The automotive industry is like a basketball league, with each brand having its own team of competitive vehicles within its lineup. And just like every team in the NBA or the PBA, each brand has its own star player, or in automotive business-speak, the best seller. For Suzuki Philippines, it’s the Ertiga.
By owning 30% of SPH’s sales number in 2018, the Ertiga continues to prove that it’s close to the hearts of Filipino car buyers and really, it isn’t hard to decipher why. Armed with a competitive price tag and seven seats, the multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) is a solid value proposition for families that are looking to buy a value-packed car.
The second-generation Ertiga is now on our shores. Are the overall improvements enough to keep the MPV’s inherent popularity to Filipino car-buyers? Here’s our full review of the 2019 Suzuki Ertiga in its GLX trim.
Let’s get this out of the way – I’m not a fan of MPVs. I don’t hate them but they’re not my cup of tea. However, I love how the Ertiga keeps faith in its MPV styling. It doesn’t fancy itself as a high-riding SUV. Rather, it keeps its nose-down, utilitarian appeal but with improved, sharp cues from the nose up to the rear.
While the Ertiga kept its horizontal chrome grille from its predecessor, the biggest changes are found at the back. The Volvo-ish LED taillamps look good at night and the floating C-pillar adds an attitude to this rather timid family car. That, or the Glorious Brown Pearl color of the media unit just go well with it.
With minimal chromes in the body, the Ertiga isn’t over-the-top in going for the classy look, and that’s a good thing. The halogen headlights are forgivable, especially when you consider this car’s price point.
Like the current Suzuki vehicles, the 2019 Ertiga carries a well-executed, plastic-laden cabin. There are also glossy faux-wood trims that don’t alienate the design; they go well with the beige-colored interior, which I absolutely love as it's easy on the eyes, albeit, not on stains. Those who have messy families should go for the black-themed option. For the one behind the wheel, you’ll thank Suzuki for the elbow cushions by the doors and the straightforward vehicle controls. What can be improved, however, is the driving position – it’s pretty high to my liking while the lack of telescopic adjustment took me two days before I got to my sweet spot.
As an MPV, cabin space is crucial and I’m happy to report that the Ertiga is above average in this regard. The second-row seats slide into position easily, while a single lever is all you need to allow effortless third-row entry. The seats recline as well, so the passengers have a lot of options on how they position themselves inside the cabin. All of these traits are well and good if the passengers are of my built (medium) and height (5’6”) – having one or two bigger rear passengers would mean compromises. Three? Forget about it.
Maximum cargo space is at 830 liters through the trunk’s flat-lip entry, wide stowage, and third row-backrests that fold flat to the floor. With all seats erect, cargo space is at 153 liters – enough to carry a standard-sized child stroller and two-to-three knapsacks.
Ride comfort is biased towards being bouncy, but still better than most in its class. NVH insulation is definitely up there sans the sound of the engine that creeps in at high RPMs. The driver may not have a center console box to put stuff in, but this MPV has several cubbyholes, cupholders, and bottle-holders up to the last row. Grip assist handles are also found on all doors, except at the driver’s side.
Even as a range-topper, don’t expect too much when it comes to convenient tech features in the Ertiga, but it’s on the par – if not better – with its competitors. Basic adjustments like side mirrors and windows are all power, plus the driver’s window does go up and down with one push/pull. It also comes with keyless entry and push-ignition systems, but I’m a bit irked with the lack of rear-view mirror dimmer. Air-conditioning is, of course, manual but it works pretty well even at high noon and comes with pollen filter. Two 12V sockets can also be found inside the cabin but it could have come with speed-sensing door locks to complete the package.
Nevertheless, there are things that really came as a pleasant surprise. The cupholders at the center console have an A/C vent, which keeps your cold drinks, well, cool. You can shut it down for hot drinks.
Then there’s the crown jewel of the Ertiga’s interior – the huge floating 10-inch infotainment system available in the range-topping GLX. GL variants get 8-inch instead while the entry-level GA has a 1DIN tuner. To give you an idea, the latest iPad is 9.7 inches across the screen. The Ertiga’s infotainment also comes with a clean and crisp display plus notably huge icons that those with poor eyesight would appreciate. Even without Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, you can pair up your smartphone easily via Bluetooth or USB, while the sound goes out via four speakers. Sound isn’t the best, but it’s decent and you’ll also get offline navigation that works. If there’s any gripe, that would be with some lagging when using the Navi.
The 2019 Ertiga has safety features that come standard throughout the range. These are dual front airbags, ABS with EBD, ISOFIX child seat tethers, side impact door beams, and immobilizer. The GLX media test unit has extra rear parking camera with sensors and guidelines, as well as a security alarm (available in GL, too).
Now, just in case you need to know, the most unsafe place inside the Ertiga would be at the middle of the second row since it only has a two-point lap belt.
Driving & Handling
Probably the biggest improvements in the second-generation Ertiga are with its driving dynamics and the engine performance of the 1.5-liter K15B (same with the 2019 Jimny) with 103 horsepower and 138 Nm of torque. With a tad bigger power plant than before, the Ertiga has a healthy power delivery with every input of the accelerator – healthy for MPV standards. That remained true even with five people on board with minimal cargo. It was a cinch to get up to legal speed limits.
The 4-speed transmission was also smooth, albeit, a bit rough when downshifting. It wasn’t hesitant to shift plus it can pretty much cope up with varying speeds. The lack of manual mode wasn’t an issue at all. At 100 km/h, the engine steadied at 2,300 RPM.
When it comes to handling, the Ertiga got a high score primarily because of the weighted steering feel that accounted for a planted highway cruise. At city speeds, the steering lightens a bit, increasing maneuverability along with the wide driving visibility. The side mirrors are bit short, though, so there’s a huge right rear blind spot – something that you should be careful with. There’s a bit of understeer, but it wasn’t enough to make you feel unsafe when tackling twisties.
Even with a 4-speed automatic transmission, the Ertiga registered impressive fuel efficiency numbers. Crawling through rush hour traffic read back 9.4 km/L, while faster paces at around 60 km/h registered 15.1 km/L. Highway cruises at an average speed of 90 km/h clocked in 20.8 km/L.
Of note, these figures were taken with only two people inside the car. With five passengers and minimal cargo, fuel economy is at 18.4 km/L at highway speeds. Still impressive on my watch.
Coming in to bump its inherent popularity to Filipino car buyers, the 2019 Suzuki Ertiga has definitely improved a lot from before. It’s easy to drive, comes with loads of tech, and most importantly, registered very notable fuel efficiency figures – all for P978,00 for the GLX AT variant. A very competitive price point, I must say.
With these changes intact, the Ertiga could very well be hailed as the Most Improved Player in the small MPV segment. So much so, that it’s ready to go head to head with the newest segment all-stars such as the Toyota Rush, Mitsubishi Xpander, and Honda BR-V. If you’re in the market for seven-seaters, you should definitely include the Ertiga in your shortlist.