January 25, 2017 @ 03:31 PM

Review: Proton Ertiga - The mundane mover

Nobody expects an MPV to be get the blood flowing but the Ertiga’s monotonous disposition drops it a few rungs down the humdrum scale

Somehow, the public’s always a tad snider with rebadging remarks when Proton is concerned isn’t it? Proton isn't the only one doing it here but they do bear the brunt of it, rather unfairly too. Some of their badge engineered vehicles such as the Perdana and Inspira are based on proven models. Slapping a Proton badge transformed them into affordable propositions.

The Ertiga is the first product of its collaboration with Suzuki and was disappointingly carried over lock, stock and barrel without and enhancements on Proton’s side. Even the name wasn’t switched.

It slots in as an entry-level MPV option below the larger Exora and will have the Perodua Alza measured squarely in its crosshairs. Underpinned by a stretched Swift platform, the Ertiga is 5.0mm shorter than the Alza at 4265mm long but taller by 65mm at 1685mm. However, crucially, the Alza has a wheelbase longer by 10mm.

Being carried over wholesale, cosmetic distinctions are few and far between save for the usual suspects of grille and badges.The overall silhouette is a total rip off from the MPV design manual and is quite a generic shape although the larger Proton grille is a splash of refresh across the front.

Some blasphemy though has been committed at the tail end with a stick-on deflector that resembles a faux taillight to distance its derriere from the Suzuki. Why Proton had to resort to such juvenile tactics is worrying. Apart from that, it sits on five-spoke 15-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 185/65 GT Radial rubbers.

Inside, the lack of distinction is once again glaringly obvious. The vanilla grey and beige combo does little to the interior apart from extend the perception of space. Seeing as it would be deployed for family hauling duties, the use of darker shades would easily hide some of the stains or wear and tear over the years.

The equipment list is paltry compared to some of Proton’s fresher products but being carried over wholesale probably limited the changes that could be made. USB connectivity but no Bluetooth, a rear air-conditioning blower with its own cooling coil and two 12V power outlets is what you’ll get across the range.

In the Plus variant that we drove, the additions are height adjustment for the driver, power folding mirror with LED indicators and a multifunction steering wheel. That extra dosh also nets you two front seat back pockets as opposed to one and for that we salute Proton’s generosity.

Headroom is generous all around and the middle row can even be slid forward or backward as well as tilted. That’s fantastic for the occupants but you’ll have to roll it as forward as possible if the third row occupants aren’t too keen on deep vein thrombosis.

That’s not to say that legroom in the last row is lacking, it’s just on the limit. The vertically-blessed should stick to the middle or front; no two ways about it.

The Ertiga is the perfect city runabout for a family of six. Hitting the open road for out of town trips is perfectly possible if everyone agrees to leave their luggage at home. You see, with the third row up there’s only 135-litres of cargo space which means you’ll have to leave the kitchen sink behind.

Barrels of beige do little to spruce up the dull interior but the pastel tone does make it perceptively roomier. The plastics are decent at best and appear to be rather lacking in resisting scuffing. However, cubby holes and storage pockets are more than sufficient.

Motivation comes from the 1.4-litre mill that was packaged together with the Ertiga from Suzuki. The specs are modest at best with both eyes closed but in the real world, they proved more than up to the task with some decent fuel consumption. Outputs of 91bhp and 130Nm of torque are considerably poor, placing the Ertiga on a 12bhp deficit behind the Alza.

It can be had with a four-speed automatic or five-speed manual, the former of which was the partner for the day. A fuel economy challenge at the start traversed a 72km route and intending to mimic real world scenarios, no pussyfooting around was had.

Cruising around the 100-110kph mark mostly with the fair share of town turning thrown in, the Ertiga returned around 8l/100km.

Given that Proton’s gifted ride and handling boys weren’t allowed to lay a hand on the Ertiga, the six-seater still manages a satisfactory ride. Keep in mind that it’s an MPV and treat it as such will keep things within reasonable tolerances.

Push it a little and the body-roll sets in, followed by that unnerving feeling of a loosening rear end. In town conditions though, the ride is mundane in the sense that nothing particularly stands out nor does it lack anything in damping either.

Stick to the 120kph mark on the speedo and things will remain in check. Push pass that and the ride will lean towards a little livelier but in an unsettling way. Nothing to be alarmed with though, just the torsion beam rear reminding us of its presence.

Above those speeds as well, the wind noise is much more noticeable as is the engine note. Lacking a fifth ratio, the transmission is moving out of its comfort zone at higher speeds. Nonetheless, the four-speed automatic is perfectly geared for city driving and highway cruising within the limits.

If you’re forming an impression that the Ertiga is occupying that twilight zone between good and bad, you wouldn’t be far off the truth. It’s equal parts promising and lacking, with some potential that is outweighed by a fair amount of deficiencies as well.

Summing it up though, the Ertiga would make a fair urban mover for six with the occasional out of town jaunt but keep it within its urban habitat and it should get the job done satisfactorily.

Proton Ertiga 1.4 Executive Plus AT
Price: RM64,800
Engine: 1373cc, 16V DOHC, variable valve timing, 91bhp @ 6000rpm, 130Nm @ 4000rpm
Transmission: Four-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Dimensions (l/w/h): 4265mm, 1695mm, 1685mm
Weight: 1185kg

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