If there's one thing that Suzuki is known for (apart from making reliable and practical compact cars), it's making fuel-efficient vehicles. From the S-Presso, Celerio, Swift, Carry, Dzire, XL7, and their best-seller the Ertiga, Suzuki's know-how in making small vehicles that are easy on the fuel bills is one of the reasons why customers prefer the brand with the “S” badge.
With the industry shifting towards electrification, Suzuki had to adapt fast in order to get with the times. The result is the Ertiga Hybrid which the automaker recently launched a couple of weeks ago. While it still looks relatively the same apart from some minor exterior and interior changes, the 7-seater MPV is now equipped with an electrified engine that Suzuki says is more fuel efficient than the non-hybrid version.
But isn't the Ertiga already fuel efficient enough despite not having a mild-hybrid system? Do the new integrated starter generator (ISG) and 12V lithium-ion battery simply add to the complexity of the vehicle? And just how thrifty is the Ertiga Hybrid compared to the non-hybrid version? To find out, Suzuki invited us over for a ride-and-drive of the MPV.
Our journey began early morning at Suzuki Auto Kawit. With crystal clear weather and the sun shining through, I and the rest of my media colleagues were excited to see just how the new Ertiga Hybrid will feel like out on the road. And guess what, our first order of business with the MPV is a fuel economy run.
With a full tank of gas (45 liters to be exact) and 80 kilometers ahead of us to a Seaoil gas station located in Bay, Laguna, I was more than eager to actually see just how (more) fuel efficient the MPV is as Suzuki claims. In fact, I actually volunteered to get behind the wheel first in order to sate my curiosity. This is not exactly my first rodeo with the MPV since I was able to drive this particular generation of the Ertiga back in 2019. However, this is the first time that I was able to drive it with a mild-hybrid system.
After throwing our bags in the back, pairing my phone to the touchscreen, and making the final checks, we were off to Laguna. While Suzuki enticed us with a prize for the most fuel-efficient team/vehicle, I actually drove the Ertiga Hybrid normally without resorting to hypermiling techniques. We didn't even turn off the air-conditioning as me and the rest of my colleagues aboard the MPV wanted to see just how realistically fuel-efficient the Ertiga Hybrid is in normal driving conditions.
With the help of an integrated starter generator (ISG) and a 12V lithium-ion battery, the 1.5-liter engine of the Ertiga Hybrid comes with some neat tricks. These include regenerative braking where the ISG recharges the battery during deceleration, an idling start/stop system that temporarily turns off the engine to save on fuel (as long as the battery has charge), and torque assist that lets the ISG provide assistance to the engine for lower fuel consumption.
In light city traffic out of Kawit, I was able to average around 14 km/l without even trying. In the non-hybrid version from before, I was only able to achieve around 10 km/l in light city traffic. When we finally reached CAVITEX heading towards NAIAX, the MPV was able to return around 21 km/l with an average speed of 70 km/h. Compared to the regular Ertiga which I drove back then that was only able to reach 17 to 18 km/l, this is a big improvement.
When we reached Skyway and SLEX, this is where I realized the limitations of the 4-speed automatic. While the Ertiga can happily sip fuel below 80 km/h, it will start to drink a bit more once you go over the aforementioned speed. At around 90 km/h, the engine was already hovering at around 2,500 rpm which is a bit high in my opinion if you're aiming for fuel efficiency. It was also around this time I noticed that my average fuel consumption started to dip to around 18 km/l. Still efficient, but I would like it to be upwards of 20 km/l and more. As a result, I decided to keep my speed between 70 to 80 km/h on the expressways.
After several more kilometers, we arrived at Los Banos, Laguna. This is where we fully test the Ertiga's stop/start system in heavier traffic conditions. Despite the occasional stop-and-go traffic, I was surprised to see that the MPV was still able to maintain around 13 km/l which is a testament to the system's efficiency. Also worth mentioning is the ISG's ability to smoothly recharge the battery and restart the engine every time.
After about 2 hours and covering 80 km, we finally arrived at our destination, a Seaoil gas station in Bay, Laguna. Why? Well, it was now time to see just how much fuel we consumed throughout our journey. From Kawit to Bay, we were able to burn just shy of 4.6 liters of fuel and have a mixed fuel consumption of 17.4 km/l. Not bad, but another group was able to average 26.80 km/l and only burn around 3 liters of fuel, an impressive feat that won them the prize.
I don't know what methods they used but props to them for actually proving that the Ertiga Hybrid is capable of those numbers. I tried to ask them what kind of sorcery they did but they maintained that they also drove normally as we did. I guess that information will remain classified for now.
So what's my verdict on the Ertiga Hybrid? Yes, the MPV is more fuel efficient thanks to the mild-hybrid tech, but only just. In the city, it's easier on the fuel bills but once you get to the highway, you have to keep your revs low in order to maximize the hybrid system's capability. Moreover, the lack of two additional gears means the 4-speed can only do so much, especially when you frequently drive on expressways.
Suzuki is heading in the right direction with their mild-hybrid technology. Combined with their expertise in making fuel-efficient engines and compact vehicles, customers who want something that sips fuel lightly and can carry loads of cargo and passengers with ease will find the Ertiga Hybrid a viable choice.