Nuclear families have become quite the norm these days, especially in the metros, but ‘joint-family values’ are still not inconspicuous, thankfully. So though the sight of a single occupant (the driver) in almost every other car on road during rush hour traffic is common, we frequently also see small hatchbacks carrying more than double the specified payload (no, I am not referring to obesity though that’s also not irrelevant here…). This section of people wants a vehicle like the Innova but just doesn’t have a million rupees to splurge on it. They won’t mind spending more than on a regular hatchback and Maruti Suzuki was the first one to not only identify this segment but act upon it too – enter the Ertiga.
Maruti launched the Ertiga last year with the base petrol model priced at less than six lakh rupees (ex-showroom) making it an extremely tempting proposition. As such, the car became an instant hit and the relatively expensive diesel versions are selling stupendously well too. The Ertiga still rules the segment but with competition coming in soon from Honda and Datsun, Maruti’s LUV (Life Utility Vehicle) will not have it easy. We’ll take a look at what the other compact MPVs have to offer against the current bestseller from Maruti.
On the face of it
Honda will enter the compact MPV segment with their Brio-based MPV, the Mobilio, and Datsun will follow suit with their GO hatchback-based MPV, the GO+. We drove the Mobilio recently at the Twin Ring Motegi, Honda’s test track in Japan, and came away impressed! It looks bigger than the Ertiga and it actually is longer and taller than the latter. The Ertiga is a little wider and its wheelbase at 2,740 mm is better than the Mobilio’s 2,650 mm too. The Datsun GO+ is smaller than the Ertiga and its wheelbase of 2,450 mm is also the shortest of the three. But the Datsun looks anything but small and it should be able to hold its own in road presence stakes when seen alongside the Ertiga. Though none of these vehicles will be bought for showboating, it does not hurt being seen in a good looking multipurpose vehicle and it’s the Honda that most clearly states that an MUV/MPV does not necessarily have to look like a duck that rammed into a wall and survived. The GO+ and Ertiga don’t look bad either; it’s just that the Mobilio’s design is much more appealing.
Beauty is certainly not skin deep
It’s what on the inside that will decide the fate of the new entrants. The Ertiga with its wide opening doors, well-cushioned seats, good quality plastics, and excellent headroom make it excel in the interior department. The 240 mm seat travel in the second row is Maruti’s masterstroke, and all the seven seats can be adjusted for recline too. However, access to the last row is narrow and being a yogi would come in handy, but once you get there it’s a fairly comfortable place for two adults to sit (yogis would be comfortable anywhere I guess).
There is not much space left at the back for luggage with all seats up but pointing it would be nitpicking really as Maruti has rightly given preference to passenger-comfort over luggage space. Further, if you really want to haul stuff in your Ertiga, the thoughtful seat folding options will transform it into a cargo vehicle.
The same cannot be said about the Datsun’s interiors. I mean, we have not yet sat in a GO+ yet but it looks pretty basic to us in the pictures. It appears to be spacious too but its the incorporation of bench seats all around without a 60:40 split option for the second row that baffles me.From the looks of it, the complete second row bench would have to be folded to get to the third row of seats! We hope to see that addressed by Datsun before the car is launched here. Other than that the cabin looks neat and functional.
The longer body of the Mobilio and Honda’s super space management makes for a roomier cabin, and a bigger glass area gives excellent all around visibility too. The Mobilio gets the familiar space-efficient dash that does duty in the Brio as well as in the Amaze. The front seats are too borrowed from the siblings. The Mobilio, like the GO+, gets bench seats for the second and last row of seats but unlike the latter, the second and third benches in the Mobilio feature 60:40 and 50:50 splits, respectively. And yes, like the Ertiga, the second row features fore and aft movement for liberating more legroom for the second or third row passengers. Also, owing to the longer body the luggage space at the rear is certainly better in the Mobilio than both the Ertiga’s and the Datsun’s.
Heart of the matter
Maruti sells the Ertiga in both petrol and diesel versions. The 1.3-litre Multijet diesel engine sourced from Fiat produces 89 bhp at 4000 rpm and 20.39 kgm at 1750 rpm while the 1.4-litre K-series petrol mill’s 94 bhp peaks at 6000 rpm and the torque produced is rated at 13.25 kgm at 4000 rpm. The peppy petrol motor gives 12.8 km/l in city traffic and 16.8 km/l on higways while the diesel motor’s figures returns 10.2 km/l in city and 14.8 km/l on highways. All of these figures might get bettered by Honda if the performance and fuel efficiency figures of the Honda Amaze are anything to go by. Honda will launch the Mobilio with petrol and diesel engines and we expect the petrol engine to develop around 118 bhp and the diesel mill to churn out around 100 bhp under the hood. The short stint behind the wheel in Japan can safely allow us to state that the Mobilio’s drivability, just like the Amaze, will be second to none in the segment!
In such company, the Datsun GO+’s peak power figure of 67 bhp might look very weak in comparison but the MPV’s Indonesian brochure mentions the its weight to be just under 800 kg! If that is true then expect the Nissan Micra’s 1.2-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine to propel the GO+ to some decent speeds, and reasonably quickly at that! When it comes to fuel economy the feather-weight MPV should ideally be extremely frugal too. Of course, only a full-blown shootout between these three will allow us to give the final verdict but until then we can conclude that it would be a close-call between the Mobilio and the Ertiga while the Datsun GO+ will prove to be the still cheaper, value-for-money option.