to check their speed or gas level as a quick glance may not be enough.
The top-spec GLX Ertiga may not be the most equipped MPV in the segment, but it does have some aces up its sleeve. With its Swift-derived platform, it offers a more car-like driving experience albeit with a higher driving position. The 1.4-liter engine is quite the match too and since it was also lifted from the Swift, the hatchback's sportiness rubbed off on the Ertiga.
At PhP812,000, the Ertiga is competitively priced in its segment. Those wanting a Suzuki Swift but have to concede to practicality will not feel shortchanged with this MPV. A return to basics approach on the MPV with the bonus of well-sorted driving dynamics may just be Suzuki's winning formula with the Ertiga.