It was back in June 2015 when Proton signed that important MoU with Suzuki Malaysia, allowing the former to explore collaboration possibilities with Suzuki.
A year and half later, here’s the first product that is a result of the collaboration, the Proton Ertiga. If the name sounds familiar to you, you’re not wrong, as I’ve mentioned about the Ertiga in this article. Bear in mind, this was a couple of months before Proton signed the MoU with Suzuki.
Slated to compete against the Perodua Alza on home turf, the Proton Ertiga has not received any ride and handling enhancements from Proton’s R&D department. However, that may not be a bad thing, as our first impression of the new compact MPV from Proton is very positive.
First up, the interior. Yes, the interior is beige in colour, and that may not resonate well with some buyers. Looking beyond that, some will recognize the interior, as the Proton Ertiga’s interior is almost a carbon copy of the second generation Suzuki Swift, except for the emblem on the steering. For most part, this interior serves its purpose well. Controls are easy to reach and the layout is well thought of. The various buttons and switches that’s littered throughout the cabin also has good tactile feedback, including the air conditioning controls.
Furthermore, build quality is commendable. I did not notice any rattling or ill-fitted parts in the cabin, even after driving through Proton’s rutted road section of the test track. That patch of road can bring the worst out of a poorly assembled car, as the various bumps and undulations are extremely taxing to any car’s suspension system.
As I mentioned earlier, the Proton Ertiga is essentially a Suzuki, down to the ride and handling. That may not be a bad thing, actually. The suspension set up on the Ertiga is a little on the firm side, as I noticed after driving through Proton’s dedicated rutted road section.
I did manage to bring the little Ertiga up to decent speeds on the test track and found that wind and tire noise well insulated from the cabin. In fact, engine noise is also kept low, which meant that passengers in the Ertiga don’t need to raise their voices when talking.
Speaking of passengers, I had the chance to stretch the legs of the Ertiga with 5 adults on board. Given its tiny 1,400 cc engine, one would imagine that the Ertiga will be severely underpowered. But that was not the case, as I am pleased to report that the Ertiga managed to accelerate with decent amount of urgency whilst keeping noise levels low. Gear shifts from the four-speed auto was also smooth and hassle-free.
For me, the surprise that Proton brought out was actually the manual-equipped Ertiga Executive, alongside the Executive and Executive Plus, which are available with the earlier mentioned four-speed automatic. My time with the manual Ertiga may be brief, but I was impressed with the smooth power delivery of the 1.4-litre K14B engine. Unlike earlier Campro engines with the noticeable power hike in the 4,000 rpm region, the Suzuki-sourced power plant delivered linear power across the RPM range.
Moving on, the Proton Ertiga utilizes an electrically-assisted power steering, similar to the one found in the Suzuki Swift 1.4. The steering can feel a bit numb to some drivers, but that’s beyond the point. For what it’s worth, the Ertiga’s steering does offer sufficient weight when driving at highway speeds.
From my first drive of the Proton Ertiga, I am fairly convinced that those looking for a compact MPV have a new alternative apart from the Perodua Alza. Granted, those wanting to try out the Ertiga needs to look beyond the Proton brand, as the Ertiga is essentially a Suzuki.
Proton will officially launch the Ertiga next week, alongside the price. As usual, stay tuned for our full coverage of the launch.