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Maruti Suzuki Ertiga road test

Driven March 2012

Maruti Suzuki Ertiga road test

Research shows more and more people want a car that will fit all of their potential transport needs, be it to move people or luggage. Little wonder then that multi-purpose vehicles are increasingly becoming popular. But an MPV is big and occupies more space at the lots and on the road.

Not nice, especially if you’re living in the metros where space is at a premium. So Maruti went and did what it does best – make it small. We first saw the Ertiga as the RIII concept at the Delhi Auto Expo a few years ago. While the RIII looked wickedly radical, the Ertiga in the flesh seems a lot tamer.

If you look at the Ertiga, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Ritz has gone and had plastic surgery when no one was looking. It may not be out of this world, but the Ertiga isn’t a bad looker, in fact, not at all. The first thing that strikes you is it isn’t all that tall and has good proportions. The wheels look a size too small, though.

The Ertiga may look like the Ritz’s distant cousin, but it's actually based on a stretched-out Swift platform. Clever packaging and a longer wheelbase mean this Swift suddenly thinks it's a people-mover. And yes we checked, there really are seven seats inside.

The Ertiga will be sold with both petrol and diesel engine options. Petrol power comes from the K-series line-up. Only here, unlike in the Swift, you have a 1.4-litre engine instead of the regular 1.2. This K14A puts out 94bhp and 130Nm of torque. It is very refined and feels smooth even when you push it.

The engine note changes to a pleasant snarl as you near the redline. This engine loves to rev and the short gear ratios mean driveability is pretty good and heavy loads don’t make it sweat. The neat stubby gearstick makes shifting a joy, especially if you’ve mastered the heel-and-toe. The petrol is definitely for the fun-on-the-run kinds.
The diesel on the other hand is from the celebrated DDIS lineup. This 1.3-litre variable geometry turbo puts out 89bhp and 200Nm of very usable torque. It is the sensible option because a people-mover that isn’t diesel doesn’t really work in our country.

On the road, the diesel may not be as free-revving as the petrol, but it gets the job done, especially when you go past 1800rpm. The power band isn’t very wide and it doesn’t have the kick in the back like the Swift. But the Ertiga DDIS will pull heavy loads with ease and makes for a good cruiser.

Maruti claims the petrol will hit 100kph in 12.1 seconds while the diesel will do it in 13.9 seconds, which isn’t bad for this segment. In fact, the petrol is quite good. ARAI’s figures put efficiency at 16.02kpl for the petrol and 20.77kpl for the diesel. We’ll wait till we can strap on our own equipment to get some real-world figures.

All in all, both powerplants are capable. The diesel’s efficiency is good but the petrol’s performance is hard to ignore. And the impressing doesn’t stop with the engines. Most people-movers are built on hefty ladder-frame chasses, which although good for sturdiness, are a pain when it comes to vehicle dynamics.

Being a monocoque means not only is the Ertiga light, it is also very car-like to drive, unlike most other MPVs in the market. As a result, the Ertiga isn’t allergic to going around bends. Body control is good and the Ertiga feels predictable through corners.

You can actually throw this seven-seater around without having a nervous breakdown. The electronic power steering feels a touch too light and a bit vague around the centre position, but dial in more lock and there’s more resistance, which is good. People can easily change over from a sedan and not have a problem with the handling.

And we’re not exaggerating when we say the Ertiga can literally run rings around the competition as far as dynamics go. Inside, as you’d expect, there are plenty of bits from the Swift, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
The driving position isn’t as high as you’d expect from an MPV, but that’s fine because the Ertiga feels more like a low-slung station wagon. The A-pillar does tend to get in the way through corners, but once you’re used to that, the Ertiga feels like a toy in city traffic.

The front seats are comfortable and support you in all the right places. The middle row too has decent legroom, and to enhance practicality and reduce the last row passengers’ woes, the second row slides to suit your needs. On our ZDi trim, there’s all the standard stuff you’d find in the Swift, except for climate control. So it’s certainly not lacking in the equipment department.

The last row isn’t as bad as you’d think. In fact, apart from slightly lacking under-thigh support, the third row isn’t necessarily for the in-laws. Because legroom is taken care of by the sliding middle row and unless you have a family of Michael Jordans, you’ll be okay. All rows get dedicated vents.

But there are some gripes. Maruti has concentrated on providing maximum passenger space, but this means luggage space is nothing to write home about. With the seats in place, you get a measly 185litres. Not nearly enough for a weekend getaway. But the seats do fold down to give you up to 785 litres of loading area. The other thing – and we’re nitpicking now – is the beige interior. It soils easily and looks plasticky. A darker shade would do wonders, especially on the petrol with its sporty pretensions.

Overall, you’ll come out of the Ertiga impressed. It drives much like a car and not like those body-roll-special MPVs. The car-like dynamics will definitely attract the hatchback and saloon buyer.  And that's one of its biggest USPs. The long list of equipment is icing on the cake.

It’s compact yet spacious enough, and finally, it comes with Maruti peace of mind. The petrol is actually a fun drive, perfect for those spirited white-van drivers. And even though it isn't as efficient as the oil burner, the fun-factor is hard to ignore.

The diesel may not be glamorous but it’s surely the sensible option in these days of skyrocketing fuel prices. Okay, so boot space really limits its practicality and it may not have as much shoulder room as its bigger counterparts, but on all other counts, the Ertiga makes a good case for itself.

So, is this the Eureka moment for Maruti? Well, it's certainly got most things sorted. And Maruti has gone out of its way to ensure the Ertiga floats everyone’s boat by launching it at a shattering price.

The petrol base can be yours for Rs 6.23 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai), which is brilliant value for money. Even the sensible diesel starts at Rs 7.71 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai) and the fully loaded ZDi retails at Rs 8.88 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai). Bang for your buck? Check! Maruti will certainly have a few biggies running around in circles.

 



Manish Sarser

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