MPV SHOOT-OUT | 2019 Suzuki Ertiga vs Toyota Avanza vs Honda BR-V

Brenwin Naidu puts three affordable MPVs to the test

06 November 2019 - 12:35
From left to right: The Suzuki Ertiga, Toyota Avanza and Honda BR-V.
From left to right: The Suzuki Ertiga, Toyota Avanza and Honda BR-V.
Image: Waldo Swiegers

A local banking institution announced this year that the average amount it finances for new vehicle purchases is R321,715. There are many products across an assortment of segments to be had with such a price ceiling in mind.

This week we are zoning in on a segment that will resonate with a sizable number of South African families – the category of affordable multi-purpose vehicles. Simple criteria: cost-effective transportation for up to seven passengers, with a reasonable level of amenities and, crucially, a reasonable minimum standard of safety.

THE CONTENDERS

First up is the Toyota Avanza. A darling of the public transport industry, the model was recently treated to a refresh – specifically in the case of the top-level 1.5 TX model grade aimed at private customers. Pricing starts at R238,300 and goes up to R307,500 for the car featured here.

Next is the second-generation Suzuki Ertiga; launched on our shores earlier in 2019. The range kicks off at R218,900 and the most expensive GLX automatic example costs R284,900. Our 1.5 GL unit with a manual transmission has a sticker price of R243,900.

Lastly is the oldest of the trio, the Honda BR-V. It arrived in 2016 and is a revised, more rugged interpretation of the former Mobilio. Pricing ranges between R258,800 and R324,800 for the top-tier 1.5 Elegance CVT we have on test – a smidgen over that price cap we mentioned in the introduction.

MATTER OF SIZE

Dimensionally, increments set them apart. Let us start with the newest, the Avanza. We have a width of 1,660mm, a length of 4,190mm and a height of 1,695mm. The manufacturer lists a luggage capacity of 899l with the third row down.

As for the Ertiga, the width is 1,735mm, the length is 4,395mm and the height is 1,690mm – wider and longer than the Toyota, but slightly shorter. Luggage capacity with the third row of seats down is 550l.

Now for the Honda BR-V: it is 1,735mm wide, 4,456mm long and 1,666m tall. It is the longest, but the shortest, although it matches the girth of the Ertiga. Luggage capacity with the third row of seats down is 691l.

PLAYING SAFE

The Toyota Avanza 1.5 TX is standard with anti-lock brakes, brake assist, electronic brake-force distribution, traction control and vehicle stability control. It has dual frontal airbags and in addition, the pre-facelift model scored a four-star rating for adult occupant protection in a 2019 Global NCAP crash test. It scored a disappointing two-star rating for child occupant protection. Although, it is the only car here with a three-point belt for the centre passenger in the second row.

The Suzuki Ertiga 1.5 GL has anti-lock brakes and electronic brake-force distribution, as well as dual frontal airbags – but no vehicle stability control. The centre lap belt for the second row is discouraging. The latest model received three stars from Global NCAP for adult and child occupant protection, after it was tested last month.

The Honda BR-V 1.5 Elegance has anti-lock brakes and dual front and side airbags – but no electronic brake-force distribution or vehicle stability control. It also makes-do with a rather archaic lap-belt for the second row centre passenger.

It scored four stars for adult and child occupant protection in the 2016 ASEAN NCAP test. Although there are differences in safety specification, it is, at the very least, assuring to note that there is a minimum thread across the board, with dual frontal airbags, anti-lock brakes and fair crash test performance.

LOUNGE AROUND

Sombre! That is the word one might use to describe, in a general sense, the ambience of the cabins in each of our three people-movers. But then, we must bear in mind that function, rather than form, is the ticket.

You are not going to find elaborate infotainment systems, trendy decorative inlays or sumptuous upholsteries. The Toyota seems to have the most utilitarian approach to things. The Suzuki strikes a more palatable balance between durable and relatively plush.

But the Honda is an unequivocal winner in this department, with the nicest cabin: you will find surface materials of a superior quality, soft touch points and leather seats.

THE AMENITIES

A reminder, once again, that these products make no pretence about their intended purpose. Standard kit across the three comprises the essentials you would expect – and not much more.

The Toyota, for example, has the bare necessities. Air-conditioning for front and rear passengers, a four-speaker audio system with Bluetooth and a CD player, electric windows all-round.

The Suzuki has, well, much of the same, plus reverse parking sensors. And the Honda comes to the fray with automatic climate control and keyless-go, in addition to that default minimum.

LOOKING THE PART

It might be a moot point given the nature of these beasts, but aesthetics are nonetheless an important consideration for the intended audience. After its restyle, the Avanza is certainly interesting, if not particularly easy to make eye-contact with.

We have to say that the Ertiga manages to convey a tasteful air, with its clean lines, rectangular shapes and rear that echoes more than a hint of flavour from a certain Scandinavian brand. It is the sophisticate of the three vehicles.

The outdoorsy warrior façade of the BR-V is endearing, with its rugged body-cladding and 210mm ground clearance – the largest here versus 180mm of the other two.

WINDING THEM UP

The Avanza 1.5 TX is powered by a 1,496cc, normally-aspirated four-cylinder, good for 77kW and 136Nm. This is shifted via a manual five-speed. It is rear-wheel drive, whereas the other two are front-wheel drive. Not the nicest to steer, with a top-heavy character that bordered on the rickety side.

The Ertiga 1.5 GL employs a 1,462cc, normally-aspirated, four-cylinder petrol delivering 77kW and 138Nm, also shifted via a five-speed manual, although a four-speed automatic is available. It was more stable than the Avanza on the freeway.

The Honda BR-V 1.5 Elegance has the biggest displacement, with its four-cylinder, petrol-powered, normally-aspirated 1497cc unit good for 88kW and 145Nm. Pick between a six-speed manual, or the CVT so equipped here. The drone under hard acceleration was downright painful, although it felt more surefooted and dare we say, dynamic, than the others here.

WARRANTY AND SERVICE

The Avanza has a three-year/100,000km warranty and four-year/60,000km service plan. The service plan included with the Suzuki is of the same duration.

The Honda, meanwhile, has a two-year/30,000km service plan. But the latter two feature impressive five-year/200,000km warranties.

LAST WORD

The trio here are nigh-on identical in specification and overall constitution, but the differences in execution set them apart. This is the verdict we came away with.

First prize goes to the Suzuki Ertiga 1.5 GL; a victory that was clinched largely on the merit of cost-effectiveness. It is the cheapest in this company (whether you are comparing entry-level or range-topper) and best balances the virtues of quality, assuring driving mannerisms, standard fare and safety.

Next up is the Honda BR-V 1.5 Elegance. It is decidedly the most refined in its make-up – but the lofty price reflects that. Yes, you could have the lesser Trend or Comfort grades, but even those are costlier than the Suzuki.

And lastly, we have the Avanza 1.5 TX… Its appliance-like character ensures that it will likely remain a darling of the public transport industry for a long time to come. But this panel-van-with-seats persona is why most families would want to look in the directions of the more cohesive pair here.

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