Suzuki Ertiga 1.5 GX (2019) review
- 15 Feb 2019 at 11:58
- WRITER: RICHARD LEU
The second-generation Ertiga is a better car than ever, although it has hardly shifted any goalposts in the mini-MPV class.
Despite being a mass-market brand catering to buyers of low-cost cars, Suzuki is quite a modest player in Thailand when it comes to sales and product development.
Take the Ertiga as an example. When it was first launched some six years back, the seven-seater hardly rocked the Thai mini-MPV scene even if the Honda Mobilio and Toyota Avanza competitors were merely fair choices.
And with the segment having just welcomed a new player in the guise of the Mitsubishi Xpander, one might expect Suzuki to up the ante with the second-generation Ertiga as tested here this week.
People with some background of MPVs in this class will definitely know that product substance isn’t a thing to really talk about.
That’s because the Ertiga and its likes have been developed primarily for India and Indonesia, the latter being responsible for production in Asean.
Cars buyers there aren’t demanding explaining why the level of powertrain and safety technologies is comparatively dated.
Things like underpowered engines, yesteryear transmissions and basic safety count aren’t uncommon in this genus of MPVs.
Unfortunately, this still remains the case for the all-new Ertiga and most of its current competition which is why potential buyers in Thailand will probably just lust for the seven-seat accommodation these MPVs have to offer.
At least, Suzuki has concentrated in making the packaging more efficient in terms of space and weight. The Ertiga is the next Suzuki to be underpinned by the so-called Heartect platform.
Although the wheelbase length remains unchanged, the Ertiga is slightly longer, wider and taller overall. And best of all, the weight has dropped by around 50kg over its predecessor.
You don’t get to see many other mass-market brands making a good effort like this.
The 130mm longer body has allowed Suzuki to inject more space into the third-row seats and cargo area, as well.
The Ertiga may not beat the Xpander for outright cabin room, but it’s still spacious in its own right. The seats themselves are quite big but too flat to really feel genuinely comfortable.
Suzuki has also made the seating layout easier to use and adjust. The middle-row chairs, for one, now has a one-step operation when people want to get into the last tier.
The doors in the Ertiga have wider opening apertures than ever, although buyers needing the utmost in convenience will always find the sliding portals of the Toyota Sienta, another Indonesian-made MPV higher up the price ranks, a boon to use.
In terms of cabin ergonomics, the Ertiga hits the right buttons by having an uncluttered design. But there’s hardly any sense of visual drama and tactile quality thanks to a sea of cheap plastics and fake wood veneer coming out of the blue.
Oh, and don’t get fooled by the large screen on the dashboard. Rather than being a modern infotainment system, it’s merely an oversized monitor for the audio system and mobile phone connection; Bluetooth can be operated via a switch on the steering wheel.
Like the interior, the outside of the Ertiga has been seemingly penned with caution rather inspiration. It lacks the bold (but controversial) face of the Xpander but, to be fair, possesses some sense of tidiness. Intriguingly, the Ertiga has a similar three-way rear lamp design as in that Mitsu.
As said earlier, don’t expect much from the Ertiga when it comes to the driving bit. Although the on-paper stats suggest a bigger and more potent engine replacing the previous 92hp 1.4-litre motor, plus a lighter body to the benefit of more oomph and better economy, performance in the real world doesn’t feel vastly transformed.
The Ertiga lurches away from standstill quite well but begins to feel breathless at medium to high speeds. But what really spoils things here is that four-speed automatic gearbox, just like in that flawed Xpander.
Suzuki may have wanted to give Ertiga the best possible performance due to the need to carry around seven people when necessary. But the relatively short gearing of the fourth ratio means that the engine loiters at a high 3,000rpm when driving at 120kph.
And apart from not feeling relaxed enough, the engine tends to guzzle fuel even if the circa-15kpl is slightly better than before. Let’s not forget that Suzuki has newer gearbox tech available in its R&D department.
In terms of performance and economy balance, the Mobilio is still the one to beat in this class. As well, the Honda is still the only one capable of sipping E85 gasohol, if that really matters to you.
The chassis might be a better facet to talk about in the Ertiga, although not without flaws. The suspension setting appears to be just right for a vehicle of this nature. But overall ride quality isn’t as smooth or quiet as in the Xpander.
The new electrically assisted steering is shared with the Swift, but it doesn’t feel as intuitive to turn in the Ertiga. But when compared to rivals, the Ertiga still manages to handle better overall.
Like in the Xpander, the Ertiga uses drum brakes on the rear. You can frequently feel the lack of ample stopping power from high speeds, and our test car only had three persons on board.
Yes, the Ertiga is a very cost-effective car explaining why there are only two airbags and hardly any driver-assist features.
At least, the Ertiga has unchanged prices (655,000 baht for GL and 695,000 baht for GX) to make it an attractive choice over the Xpander, which is some 100k dearer.
Because the Ertiga’s lower CO2 output has allowed it drop a notch down in excise taxation, there are some new features like keyless entry and go (only available in GX trim), hill-start assist and stability control to complement.
So while the Ertiga may not be shifting goalposts in its class, it does stand out on a monetary basis coupled with some small improvements in the way it delivers on the road. It’s another Suzuki that has evolved too gently.