Long Term Review. The Maruti Suzuki Ertiga is more than just a people carrier

The MPV segment in the Indian automotive market has been largely devoid of flair or pizazz, and the Ertiga by Maruti Suzuki was no exception. It was a rather dreary vehicle – one that did its job perfectly well, but wasn’t exactly a head turner. Certainly not the type you would wish to step out of in a fancy hotel driveway. But that didn’t seem to bother the quintessential Ertiga buyer. The 7-seater MPV that offered a huge price advantage over the more premium Toyota Innova, was a massive success from the word go. And after 6 years in the market, it got a makeover in late 2018. This was followed by an engine update in 2019. This time around, the car maker has taken a fresher approach in terms of design – giving the vehicle a dash of contemporary charm and oodles of confidence on the streets. In its new avatar, the Ertiga tries to be more than just a utilitarian people carrier and succeeds in its mission.

Month 1: 

Distance covered: 1700+ km

Fuel Efficiency: 17.1 km/l

Driving Conditions: City/ Urban/ Mixed

We currently have the new Ertiga in our garage for a long term review, and our test vehicle is the Ertiga ZDi+ with the 1.3L DDiS Smart Hybrid diesel engine and a 5-speed manual transmission. There is now a new 1.5L powertrain mated to a 6-speed manual that has made its way into the Ertiga, making it more sprightly with better low end torque. But the smaller engine is no push over. We have had it for a month now and fearlessly taken it everywhere within the city and beyond – from narrow Old Delhi lanes to tight spots in crowded local markets. From expressways to, well, fancy hotel driveways. The Ertiga’s versatility remains its strongest point and we have been putting it to good use. Be it long family drives with furry friends, airport transfers, construction site visits, transporting men & material, ferrying wheelchair bound senior citizens around town, or taking team buddies for the weekend soccer league – we have done it all. And so far the Ertiga hasn’t disappointed.

The new Ertiga is a major step up from its predecessor in terms of design. While it is tough to evoke a feeling of desire for an MPV, Maruti Suzuki has done an excellent job with the styling of this one. The bold chrome grille with its horizontal inserts give it a distinct look. Though it doesn’t get DRLs, the sleek angular projector headlamps round up a good looking front end. The look is unmistakably MPV down the side, and the strong crease running from the front fender till the LED tail lamps give it some added character. The 15″ alloys however, look disproportionately small and out of place. The rear is where the design shines through, with tall wrap around tail lamps reminiscent of the Volvo V90, and a horizontal chrome slat connecting them. The overall design is inoffensive and stylish, without being over the top.

On the inside, the Ertiga has been refined both in terms of design and quality. While quality has vastly improved from the previous generation, the cabin still deserves a bit more attention to fit, finish and finer details. The horizontal slats in the dash look fresh and distinct, and unlike any other car in Maruti Suzuki’s lineup. The faux wood trim around the cabin gives it a premium feel as well, although the infotainment screen stuck on top isn’t very well integrated with the overall design flow. The cloth upholstery too needs a bit of a rethink, more so, in the top-of-the-line variants. Comfort is not compromised though, and the Ertiga remains a great vehicle to transport up to 7 passengers comfortably. Thanks to its new Heartect platform, it gets considerably greater cabin space. The large windows make it super airy with splendid visibility all around. Ingress & egress is easy and the generous headroom and shoulder room all the way till the back ensures that you are not suffocated even when packed to capacity. Add to that the sliding and reclining middle row seats, and the reclining third row, and the Ertiga proves to be a fantastic people carrier. The seats are comfortable and legroom in the middle row is more than ample if you slide the seats back. AC vents in the middle row add to the comfort of rear passengers. The AC does take a while to cool the cabin but once it is optimised and you are on the move, there is no reason to complain. There is also more boot space than the previous generation, irrespective of whether you have the third row upright or folded. Overall, extremely versatile and flexible both as a people and cargo carrier.

The ride quality however, is extremely bouncy for third row passengers. Even on the smoothest of roads, a slight surface imperfection can throw you up in the air. Considering that passenger comfort is its forte, the suspension set up at the rear should have the ability to absorb knocks better, and offer greater stability.

In terms of features, the Ertiga gets the same infotainment system as the S-Cross or Ciaz. The system includes bluetooth connectivity, navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Other features include automatic climate control, keyless entry and start, cooled cup holders in the front, and rear parking sensors with a reversing camera. The driver display throws up all information that one needs to know, including time, trip meter, real time fuel efficiency, gear shift indicator and speed limit alert.

Safety features include dual front airbags, along with ABS and EBD. However, automatic headlamps and wipers are missing, as is the cruise control feature; all of which we would have liked to see.

Under the hood, our test car is powered by the 1.3L DDiS Diesel engine, mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. The engine produces 89 PS of power and 200 Nm of torque, with power going to the front wheels. Not the biggest performer by any stretch of imagination. There is considerable turbo lag and the MPV feels slightly underpowered when packed to capacity. As it picks momentum things get better. Power delivery is smooth and one can comfortably cruise at high speeds. Overtaking out on the highway is a bit of a struggle, but that’s to be expected from an engine with such performance figures. The new 1.5L engine takes care of these issues and makes for a more engaging experience behind the wheel. Body roll is expected, and cannot be pinned as a negative – just needs getting used to. The gearbox however is very smooth, and the unbelievably light steering makes city driving a breeze. The Ertiga is a narrow vehicle and we were quite surprised how well it navigated in some of the most crowded markets in the city. Manoeuvring like a boss and squeezing into tight parking slots effortlessly. Efficiency has been top class as well, at 17.1 km/l over 1700 kms of mixed driving conditions.

The Maruti Suzuki Ertiga starts at a price of INR 7.44 lacs and goes up to INR 10.90 lacs (ex-showroom). When compared to its closet rival – the Mahindra Marazzo, the Ertiga is a win with its space, flexibility, cabin comfort, fuel efficiency and affordability. Design wise it has managed to narrow the gap. With the latest generation, Maruti has made the Ertiga what it always should have been – a practical MPV that doesn’t compromise on design and features. While there are still a few niggles that need to be fixed, all in all, the new Ertiga makes exceptionally good sense as a value for money proposition. For people who put practicality above all else, and have compelling personal and professional requirement for space and versatility in a vehicle, this is it.

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