Heave-ho! Bring on the peo­ple car­ri­ers

In the lat­est com­par­i­son test­ing, Car­Sifu has taken the mag­ni­fy­ing glass to three ve­hi­cles that are meant to trans­port a full en­sem­ble of peo­ple.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Launch - By HONG BOON HOW, GE­ORGE WONG and RIZAL JOHAN car­sifu@thes­tar.com.my

CAR­SIFU has brought to­gether three of the lat­est ve­hi­cles in the lo­cal mar­ket to as­sess their mer­its for the tasks they were de­signed for.

Whether cross­over or multi-pur­pose ve­hi­cles (MPVs), they are es­sen­tially built to have big in­te­rior spa­ces to carry as many peo­ple as they can within the lim­its of their com­pact di­men­sions.

Space and com­fort lev­els be­tween the three test ve­hi­cles are dif­fer­ent.

Per­for­mance, vis­ual aes­thet­ics and styling vary as well.

Such dif­fer­ences are to be ex­pected in the spirit of com­pe­ti­tion and the re­lent­less pres­sure on car mak­ers to of­fer a set of de­sir­able fea­tures in their prod­ucts at a pric­ing that’s at­trac­tive to the tar­get con­sumers. All test units were the topof-the-line ver­sions.

The Toy­ota Sienta, Honda BR-V and Pro­ton Er­tiga are re­cent en­tries into Malaysia, hav­ing be­ing launched here ei­ther last year or early this year. How do they stack up against each other?

Well, we are here to find out, aren’t we? Let’s dig in.

Honda BR-V

This Honda model is the new­est of the trio, be­ing the first car to be launched lo­cally in 2017 when it de­buted in early Jan­uary.

We have had a few flings with it. First in Ja­pan, then in Thai­land fol­lowed by a lo­cal me­dia drive, and now in the com­pany of two ri­vals.

De­sign-wise, the BR-V is a chimera of sorts, com­bin­ing an SUV styling with the spa­cious­ness of an MPV.

Viewed side­ways, the BR-V gives a sense that it is a de­riv­a­tive of some­thing smaller like you would know the Pero­dua Bezza or the Kia Rio sedan are. In­deed the BR-V is.

It is adapted from the Brio hatch plat­form that has spun off the Brio sedan, the Mo­bilio MPV, and now this.

All of which sig­nals that there are lots of parts shar­ing to keep a lid on pro­duc­tion costs.

Look at the steer­ing wheel plus the bin­na­cle, and the avid Honda fans will know where they have seen them be­fore.

Even the en­gine is the same as that in the City with out­put and torque fig­ures vir­tu­ally iden­ti­cal.

De­rived from a small car plat­form, some trade-off in aes­thet­ics ex­ists.

On the whole, the BR-V looks pre­sentable but there’s also less flu­id­ity in its lines as the Honda team had to stretch the body to the max to fit three rows and seven peo­ple.

And it does the job com­pe­tently enough.

Giv­ing it that SUV look are roof rails, a higher ground clear­ance, plas­tic cladding around wheel arches and 16-inch al­loy wheels.

Honda Malaysia has crafted a win­ning pack­age in the BR-V, which is the rea­son why it’s sell­ing so well.

The SUV ap­pear­ance holds the big­gest ap­peal.

Prac­ti­cal­ity is spo­ken for with a big boot, a ver­sa­tile seat­ing ar­range­ments and 11 cup hold­ers to keep all the, errr, cups, loose change and what-nots you could think of.

Other stan­dard kit are 16-inch tyres, rear air-cond vents, four-speaker stereo sys­tem with hands-free fea­tures, elec­tric power steer­ing, halo­gen pro­jec­tor head­lights and LED day­time run­ning lights.

Two airbags, ve­hi­cle sta­bil­ity as­sist (VSA), hill start as­sist (HSA), anti-lock brak­ing sys­tem (ABS), elec­tronic brake dis­tri­bu­tion (EBD) and ISOFIX points for child car seats add up to a proper set of safety gear in the RM84K-RM90K price band the BR-V oc­cu­pies.

