What can seat seven without breaking the bank nor take up too much space? The compact MPV. In a country that has long been dominated by sedans, crossovers and SUVs, the MPV / AUV has continued to stay afloat in spite of the competition.
Suzuki Philippines has been offering such a vehicle in the form of the APV since 2005, based on a small truck platform and with the engine under the front passengers. Yet after more than a decade of the APV, Suzuki has expanded its MPV lineup with the launch of the car platform-based Ertiga MPV back in 2014. With a relatively small footprint, more car-like driving qualities and a versatile cabin configuration, the Ertiga bridges the gap between a passenger sedan and cargo van.
For 2016, Suzuki decided to give the Ertiga an update in the wake of the refreshed Toyota Avanza and the arrival of the Honda Mobilio. Sporting several exterior and interior tweaks, the automaker is keen on keeping a foothold in the now lucrative compact MPV segment.
At a glance, it appears the changes made to Suzuki's MPV are minimal, but the revised front reveals a more sophisticated look. Replacing the simple black grill is a new 3-bar chrome piece which is a nice touch. Also new are the reworked headlights, slightly smaller lower air intake and the glossy silver accents on the foglight bezels.
It still rides on 15-inch alloy wheels, but now features a new five twin-spoke design. Other than that, almost everything has been carried over.
The rear sports a new chrome garnish and additional red reflector trim on the tailgate. Lower on the body is a redesigned rear bumper which now comes with reverse sensors. This was a big help when it came to parking this MPV in tight spaces.
Stepping inside, the familiar beige interior has been carried over from the pre-facelift model. Compared to other MPVs that get a simple black or gray finish, the beige interior of the Ertiga grants a warmer ambiance to the cabin.
Both front seats provide decent side support and cushioning during long drives, roadtrips and heavy traffic. Exclusively available in this range-topping GLX are the start/stop button and the Android-based touchscreen infotainment system that was first fitted in the Ciaz sedan.
The infotainment system is a big departure from the pre-facelift’s 2-DIN integrated audio system. With it, wireless connectivity like Bluetooth, GPS navigation and Wi-Fi hotspot are now available in the compact MPV. It even has preloaded apps like Waze, Facebook and Google. When it came to sound quality, the pre-facelift model had better sound quality.
Other changes inside the Ertiga are the new 50:50 split-folding third-row seats. It replaces the bench-type seat from the previous model and allows for a more versatile cabin configuration. Typical in this segment, the third row only grants enough legroom for children or young teens. The second-row seats can slide forwards and backwards to boost either legroom, cargo space or room for the third row occupants.
Driving the front wheels is the 1.4-liter K14B derived from the Japan-made Swift. It generates 95 PS at 6,000 rpm along with 130 Nm of torque. Power is then sent through a 4-speed automatic transmission.
The compact inline-four produces decent power and does not feel strained despite the heavier curb weight of an MPV. It is also quite revvy thanks to the sensitive accelerator pedal and well-matched transmission. Some may say a 4-speed auto is a dated powertrain, but the Ertiga can easily go toe-to-toe in terms of acceleration with bigger-engined MPVs or sedans as it is still relatively lightweight.
With hints of the Swift running in its DNA and its platform, maneuvering the Ertiga through tight city streets and around mountain bends was not a problem. I also noticed that the refreshed Ertiga rode softer than before, which is a plus in my opinion. However, the electronic power-assisted steering lacked feedback.
Even though its small Swift-derived engine has to carry a bigger body, the Ertiga is able to deliver good fuel economy figures. In heavy traffic, the MPV was able to average between 8.0 – 8.5 km/l of fuel. On normal city driving, it got better as it was able to average 11 km/l. Highway driving, on the other hand, merited an 18.5 km/l average at a steady 80 km/h. When packing additional passengers or cargo, average fuel consumption on the highway will average between 15.5 to 17.5 km/l.
There are still some minor complaints still present from the pre-facelift model. For one, when pulling away, there's noticeable vibration from the accelerator pedal. There's also some shift shock when one changes from Drive to Neutral. It may be bordering on nitpicking already, nonetheless some buyers might find it bothersome too.
All in all, Suzuki did their homework, keeping the Ertiga fresh with these new features that enhance convenience and versatility. The powertrain still delivered that familiar zippiness while ride quality has been improved.
Of course, the minor model change also means a rise in price, now at PhP 918,000, compared to its old competitive price of PhP 812,000. Even the lower grade models are pricier than the old top-spec model, minus amenities like the engine start/stop button and Android infotainment system (GL variants get a Windows CE-based touchscreen with offline navigation).
If the new price doesn't faze you then the 2016 Ertiga still presents itself as a worthy contender in the compact MPV market.