Since its 2019 arrival, the Suzuki Ertiga was a fairly reasonable decision for personal transport for starting families or those looking for affordable utility.
A sub-Php one million (actually, Php 728,000-Php 978,000) tag at launch, seating for six or seven, and value-for-money creature comforts made the vehicle a good pick. But is it still a considerable choice in projected hard times for the Philippine economy?
The case for "No"
That started with the rise in the price of entry, as the 2022 variants now began at Php 853,000 and went up as high as Php 1.003 million. The sweet spot in the Ertiga lineup is the Php 963,000 GL 1.5 MT. It had the same standout features as the top-end model - rear parking sensors, Bluetooth + USB connectivity, and airbags for either front occupant. The difference was that the Ertiga GL 1.5 MT carried a stick shift, while the range-topping GL 1.5 AT had an automatic transmission.
Another piece of evidence to pass on the Ertiga was the in-car infotainment or ICI. In an era where Android Auto/Apple CarPlay-ready ICI is the norm for cars in other countries, the people hauler's ICI just carried Bluetooth readiness and a USB port. On long trips, that could be troublesome, especially if you are lost, and you need to be hooked up to a global positioning system app (like Waze or Google Maps) to find your way around.
A third reason to pass on the Ertiga was the abovementioned slushbox. The automatic transmission still had four forward gears. That's frustrating on inclines, as there was occasional delay kicking down to the second gear. One had to floor the throttle to get the A/T into the powerband, thus increasing fuel consumption. At least going down to third gear meant a halfhearted right pedal stab, provided you had momentum at roughly 50-60 kph.
The case for "Yes"
As mentioned earlier, the Ertiga to get is the GL 1.5 MT selection. It has the same standard features as the top model GL 1.5 AT version but with fewer drivetrain parts. The former is less than a million Philippine pesos, often the standard for power-for-your-peso utility vehicles.
Further adding to the case of “I gotta get an Ertiga” is what's aft of the front row. The back benches offer seating for four to five average Filipinos. The third row has 50:50 split-folding, wherein one can sit in either third-row seat, and the remaining seat can be folded flat and flush with the rearmost area for luggage. The second row has Isofix mounts for car child seats and can be moved forward or rearward for adequate knee room. Plus, either second-row backrest can be folded flat and flush with the third row and the cargo hold for long, odd-shaped items. Last, adding to rearbound passenger comfort is individual air-conditioning. Its controls and vents were mounted on the ceiling divider between the front and second rows.
The rest of the driving dynamics made up for the forward motion shortcoming. A steering wheel similar to its smaller Swift and Dzire siblings, nicely weighted steering feel, and steering feedback that gives you cornering confidence (even on slow turns) makes you easily shoehorn the vehicle in cramped mall slots. Of significant note in this regard was the feel, reminiscent of the utility runner's passenger car relations. It's a big difference from the commonly reported syrupy steering feel of the first-generation Ertiga.
Train your eyes to the cockpit's right, and the dashboard displays elegance in the Suzuki way, not looking like a public utility vehicle. Beige, gray, and satin-finished faux wood trim enforces that notion, helped now by an eight-inch ICI monitor at the middle dashboard.
Overall, the Ertiga can hold its own in a segment wherein the likes of the Toyota Avanza, Honda BR-V, and Mitsubishi Xpander vie for the hearts and wallets of urbanites. However, the brand is in need of upgrades, particularly in the forward performance and in-car infotainment departments.