Out of the 15 million cars sold in India, Maruti Suzuki sells 10 million of them. That's the level of market share this manufacturer has in the Indian market. But in the MUV segment, Maruti dosen't have a strong vehicle. And this segment accounts for 14 per cent of the industry. More and more customers are looking to upgrade from a premium hatchback and this is the space which Maruti want the Ertiga to conquer. So will the Ertiga be able to establish itself?
The Ertiga has contemporary looks which will appeal to a vast demographic. Maruti's objective, which is to cater to maximum percentage of the population, will be achieved with this design. The vehicle was exhibited at the Expo and even then it had impressed with its clean look. The swept back headlamps, inspired from the Swift, the bonnet and grille taken from the Ritz, give it a car-like look and not a big MUV feel, which is exactly what Maruti want to project. From the side the pronounced wheel arch up front is the only indicator of this being a 'big' vehicle. From the rear, again the small cluster of the tail lamps (much smaller than either that of the Innova's or the Xylo's) adds to the whole car-like feel. It has a clean, uncluttered look with the rear spoiler adding a bit of sportiness.
It's a Swift – that's the immediate conclusion when you step inside. The difference being that you get a brown and beige finish unlike the black interiors of the Swift. The beige gives you the feeling of space and there are small bits like the silver trims on the door and on the steering wheel which give it a classy look. And just like the Swift, It's a vehicle that you will slide into rather than having to climb in. The second row gets a 60:40 split, with the seats capable of sliding (240mm) and reclining, increasing the space available. The front seats have been carved out from the back to increase leg room. There is also a centre arm rest. Of course in terms of space the shoulder room is like a hatch so it is not comfy for three abreast at the middle row.
Now to the most crucial third row. And it must be said the space will be comfortable for short journeys, for medium sized adults. Access to third row is easily achieved by folding down the second row seat and sliding it forward. The recline of the third row seat helps increase the space. Third row passengers also get armrests along the side of the vehicle. In terms of storage space, with all the seats upright, you get 135 litres. You can increase it up to 735 litres by folding the second and third rows. There is a fair bit of storage space in term of cubby holes with even the third row passengers getting bottle holders. Overall, in terms of looks, Maruti have played the familiarity card well. Any customer looking to upgrade from a hatchback will not have any problem adapting to the Ertiga.
Engine and transmission
The Ertiga has two engine options. The new K14B petrol with variable valve timing – a 1.4-litre which produces 95PS of maximum power at 6000rpm and 130Nm of maximum torque at 4000rpm. And the trusted diesel from the SX4, 1.3-litre DDiS with VGT which produces 90PS of maximum power at 4000rpm and 200Nm of maximum torque at 1750rpm. The petrol engine has linear power delivery and it didn't feel underpowered during our drive though it didn't involve a lot of highway driving.
The diesel engine is peppy and has sufficient low end torque for comfortable city driving. It is one of the best diesels around, with a good top end, revs easily, and is refined. The VGT does its business in reducing the lag. But there is lag below 2000rpm made more noticeable since the kick you get once the boost comes on is much stronger than the 80PS Swift diesel. But you still get very good responses when the pedal is pushed. The gearbox is again the trustworthy unit from the Swift with slightly reengineered ratios to meet the larger vehicle's requirements and higher torque rating for the petrol. The gears snap into place and the short throw again gives you the whole car-like feel. NVH levels, especially on the diesel, are quite unlike what you would find in an MUV.
The Ertiga feels planted when pushing it around the corners. The suspension is softer than the Swift to account for the requirements of a vehicle of this class, which means you get more body roll than in a Swift. But this also means that it absorbs the undulations on the road better. The steering feels direct and sufficiently weighted to give you confidence at high speeds as on the highway. Within the city, the Ertiga shines because it feels light and agile, has better visibility, a better driving position, lighter controls (gearbox, steering, pedals) and easy manoeuvrability.
With an overall length of 4265mm, it is shorter than the Innova and Xylo by 320mm and 260mm respectively. Lesser in width too and this aids handling. The turning radius of 5.2m helps in easy manoeuvrability. Again all of this helps in the car-like feel. When driving the Ertiga, you tend to forget that it is actually an MUV which is a good thing. Behind the wheel it feels like a compact car which is what Maruti set out to do. They didn't want to have a van or CV-like feel and they have succeeded.
Maruti is claiming an incredible mileage of 16.02kmpl for the petrol and an even better 20.77kmpl for the diesel. With these figures itself, Maruti have a winner on their hands. Because that they will price it competitively is a given. Though the Ertiga is shorter than its competition the cab-forward stance means that in terms of wheelbase it's only 10mm shorter than the Innova making it a vehicle which doesn't look big but has a lot of space inside. It's a vehicle which can accommodate the growing aspirations of a family and in providing a familiar, car-like environment, Maruti have ensured that the customer will want to upgrade to an Ertiga. They are a mass volume player and this one looks certain to bring in the numbers.
It's a new segment for Maruti and with the Ertiga in India they have attempted to 'eliminate the negative image of the commercial vehicle'. The trick will be to appeal to the private customer as much as the fleet taxi people. Versatility is a key factor which will work in favour of the Ertiga. You can drive it to work daily like you would a Swift or Dzire, it has more rear leg room, it can take seven people when required and you can take it on a month-long driving expedition. It can do it all, and does all that without the compromises - poor dynamics, poor efficiency, heavy to drive traits - inherent in a MUV. They are calling it a Life Utility Vehicle. You got to LUV that approach.