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Vikrant Singh, 23-Mar-2012. Car Tested: , Version:
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Introduction

If you were looking at the Ertiga, thinking it could be the ideal 7-8 seater alternative to the Innova, and a much cheaper one and that, well you need to think again. Yes, the Ertiga will be cheaper than the Innova when it is launched early next month and by a significant margin, no doubt. In fact, it would most likely be SX4 monies, but it just isn't a proper seven-seater to be an alternative to the Toyota.  It's more like a 5+2 with the +2 best left folded to free up luggage space. 

So, is it reason enough to discount it completely, then? We think not. You see the Ertiga is a very smart car and can fit a variety of purposes. Let me explain. If you are looking for a roomy five-seater with good luggage space, the Ertiga does it well. If you want something to shift houses in, the Ertiga can do that to with its last two rows folded, and when the parents are over and the whole family wants to go out for dinner, together – you and your wife, two kids and the parents – with a little push and shove, that’s possible as well.

 

The drive

 

What’s also impressive about the Ertiga is how easy it is to drive. It is based on the Swift platform, just the like the Dzire, but sits on a longer wheelbase - the reason it can have three rows of seating. The mechanicals are almost identical too, especially the basic architecture of the underpinnings and the steering assembly.

So when you get behind the wheel and put it through a series of bends, the Ertiga actually surprises you with its handling prowess. It’s not as sharp or chuckable or even as planted as say the Swift, but the body roll isn’t excessive, and unless you do something really stupid, things never get out of hand. It also manages quick direction changes very well. The added length doesn’t play spoilsport with the rear managing to keep up with the front’s every move. So in that sense, the Ertiga is totally carlike.

There’s nothing utility vehicle about its engines either. It comes with one petrol and one diesel option. The 1.4-litre K-series petrol is essentially the same as the Swift’s 1.2-litre engine but with a longer stroke. The end result is more power at 95bhp that also a higher peak torque. But being more undersquare in its layout, the torque spread is stronger lower down in the rpm range on the 1.4 giving the Ertiga acceptable levels of driveability particularly in the city. 

It’s also a refined engine with a slick shifting gearbox and a light and progressive clutch. However, the Ertiga does feel wanting on the highway especially in 4th and 5th gear. The engine refuses to dial up the revs in a hurry and it takes forever for it to get past an indicated 100kmph. Obviously overtaking and high cruising speeds is not something the 1.4-litre petrol Ertiga manages well.

The diesel though is a delight. It has better top end performance and once the turbo has spooled up (past 1800rpm), it is more drivable in the city compared to the petrol too. It uses the same VGT equipped, 90bhp 1.3-litre diesel from the SX4. It is noisy at higher revs but overall (also considering higher fuel economy), it is the better version.

As far spending time in the Ertiga goes, it could have been more comfortable. The ride quality for instance isn’t the most plush. The occupants can feel the road below quite clearly be it courtesy the muted thuds or the accompanied jiggle from the suspension. We are not saying it’s uncomfortable but it could have been better. The same holds true for the seats as well. The ones at the front are decent, a little soft but supportive. The last two rows though are flat and will cause uneasiness to the occupants over longer drives. 

 

Looks and interiors

 

Another area where the Ertiga fails to impress is its overall feel of the interiors. It’s almost identical to the Swift; be it the dashboard layout or the switches and buttons. Not that the quality or the fit and finish is an issue, but the bigger problem is that the insides just don’t feel plush enough to command a Rs 8 lakh price tag. Plus everything inside is so familiar, you don’t feel like you are in a brand new car. The Ertiga could also do with a bit more intelligently designed storage spaces. We agree it has bottle holders for all three rows and door pockets even all round and that’s great, but the latter are too narrow to fit anything significant. But this apart, there’s nothing else to empty out your pockets in.

What is impressive nonetheless is the kneeroom on offer. With a sliding second row, it does take a bit of trial and error to ensure both second and third row passengers don’t foul their knees with the seat ahead, but it is very much possible. This also means with no third row passengers, the kneeroom in the second row can be outstanding. What it could do with though is more interior width in order to seat three in comfort. This also means with all seven in their seats, the feeling of roominess isn’t great either.

 

 

Verdict

Like we mentioned at the very start, don’t consider the Ertiga if you are looking for a genuine seven seater, you won’t be very happy. The Ertiga, nonetheless, much like the Honda Jazz is a very practical and flexible car to own. It might not look great and the look and feel of its interiors might not live up to its suggested price tag, but you can still use it as an everyday commute option; even as a chauffeur driven one. You can have it as the only family car too, and with its decently large luggage space with the last row folded, use it for driving holidays too. Clearly then, there are more reasons to buy the Ertiga than not to consider it. Also, the Ertiga will be sold in three versions for each engine option. The L versions (read Lxi and Ldi) are quite poorly equipped for the price these would come for. The Z versions are well equipped but it is the V version (Vxi and Vdi) that make the most sense, especially since you can have these with ABS.

 

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