What’s LUV got to do with it? Plenty, if you ask Suzuki. Their new Ertiga is billed as a Life Utility Vehicle (LUV) and it hopes to pander to families seeking space and superb value. Launched to the Indian and Indonesian markets in 2012, Suzuki’s versatile chariot arrives with a number of awards in its trophy cabinet and sales figures tallying more than 200 000 units.

The team at Suzuki are vying to compete with the popular Toyota Avanza, although they’re realistic about the Ertiga’s sales numbers. They say they’re aiming to shift around 150 units monthly, which is roughly half of what the counterpart from Toyota achieves. But after experiencing the LUV through East London, we’re convinced it has more to offer.

Suzuki Ertiga - Surf4cars

Buyers will see familiar cues on the outside, with styling derived from the B-segment Swift hatchback. The design of its headlights, bumper and grille are nearly identical. As a natural consequence of this body genre, the roof is tall and the proportions are big: it’s got the look of a versatile mommy-wagon even though Suzuki strived to achieve otherwise. But it certainly appears more modern than its rivals.

It’s a seven-seater, offering various configurations whether you want to make luggage or people-ferrying your priority. The second row of seats tilt and slide forward, making for easier exit and entry. And to put its skills to the test, Suzuki arranged for us to cart around children from a local school. They were impressed by kit like the rear compartment air-conditioning, standard across the range.

Suzuki Ertiga Motion - Surf4cars

Interior design mirrors that of the Swift’s too. And much like the Dzire sedan, also built with the Indian market in mind, you can only have it in beige. It’s a colour that’s popular in those markets, but we wish Suzuki had offered a more fashionable and contemporary shade instead. When you consider the child and pet-carrying tasks that lie ahead, the hue makes less sense.

Under the skin yet again it employs the basic DNA of the Swift hatchback. And this is a good thing since that’s easily one of the best-driving offerings in its segment. The engineers stretched it out a bit for this application; but it still rides with the confidence and sure-footedness of its smaller sibling. Through the twisty roads of the Eastern Cape, the Ertiga trekked along happily and despite its taller profile wasn’t perturbed by the blustery conditions.

Suzuki Ertiga Side - Surf4cars

Its 1.4-litre petrol engine with 70kW and 130Nm of torque (which also does duty in the Swift) bears the burden of the extra heft. Constant shifter work is needed to keep it on the boil. According to Suzuki, buyers in this market prefer petrol, so don’t hold your breath for a diesel powerplant. Of course, economy is the better virtue here and over our 200-kilometre stint the fuel needle barely moved despite a heavy foot. Suzuki claims a consumption figure of 6.6l/100km.

There are three model grades on offer. First up is the basic GA, which Suzuki squares at the fleet and taxi market. It’s priced at R159 900 and boasts the essential amenities, like air-conditioning and dual front airbags. The more generous GL goes for R179 900 and gets an audio system, electric windows and interior conveniences like an adjustable steering-wheel. Suzuki anticipates these will account for the bulk of sales. Priced at R192 900 the GLX gets satellite audio controls, smarter interior trim and alloy wheels. An automatic derivative is available in GL and GLX guises too.

Suzuki Ertiga Side People - Surf4cars

We’ve got a feeling that the spacious Ertiga will succeed at finding favour with families wanting roominess and refinement on a budget. Compared to the archaic Avanza, this feels a lot more accomplished – and Suzuki’s keen pricing is bound to seize attention.

Brenwin Naidu