Suzuki Philippines is on a roll, and it’s looking to keep its momentum going. After a strong sales year in 2018 (no easy feat in this era of TRAIN), the Japanese carmaker has kicked off 2019 by launching the all-new Ertiga. And less than a week after its launch, Suzuki invited us to a media drive up to Tagaytay Highlands. Here we got to form our first impressions of the second-generation MPV.
What stands out at first is how striking the interior has become. Compared with its predecessor, which had a rather plain dashboard, the new version has a cockpit adorned with faux wood and plastic surfaces that are solid to the touch, blended together in a seamless look that’s neither too flashy or boring. In the middle sits a 10-inch touchscreen that really sticks out for its sheer size. These are complemented by comfy fabric seats, though I do have to point out that the front seats have a lumbar curve that won’t be to everyone’s taste. At times, the interior makes you forget you’re sitting in a sub-P1 million vehicle.
Cabin space is adequate. The interior not as cavernous as the Mitsubishi Xpander’s (the passenger-side footwell in particular feels very narrow), but the middle row offers enough space for passengers to be comfortable. And as we’ve noted in our quick look at the Ertiga’s third row, the rearmost seats are survivable.
On the outside, it’s refreshing to look at after the first-gen model’s utilitarian facade. The character lines are sharper and more striking, as is the front fascia. In the back, the Honda CR-V-esque taillights and narrow top half give it some character.
On the road, the Ertiga offers decent ride comfort for the most part, though harsh bumps can be a problem. Handling is precise and stable, save for a small dead spot at the center of the steering. Power-wise, the 1.5-liter gasoline engine with 103hp and 138Nm sips lightly from the fuel tank (highway average was roughly 15km/L) and cruises fine on flat roads, but you do need to wring it out on uphill climbs if you have a decent load in tow.
The four-speed automatic gearbox doesn’t do the climbing many favors, although toggling the overdrive switch does help a little bit. At least from our short drive, we can say its uphill prowess isn’t any better or worse than the Xpander’s. The brakes, admittedly, felt a bit spongy and took a while to bite, though that could be attributed to the fact that the unit we drove had less than 50km on the odometer when we took off.
Stay tuned for our more comprehensive review of the Ertiga once test units become available.