The Maruti Ertiga MPV is a first of sorts from the Indo-Japanese manufacturer. A luxurious family vehicle rather than a bare-basics people carrier unlike the Omni and Eeco, Maruti hopes to capture a whole new segment of the market, and accelerate its market share beyond 50 % once again.
The Maruti Ertiga began life as the RIII concept, first shown at the 2010 Auto Expo in New Delhi. The RIII clearly hinted at what Maruti was up to, namely three rows of seats. Two years later, the Ertiga MPV is finally in showrooms.
Design & Engineering
Built on a stretched version of the popular Swift platform, the Ertiga was developed by Suzuki’s Japanese R&D team with inputs from its Indian engineers. Measuring 4265 mm in length, the Ertiga does not make the 4-metre cut as was initially speculated, which would have earned it an excise benefit. The Maruti Ertiga is 1695 mm wide and 1685 mm tall, giving it a footprint not much bigger than the average mid-size sedan. However, even with these reasonably compact dimensions, Maruti’s engineers have managed to equip the Ertiga with a reasonably spacious cabin, which can comfortably accommodate seven people. Although the body style is that of an MPV, the Ertiga’s underpinnings are firmly derived from conventional hatchback/sedan roots, with a monocoque construction and McPherson front suspension, married to a torsion beam rear axle. The transversely mounted engines have also helped Maruti’s engineers carve out good interior room.
The looks are pleasing, and the Ertiga’s face draws instant recall with the Swift and Ritz hatchbacks.
Interiors & Comfort
The Swift heritage is immediately evident when you step inside. The dashboard is almost identical to that found in the new Swift and new Dzire, except that Maruti has chosen to give it a two-tone brown and beige colour scheme. The top-of-the-line ZXi and ZDi variants we drove also came equipped with a factory-fitted stereo with steering-mounted controls.
Although it is an MPV, one needn’t climb aboard; instead you can simply step in. The large doors open wide too, meaning ingress and egress is easy, an important consideration for a family vehicle, especially for senior citizens. Access to the third row is achieved by sliding the middle row forward and tipping the seat backs. Although it is easy enough to negotiate, the Ertiga’s third row is best reserved for children or nimble adults. Also, the third row cannot accommodate three people abreast.
The beige colour scheme extends to the upholstery as well. The seats themselves are thinly padded to liberate as much space as possible.
For a family vehicle, especially with kids, Maruti could have offered darker-coloured upholstery, which would have proved more stain resistant.
The Ertiga comes with a dual AC as standard in the mid-spec VXi/VDi and top-spec ZXi/ZDi trims, with the second AC mounted on the roof, just ahead of the second row. We must make a special mention of its effectiveness. During our test drive, the ambient temperature was a blistering 39 degrees C, with nearly 90 % humidity. Despite these conditions, the Ertiga’s AC cooled the cabin fairly quickly. This is an important consideration and a definite plus.
With all three rows in place, boot space is restricted to a miserly 165 litres, which will allow for a couple of soft bags at best. You can flip and fold the third row for more space, but you cannot remove the seat. There are no grooves provided to mount a roof carrier either, which means owners will have to resort to unsightly clamps if they wish to mount a roof carrier. Maruti could have looked at providing these and selling a roof-top box as an accessory.
Performance & Handling
The Ertiga has a high driving position, with the driver’s seat an inch or so higher than the front passenger seat. Despite not being height-adjustable, the seating position affords a commanding view of the road ahead and good frontal visibility. The large wing mirrors help rear visibility as well. However, the inside rear-view mirror is not very effective, given the small rear windshield glass.
The steering wheel tilts, which helps the driver find a comfortable position.
I drove the petrol Ertiga first, followed by the diesel. The petrol engine in the Ertiga is the all-new K14, which displaces 1,373 cc. Don’t let the modest displacement fool you however, and the 95 PS of power and 130 Nm of torque are well up to the mark in providing the petrol Ertiga with good drivability. The light clutch action, married to a slick gearbox and light steering make driving the Ertiga a breeze, especially within the city. The compact dimensions are a boon in traffic, and coupled to the high driving position it is easy to pick a line and thread through traffic.
Out on the open road however, things aren’t quite as rosy. For starters, the K14 petrol engine begins to sound raucous when revved. We had five people on board and both ACs running, and it motored quite competently, so no complaints there. Instead, it’s the boomy cabin which is annoying. Maruti has geared the Ertiga a little short to make the best of the small engine’s torque, and while this helps the mid-range performance, it mean the Ertiga is revving considerably high to maintain highway momentum. This won’t help fuel efficiency either.