This is one of the safest ve­hi­cles around, and Asean NCAP says so, giv­ing it a 5-star safety rat­ing.

Cabin space all round for most adults is good though they will find third row to be snug.

On the move, the en­gine is up to the task of haul­ing the en­tire ma­chin­ery at a brisk pace. There’s suf­fi­cient pickup when over­tak­ing traf­fic.

It didn’t feel un­der­pow­ered, and the con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion (CVT) cov­ers a wider torque range to al­low sus­tained up­hill drives.

The sus­pen­sion helps cush­ion pas­sen­gers from the bumps and ruts on roads, mak­ing the cabin a calm and com­fort­able space when trav­el­ling at high­way speeds.

How­ever, body roll is no­tice­able when tak­ing cor­ners.

Steer­ing is light for easy ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity es­pe­cially in jams.

Pro­ton Er­tiga

Out of the three ve­hi­cles tested here, the Pro­ton Er­tiga out-manou­vers the com­pe­ti­tion with its price at RM64,800 for the Ex­ec­u­tive Plus vari­ant which is fea­tured here.

You can get the Er­tiga at an even lower price with the Ex­ec­u­tive vari­ant with a choice of five-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion at RM58,800 and a four­speed au­to­matic at RM61,800.

How­ever, the Er­tiga is only a six-seater com­pared to the other two MPVs but it’s not a deal breaker as it has a lot go­ing for it other than its af­ford­abil­ity.

For one, the Er­tiga is very com­fort­able, thanks to its pli­ant sus­pen­sion and thick seat pad­ding.

The cabin is also well in­su­lated and keeps ex­ter­nal noise at bay.

It also of­fers a lot of head room for the driver and the oc­cu­pants.

And if you need to haul stuff around, it of­fers a lot of space too.

The sec­ond row seats fold 60:40 while the third row at 50:50 and with both rows folded you get a mas­sive 735 litres of stor­age space.

The Er­tiga is pow­ered by the 1.4-litre Suzuki K14B en­gine with vari­able valve tim­ing (VVT) that de­liv­ers 91hp at 6,000rpm and 130Nm of torque at 4,000 rpm.

If you’re won­der­ing why it has a Suzuki en­gine it’s be­cause it is a re­badge of the Suzuki Er­tiga which was de­signed and built for the In­done­sian mar­ket.

The fig­ures shown above may lead you to con­clude that the Er­tiga is un­der­pow­ered.

But such is not the case. The Er­tiga’s pow­er­train has a smooth and ca­pa­ble de­liv­ery.

The trans­mis­sion, al­beit a four­speed au­to­matic, feels more re­spon­sive and en­gag­ing than a con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion (CVT).

The Er­tiga has a rel­a­tively high clear­ance of 185mm which gives the driver a slightly perched view and the car is re­ally fun to drive as it han­dles re­ally well.

You would eas­ily for­get you are driv­ing an MPV be­cause of its zippy char­ac­ter and steer­ing the Er­tiga makes you feel like you’re in­side a com­pact car but with a lot more room.

For a car at this price, we were pleas­antly sur­prised with the very low lev­els of noise, vi­bra­tion and harsh­ness (NVH).

In­side, the Er­tiga is cov­ered in beige from the up­hol­stery to the dash­board mak­ing for a bright in­te­rior and more im­por­tantly, you will no­tice the qual­ity of the fit and fin­ish.

Your pas­sen­gers will en­joy the ceil­ing mounted air-con­di­tioner blower that is good enough to cool the en­tire ve­hi­cle.

The Er­tiga is also well equipped with safety fea­tures such as two front airbags, re­verse sen­sors, anti-lock brak­ing sys­tem with elec­tronic brake­force dis­tri­bu­tion, ISOFIX child­seat points and top teth­ers on sec­ond row seats.

The Ex­ec­u­tive Plus vari­ant gets ad­di­tional equip­ment such as turn in­di­ca­tors on wing mir­rors, front fog lamp trim­ming, driver seat height ad­juster, au­dio sys­tem con­trols on steer­ing wheel and metal­lic trim­ming for in­te­rior door re­lease latches.

