Maruti Suzuki Ertiga

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BY
VIVEK VENUGOPAL

February 22

MPVs are the most popular choice of cars for the family man, everywhere in the world, but bizzarely, the segment never really got off inIndia. Yes, there was the crude UV range and of course, the Innova, but for the average person driving around the city, commuting to work and taking his family and friends for an outing, there was nothing cheerful and compact, until now.

The Ertiga is Maruti’s answer to everyone who desperately wanted a car that is smaller than an Innova, yet could take a family of seven in reasonable comfort. Built on the new Swift platform, the Ertiga looks like a derivative of the Ritz. The front end looks upright with the tall air dam and fog lamp inserts, but the shapely bonnet and sloping windscreen give it a very aerodynamic and purposeful appearance. The rear has been styled rather well, with well defined creases under the tail lamps and a prominent ‘U’ outlining the license plate region. The elongated head lamps and tail lamps complement the long body and visual bulk is further reduced by the shapely glass house and an upward sweeping D pillar. The short overhangs and long wheelbase give the Ertiga good presence, but the generous proportions, coupled with the strong flares make the 15inch wheels look small at times.

The Ertiga has the longest rear doors Maruti has ever put on a vehicle, and it helps with the passenger entry to the rear most row. The Ertiga offers a flexible seating with 60:40 split middle row and a fully foldable rear row. The middle row of seats can be reclined and slided back and forth, so it is easy to find a position with an acceptable amount of room for both rows. With the all the seats in place, there is a 135litre boot for small bags and you can increase it ten times by folding down the seats.

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The dashboard, the centre console and front seats are similar to the Swift/Dezire, but the door pads, the beige upper tone and fabric are all exclusive to the Ertiga. It also gets a roof mounted second AC (not just ducts or a blower) for the middle row passengers.

The car measures 4265mm in length, 1695mm in width, 1685mm in height and has a 2740mm wheelbase. That is a whole lot smaller than the Innova, which measures 4580mm in length, 1770mm in width and is 1755mm high. At 1180-1255kgs, the monocoque MPV is also significantly lighter than the Innova (1520-1590kg) which has a full ladder frame chassis and rear wheel drive layout.

The Ertiga is the first car to benefit from the new K14, a larger version of the very popular K12B used in the Ritz and Swift. Maruti could have saved the effort and launched the Ertiga with the 1.6 litre M16A from the SX4, but that engine already has a reputation for being on the thirsty side and would dissuade buyers of this segment. The 1373cc, 16valver with variable valve timing puts out a healthy 93bhp and 130N-m. It is an eager motor with adequate low end grunt, but with full complement of passengers, you will need to give it a little more revs. The gear ratios are carefully spaced to give the engine good flexibility and it is particularly good pottering around town in third. Cross 3500-4000rpm and like all new Suzuki petrol units, it begins to impress even more. Power delivery becomes even more punchier and it keeps on building till 6000rpm where the engine has a lovely snarl.

The 1.3Multijet diesel on the other hand doesn’t rev as well and feels lazier, but it is better suited to the application. There is a good amount of torque to ample along, and doesn’t feel strained when cruising close to a hundred kilometers an hour and climbing gradients when the all the seven seats are full. It is the 90bhp variable geometry version of the engine as in the SX4, and would be the pick of the range for its superior efficiency and effortless cruisability.

With conventional McPherson struts and torsion beam rear axles, the Ertiga is designed to ride and handle like a car. This is important because most family buyers would want their people carrier to drive like a conventional car than an MUV. And ride quality, is even more crucial. The soft suspension with the reasonably high profile tyres gives the Ertiga exemplary ride quality on our roads, soaking up bumps and filtering out any noises in the process. In fact, the Ertiga’s suspension feels so soft and floaty over road undulations, that it made us doubt its handling. But, (and this is where Maruti Engineers need all the praise) they have done it without ruining the handling. The precise steering and strong front end grip were evident in the twisty bits of the NH17 in Goa where we had this first drive. The Ertiga felt planted and despite copious amounts of body roll, was clinging on to corners like a big hatch. Sure, with the extra weight, long wheelbase and softer suspension it isn’t going to be as fun as the Swift is, but on an MPV, you can’t ask for more. Eventually it settles into a slide when the tyres lose grip but the dynamics of the car were so good that we began to wonder how good the Ertiga would be with SX4-like 205 section R16 tyres in place of the current 185/65 R15s.

With the Ertiga, getting launched in April, Maruti wants to plug the gap between a regular five seater car and a full-on MUV like the Innova. Like the Innova, it is perfect in every way, only smaller and much more affordable. With Maruti’s killer pricing for the Ertiga announced now, we wouldn’t be surprised to see it pull some sales away from the segment above.

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BY VIVEK VENUGOPAL

ASSISTANT FASHION EDITOR

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