The Ertiga’s handling at speed is a big concern. While straight line stability is decent, it displays a nervous attitude. Lane changes or hard braking definitely unsettle the Ertiga, which means the driver has to remain alert at all times to avoid such a situation. There is little or no margin for error behind the wheel of the Ertiga. Again, for a family vehicle, with a bunch of children on board, this isn’t the best situation, as kids are known to cause all sorts of distraction, especially on long drives.
The diesel which we drove subsequently displayed a better highway character. The extra weight, about 85 kilos, meant that it felt a little more planted. The substantially higher torque of 200 Nm also meant that highway cruising was more relaxed. In town however, the turbo lag of the diesel meant that frequent gear shifts were required to keep pace with traffic. The diesel also boasted of a little more feel from the steering wheel. This is the same Fiat-sourced MultiJet engine, but in the higher 90 PS state of tune as found in the SX4 and Fiat Linea.
Refinement on both the petrol and diesel isn’t up to the mark for this class of vehicle. We can understand Maruti’s engineers have saved cost and weight by using lesser amount of sound-deadening material, but this hasn’t helped the Ertiga’s refinement. There’s also a degree of vibration through the pedals, quite noticeable in the diesel.
The Ertiga’s technical dimensions provide the clue to its handling attitude. Its wheelbase at 2,740 mm is 310 mm longer than the Swift’s. It is also 155 mm taller, while both cars display the same 1,480 mm track. A wider track would definitely help the Ertiga’s handling.
ARAI has certified the new Ertiga 16 kpl for the petrol and 21 kpl for the diesel. As always, real world figures will differ substantially. We didn’t have time to do a fuel run on the Ertiga, so we cannot comment on what is actually achievable. The new K14 petrol is an unknown entity, but the MultiJet is an engine we are familiar with, so an in-town figure of about 14 kpl with AC should be manageable.
Maruti’s engineers have provided the basic safety kit one expects from a car these days. Since the Ertiga will not be sold in Europe, we do not have NCAP figures for it, crumple zones and seat belts on all three rows are standard. ABS and two front airbags are available with the ZXi and ZDi. The mid-spec VXi/VDi offer ABS as a cost option. One oversight is the provision of a rear wiper and defogger. These are available only on the ZXi/ZDi. Given our monsoon, a rear wiper and defogger is a critical requirement, and manufacturers like Maruti should take the lead on providing this as standard on all variants.
The slightly nervous handling that we described earlier also detracts from the Ertiga’s safety rating in our book.
The Ertiga delivers on the traditional Maruti strengths of value-for-money pricing, good fuel efficiency and an effective AC. The company’s sales and service network are unmatched as well, which means peace of mind for owners. The Ertiga is aimed squarely at the family man, who would otherwise have opted for a sedan like the SX4, or perhaps gone elsewhere if an MPV is what he needs. In that sense, Maruti has plugged a very big gap in its product range. We do not want to hint at stereotypes here, but other traditional Maruti flaws show up on the Ertiga as well. The interiors for example don’t feel especially well screwed together and overall refinement levels could have been better.
The ex-showroom prices, Delhi, for the new Maruti Ertiga are as follows:
Variant Price Variant Price
Ertiga LXi 5.89 Ertiga LDi 7.30
Ertiga VXi 6.60 Ertiga VDi 7.90
Ertiga ZXi 7.30 Ertiga ZDi 8.54
The aggressive price will definitely draw buyers to showrooms. An interesting point to note is how Maruti has priced the top-of-the-line petrol ZXi identically to the base LDi diesel variant. This will ensure that demand for the petrol version remains good as well.
The diesel variant bears comparison with the likes of the Sumo Grande, Tavera and Xylo, but that’s purely on price. In every other comparison, the Ertiga proves to be distinct from those vehicles. For the time being it has no real competition, but contenders like the Nissan Evalia and Ford B-Max are on the horizon.
Yes, there are a few concerns with the Ertiga, especially with the handling, but those aren’t a deal breaker in any way. In many ways, the Maruti Ertiga proves to be exactly what the Indian family car buyer wants and needs. It has all the makings of being this country’s ideal family vehicle, but it’s not without its flaws.