The Er­tiga is an af­ford­able, com­fort­able and a ca­pa­ble peo­ple-car­rier with enough frills to be en­joyed.

Toy­ota Sienta

While com­pact multi-pur­pose ve­hi­cles usu­ally come with boxy-styling to max­imise in­te­rior space, Toy­ota seemed to have worked around the typ­i­cal ex­te­rior looks by in­ject­ing curves and bold char­ac­ter in the Sienta.

The fun and youth­ful theme for this In­done­sia-man­u­fac­tured ve­hi­cle con­tin­ues in­side with a cur­va­ceous dash­board, a free stand­ing cen­tre dis­play and dual tone trim­mings of black and brown.

Our top-of-the-line V grade vari­ant priced at RM99,900 was equipped with Op­titron me­ters and a 4.2-inch multi-in­for­ma­tion dis­play which are not only easy to read even un­der bright sun­light but give an up­mar­ket feel.

Based on a mod­i­fied Vios plat­form, the seven-seater Sienta has a flat floor lay­out on the sec­ond row sim­i­lar to that in the Vios.

This flat floor area made walk­ing eas­ier as there is no cen­tre hump to trip over.

In ad­di­tion, it also al­lows the cen­tre pas­sen­ger to place his or her feet flat on the floor for a more com­fort­able seat­ing po­si­tion.

The gen­er­ous floor to ceil­ing height eas­ily trans­lates into a roomy in­te­rior for all three rows.

How­ever, the third row seats are best rec­om­mended for chil­dren although legroom can be in­creased by slid­ing the sec­ond row for­ward.

Like the Pro­ton Er­tiga and Honda BR-V, the Sienta also gets a rear air-con­di­tioner blower to en­sure cool air gets ev­ery­one in­side.

The Sienta is the only ve­hi­cle of the three with rear power slid­ing doors, which makes it much eas­ier for sec­ond and third row pas­sen­gers to en­ter and exit the ve­hi­cle since slid­ing doors pro­vide a big­ger open­ing area com­pared with swing out doors.

The slid­ing doors, which can be ac­ti­vated by the re­mote con­trol fob, also al­lowed easy en­try and exit in tight park­ing bays.

Pow­er­ing the Sienta is a 1.5-litre Dual VVTi en­gine pro­duc­ing 107PS and 140Nm of torque mated to a con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion (CVT) with a seven-speed Sport Se­quen­tial Shift­matic mode.

Its kerb weight of 1,350kg, the heav­i­est of the three ve­hi­cles, does blunt the Sienta’s ac­cel­er­a­tion from on stand­still.

Stomp on the ac­cel­er­a­tor and the CVT will keep the en­gine revving just be­fore the red­line and up­shift­ing the “gears” seam­lessly.

How­ever, once we have got­ten the Sienta up and run­ning, pick­ing up speed is not too dif­fi­cult.

The elec­tric power make steer­ing easy and ef­fort­less although it does not pro­vide much feed­back.

Its com­bi­na­tion of front MacPher­son struts and rear tor­sion beam sus­pen­sion is tweaked for firm as it may be re­quired to carry seven per­sons should the oc­ca­sion arises.

Be­ing a tall ve­hi­cle, the Sienta tends to roll more around fast cor­ners com­pared with sedans and hatch­backs, so don’t drive the Sienta like it’s a sports car.

At night, the bi-LED head­lamps of­fers a good spread of light which al­lows for safer driv­ing.

Be­ing the most ex­pen­sive of the three ve­hi­cles, the Sienta is also the most fea­tures-packed.

Aside from two front airbags, anti-lock brak­ing sys­tem, ve­hi­cle sta­bil­ity con­trol and hill-start as­sist, the Sienta also gets a driver knee airbag, front dig­i­tal video recorder, satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion and all-round disc brakes which the Er­tiga and BR-V are not equipped with.

The Er­tiga pric­ing puts it in the camp of those look­ing for value, un­der­scored by a de­cent kit list on­board.

will ap­peal to those not in favour of MPVs.

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