HAS there ever been a parent of teenagers who did not wish at times to have space for more than four kids when the teens make their social circle bigger and it’s your turn in the lift club to do the carting around. That said, two rows of seats in the back can be very useful at any age when one has rival siblings you would like to separate.With the budget seven-seater cars that have been available in the country in the past decade or so, one really had to give preference to function over form, as these cars were not really that easy on the eye. But with the upgraded Ertiga, which was launched in March in South Africa, Suzuki has gone a long way in making this people mover more attractive to buyers in the MPV market to give the likes of the Toyota Avanza, Honda BR-V and Mahindra Xylo a run for their money.The all-new seven-seat Ertiga is built on Suzuki’s new Heartect platform and it is now longer, wider, taller, a bit higher, and lighter than the previous model. It has been strengthened for safety, stiffened for better handling and made quieter.It also sports a new 1.5-litre petrol engine that offers 77 kW and 138 Nm of torque – which is more powerful than the K14B engine it replaces. This new engine is mated to Suzuki’s five-speed manual gearbox or four-speed automatic gearbox. There are three Ertiga derivatives, the base GA manual, higher spec GL manual and the GL automatic. The vehicle test driven for the Express on Wheels column was the higher-spec GL model with manual transmission.EXTERIORAlthough the 2740mm wheelbase stays the same, its body is 13cm longer and 4cm wider. In my opinion the Ertiga has always been one of the better looking seven-seaters and the new Ertiga has also had a bit of a nip and tuck for a much refreshed look. Changes include new headlights, a new grille and lower air intake, raised bonnet, new tailgate and rear lights, an integrated high-level brake light in the luggage door and darkened “C”-pillars which create the impression of a floating roofline. RIDEDuring the week of test driving, the Ertiga was put through its paces on the urban commute with mainly city driving. In town, the Ertiga’s performance is good and has enough power to comfortably get you from A to B. Out on the open road, overtaking on the highway requires some gear changing. Suzuki claims a fuel consumption figure of 5.5 L/100km for the manual and 6.0 L/100km for the automatic derivative. The figure achieved during testing was 7,2 L/100km (13.8km per litre) of mainly peak hour city driving.The manual gearbox was easy on the arms and shifting did not take much effort or thought. The Ertiga is comfortable to drive and offers a smooth and pleasant ride. I liked the high seating position, the simple instrument layout and car-like drive.INTERIOROne of the big, most practical upgrades of the Ertiga is replacing the light interior with a black one. In the GL model the dashboard houses a touch panel with a radio system and Bluetooth functionality. On the steering wheel there are audio and Bluetooth controls. It also has a special tray with a USB/Aux port close by to store connected or charging phones. In the front there are two air-conditioned cup holders and a 12V charging socket, with a second charging socket behind the front seats. The second-row passengers have generous space and seats that can recline, which will be a great advantage in long distance travelling. The third row of seats are easily accessed by pulling a latch on top of the second-row seat, which then slides forward to allow passengers easy access. One of the big positives of the Ertiga is that the space in the third row is impressive and even adults will be able to travel in relative comfort. With all the seats in place, the luggage bay offers 153-litres of space. It has a two-part removable floor which makes the load floor deeper, taking the load capacity up to 199-litres.The second (60/40) and third row (50/50) of seats can fold flat to create flat storage of up to 2.8m with the front passenger seat also folded flat. Even with all the seats in place, I found the boot space surprisingly adequate for use as a family vehicle. On the GL model there is a roof-mounted second air conditioning unit to ensure that the back seat passengers also travel in comfort.SAFETYAll Ertiga models are equipped with two airbags for front passengers and ABS brakes with electronic brake force distribution (EBD). Suzuki has also added ISOFIX-approved seat anchors for child seats and a reverse parking sensor system for the GL model. All models feature an immobiliser and the GL specification level is also fitted with a security alarm.VERDICTThe Ertiga is a very practical vehicle that offers a pleasurable ride, with good handling and enough space for all its occupants, and a few modern conveniences as well. It offers good value and buyers are getting a whole lot of car for their money. Those who are in the market for a spacious comfortable people carrier who can move more than 5 people around, and some luggage, should definitely take a look at the Ertiga. Price:Ertiga GA manual - R214 900 Ertiga GL manual - R239 900 Ertiga GL auto - R254 900The Ertiga is sold with Suzuki’s promotional five-year/200 000km warranty and a four-year/60 000km service plan.