Suzuki says its seven-seater Ertiga is what happens when ‘space and versatility meet sleek style’; we say Ertiga is a grand South African experiment to see just what it is that drives locals to continually buy Toyota’s Avanza. We’re not exactly the target market for Avanza, but we can see why loyal fans would be drawn to it – it is, after all, a Toyota – but will similar reasoning apply to the Ertiga?
Ertiga is based on the evergreen Swift hatchback and sourced from India. But where we love the Swift for its sharp city attitude and gutsy, rev-happy demeanour, it’ll take more convincing to warm to the Ertiga. Sure, it shares its (stretched) underpinnings and 1.4-litre petrol engine with the Swift – and that’s about where the comparison ends.The wheelbase measures 2 740mm and Ertiga’s overall length is 4 265mm, but its high ground clearance (185mm) and overall height (1 685mm) contribute to a high centre of gravity that makes the Ertiga feel rather unsettled. It’s possible that this MPV might feel more planted with bums in seats over the rear axle, but finding any bodies keen to make contact with the Ertiga’s beige upholstery required all my persuasive abilities. And yet no success. The seven-seater’s steering feel withouth any passengers at the rear feels featherlight, which contributes to disconcerting handling and cornering properties…
Yes, this is the Ertiga’s cabin. And yes, shades of beige are all you’ll get. The colour family is said to be immensely popular in the eastern region from where this car is sourced, and while it’s early days yet, local buyers don’t seem to be too revolted by the caramel custard interior, based on the blossoming sales figures reflected by Naamsa. The seats can (and should) be covered with a hardier fabric; there is, however, no covering the hard plastics on that dashboard.
GA, GL and GLX spec models in four-speed auto or five-speed manual is the Ertiga spread, with one 1.4-litre petrol between them. I was happy to have the manual GLX; while an extra cog would not have gone unnoticed, I imagine driving the automatic must be quite tedious, informed by my experience in a previous life with an auto Swift.The degree of similarity between the Ertiga and Swift’s cabins was also terribly reassuring. A quick glance about to gauge the bus’ dimensions and, since everything was exactly where I’d left it on Swift, I was off. The level of standard specification in the range-topping GLX with its steering wheel controls and chrome interior garnish was also more than adequate.
Ertiga has three benches seating up to seven. Seats can be configured in a number of ways, although I nearly lost my legs on a number of occasions while trying to manhandle the second or third rows into usable shapes. You see, when the third row of seats is in use, the luggage space is barely big enough for a two shopping bags and a briefcase. But with the rearmost seatbacks folded into the floor, the larger-yet-coverless luggage space is exposed to the elements, a concept that does not sit well with my suburban paranoia. The rear bench slides back for more leg room and forward to ease access to the rearmost bench.
Suzuki’s Ertiga is not the perfect MPV, but for its ability to carry seven in a package under R200 000, it deserves a degree of kudos. You can ultimately cover the seats and if you’re prepared to lug all your belongings with you whenever the Ertiga’s out of your sight, it will work equally happily as a generous five-seater. Also, it’s hard to fault the work rate of that underpowered but gutsy 1.4 petrol. Suzuki’s taken a bold step into the land of the cut-price MPV and its aggressive one-size-fits-all approach might just pay off. I just wonder for how long Toyota’s Avanza will be happy to shoulder the blame for the rise of the unsexy MPV
NEED TO KNOW
Suzuki Ertiga 1.4 GLX manual
PRICE R192 900
ENGINE 1 373cc, four-cylinder, 70kW @ 6 000rpm, 130Nm @ 4000rpm
TRANSMISSION Five-speed manual, front-wheel drive
SUSPENSION MacPherson strut front, torsion-beam rear
LENGTH/WIDTH/HEIGHT 4 265/1 695/1 685mm
WEIGHT 1 180kg
PERFORMANCE n/a 0-100kph, n/a top speed, 6.6 litres per 100km, 157g/km