Vehicles built for a solitary purpose are rarely exciting. For proof, look no further than single cab workhorses and people movers.
The latter has only one function – to move as many people as possible as cheaply as possible. Everything in addition to that is a bonus.
Locally, there’s huge demand for these cars. There’s a large chunk of the population that relies on the taxi system for transportation. They’re also a perfect fit for any company ferrying tourists, school kids and the elderly. Not to mention families, who simply want something large, economical and reasonably well equipped.
This segment has traditionally been dominated by the Toyota Avanza, but now Suzuki’s all-new Ertiga has arrived to shake things up a bit.
Only two specifications are available – GA and GL. The latter is also available as an automatic. Pricing starts at R214 900 for the GA, while the GA with a manual retails for R239 900. The automatic retails for R254 900.
It has space for seven full-size adults and a small amount of luggage, or five adults and a large amount of luggage. That’s pretty much what we were expecting given the body shape.
To create a truly practical seven-seat MPV, Suzuki has stretched the Ertiga by 130 mm to 4 395 mm, while lifting the roof by 5 mm to give the vehicle a total height of 1 690 mm. The Ertiga is also 40 mm wider, which translates almost directly into more shoulder room for passengers in all three rows of seats.
Despite the extra length and width, Suzuki has kept the wheelbase unchanged at 2 740 mm, which means that the new Ertiga shares the nimble turning circle of 5.2 metres with its predecessor.
What we weren’t expecting is the refinement. We were able to have a conversation with the driver, even when seated in the third row. Suzuki says it spent a lot of time engineering the cabin to be more comfortable than before and it certainly feels that way.
The Ertiga is equipped with Suzuki’s new 1.5-litre four-cylinder naturally aspirated petrol, as used in the Jimny. It delivers 77kW and 138Nm of torque, which is sent to the wheels via a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic.
It’s not an especially powerful motor, but as we first experienced in the Jimny, it’s extremely happy and willing to work hard. It will likely be a reliable unit as well, as it’s currently sold with a 200 000 km / five-year mechanical warranty as standard.
In front, the driver has a new instrument cluster with chrome bezels and a multi-information trip display. The steering wheel on GL models also features chrome highlights and steering controls, while all models benefit from the D-shaped steering wheel with height adjustment that allows for ease of getting in and out.
The instrument cluster is housed in an upright dashboard with integrated radio, with USB and Bluetooth connectivity.
In the lower section of the centre console, Suzuki has added two air-conditioned cup holders and a 12V charging socket, with a second charging socket located behind the front seats for the middle row of passengers.
All Ertiga models are equipped with two airbags for front passengers and ABS brakes with electronic brake force distribution (EBD). Suzuki has also added ISOFIX-approved seat anchors for child seats and a reverse parking sensor system for the GL model.
Lastly, all models feature an immobiliser and the GL specification level is also fitted with a security alarm for additional peace of mind.
It’s not an especially exciting car to drive, but it’s perfectly good at what will likely be expected of it. We spent the day driving around the busiest streets in Johannesburg, stopping at various points to complete some tasks.
The drive was comfortable, the infotainment was easy to understand, the air-conditioning kept us cool and the engine provided forward momentum while not consuming copious amounts of petrol.
Getting it to 120km/h doesn’t require a lot of effort and it sits there happily thanks to the new engine/gearbox combination.
At the end of the day, customers shopping around in this bracket are after the space and the Ertiga offers that in spades.
It also offers the basic amenities every car should have (even more so in the GL), it’s safe and it retails for less than equivalent Avanza. We also quite like the look of the thing, even though it will likely feature very low down on the list of things a prospective owner will be looking at.