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Test Drive Review: Proton Ertiga Executive

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It was almost two years ago, when I first acquainted myself with the Suzuki Ertiga at the Bangkok International Motor Show. After the show, the Ertiga made it into the list of cars that we may not see here. How wrong could I have been.

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Three months later, Proton signed the all-important MoU with Suzuki, opening the doors to Suzuki’s models, platforms, powertrains and automotive technologies. Subsequently, rumours of the first product as a result of the collaboration surfaced, indicating that the Ertiga will spearhead the way forward.

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After months of spyshots and leaked photos, Proton launched the Ertiga in two trim levels across three variants. The entry-level models consists of the Ertiga Executive Manual and Executive Automatic, whilst moving one level up gets you the Ertiga Executive Plus, exclusively paired to an automatic transmission.

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All variants of the Proton Ertiga is powered by the familiar 1.4-litre K14B four-cylinder petrol engine that is also found in the Suzuki Swift. Like the Swift sibling, the Ertiga also feature a four-speed automatic, on top of the five-speed manual. Output figures are 92 PS and 130 Nm. Far from the most exciting figures, I know, but it is sufficient to get the Ertiga up and moving. The Ertiga also helped Proton net its first ever Energy Efficient Vehicle (EEV) certification.

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Standard across the range for the Proton Ertiga include ABS, EBD and two airbags, ISOFIX child seat mounts and side impact beams for safety. Halogen headlights, front fog lights with a centrally-mounted rear fog light, 15-inch alloy wheels all round, power-adjustable side mirrors and reverse sensors completes the exterior. Inside, a radio with USB connectivity is standard for all models, coupled with a rear 12V power socket and rear blower.

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For this review, I picked the stick shift-equipped Ertiga Executive. Right off the bat, clutch action is light with a bite point that’s easy to estimate. Coupled with a rubbery but accurate shifter, rowing through the gears isn’t a tedious affair. Acceleration up till 80 km/h is strong, though the Ertiga struggles to hit 130 km/h and beyond. Not a big deal, seeing that the target market won’t be cruising at such speeds.

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At normal highway speeds, the Ertiga is a sure-footed MPV. Noise levels are also rather impressive for a budget MPV from this segment. Once the Ertiga has gained sufficient highway momentum, wind and tyre rolling noises aren’t as apparent as other more expensive MPVs in the segment, which is good news for families travelling long distance. Driven easily, the Ertiga rewards the driver and passengers with enough low end torque to get moving. Overtaking larger vehicles isn’t an issue, as the manual variant is rather free-revving. Drop a gear or two and allow the Ertiga to build up its speed.

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As for tackling trunk roads, the Ertiga is blessed with the underpinnings of the excellent Suzuki Swift. Granted, the increase in overall size robs the Ertiga of it’s nimbleness, but the firm suspension definitely keeps things in check. Though firm, the Ertiga’s suspension does not jolt passengers through bumpy roads. Body control is also pretty decent for an MPV with minimal lateral roll.

Another plus point is the fuel efficiency of the new Ertiga. As I mentioned earlier, the Ertiga features a small 1.4-litre engine across the range. As the media drive included an eco challenge as part of the agenda, I got started with driving the Ertiga gently. At the end of the nearly-100 km route, the Ertiga returned an average fuel consumption of 21.2 km/L, a rather respectable figure. Even when driven with a bit more haste, the Ertiga still managed to return a decent 15.7 km/L at the end of the day.

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With that being said, the Ertiga is not a bed of roses. Some crucial safety kit, like more airbags and stability control is missing. In other markets, the Ertiga is also not available with more than two airbags or stability control. Why not develop a system for the Ertiga? From an engineering point of view, it is easier to engineer such safety kit during the initial development of the vehicle, not when the vehicle is already on the market for some time.

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Is the Proton Ertiga any exciting? That’s actually beyond the point, actually. The Ertiga was conceptualized as an affordable family mover and it does it really well. Compared to its nearest rival, the Perodua Alza, the Ertiga offers superior ground clearance without compromising on comfort. Considering that the Ertiga is essentially a Suzuki, reliability and build quality should be a non issue. If a service is needed, Proton does offer 7 days a week service centres at 27 selected locations nationwide.

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In a nutshell, Proton may have a solid little MPV on hand with the Ertiga. It is not without its flaws, but looking beyond that, the Ertiga is a really solid option for those looking for an affordable seven seater. Fuel consumption is definitely one of the Ertiga’s selling points, and coupled with Suzuki’s reliability, the Ertiga could help Proton earn some precious market share back.

2017 Proton Ertiga Executive Manual Specifications

Price: RM58,800 (OTR with insurance)
Engine: 1.4-litre inline-4 VVT
Horsepower: 91 PS@ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 130 Nm @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission: Five-speed manual