With over a decade worth of commuting on the Indian roads, ‘tall boy’ designs aren’t a novelty for our market anymore. In fact, our compatriots just love them; for the tall roof makes these cars feel roomier than what they actually are, giving the customers a fake illusion of increased space. And when it comes to small cars and hatchbacks, Maruti Suzuki rules the roost with an army of Japanese models. So it comes as little surprise that the manufacturer still continues to breathe fresh air into the boring Wagon R model, every now and then. But make no mistake; the original Japanese tall boy is still one of the best sellers for the company even with its boxy old-school looks. The company now plans to cement the car’s roots further with an all-new model that not only incorporates a ‘Bharat Stage IV’ complaint engine but also looks beefier and on par with the new models that the company has launched in recent times. Enter the 2010 Wagon R. We decided to the review the car in Goa – the coastal state where you have more Wagon Rs than palm trees in every square meter of the holy Goa-land! Head over to the next page to read what we returned with…
The front fascia is redesigned to be on par with the rest of the cars in the Maruti Suzuki line-up
‘Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder’ – I know you have read that a million times. But no matter who the beholder is in question here, one will see absolutely nothing beautiful about the new Wagon R. What we have here is a bigger box (based on the fourth-generation Japanese Wagon R platform) than the older model, fitted with an aggressive looking headlight assembly that sports a blue tinge on the pilot lights – giving the new car its ‘Blue Eyed Boy’ tagline. Furthermore, the large, curvy radiator grille, split by the body coloured bumper makes the assembly appear like a thick mustache and a goatee on the blue eyed boy’s face. However, this fascia doesn’t seem to gel entirely well with the rather drab body which sports absolutely no shoulder lines or creases. The tail section gets new (and taller) taillights and loads of chrome garnish. The ‘Wagon R’ monogram has transformed into an embossed logo on the chrome lining on the boot lid. Fortunately, this lining adds some substance to the flat and otherwise boring tailgate. The rear quarter-glass is now integrated into the rear window itself, reducing the length of the C-pillar. Look at the car from the side and it will look like a box kept on a shopping cart. The wheels are too small (even on the VXi variant) in diameter as compared to the size of the wheel wells – leaving a big gap between the car and the tyres. Few may consider this to be added suspension travel, but to me it looks like the new Wagon R is trying to tip toe onto the scene, instead of making a sound announcement of its arrival.
The blue tinge on the pilot/parking lights give the new Wagon R its ‘Blue Eyed Boy’ tagline
The new taillight is now longer. Notice the Wagon R embossing in the chrome lining
Inside the car, the dashboard and the steering wheel gets a two-tone black-grey treatment similar to the interiors of the Swift, SX-4 etc. Since the switches and other stalks too have been borrowed from the latest generation of Maruti Suzukis, I was expecting the now-common gear-shifter knob from the Swift/SX-4 to make it to this car as well. But interestingly, the Wagon R gets a new elliptical gear knob that has better ergonomics but looks a tad cheap on the LXi variant. Ditto can be said about the new dashboard and the switches/stalks. Speaking of which, the new dashboard is now smaller in length to increase the interior space. This, combined with the reduced boot space and absence of a chassis mounted quarter-glass, has allowed Maruti to bless the Wagon R with lengthier doors.
The drag looking body and tail doesn’t do justice to the aggressive front end of the new Wagon R
The new car is wider, taller and longer than the outgoing model
The new interiors look decent; take design cues from the rest of the Maruti Suzukis in the family
At the price point at which the Wagon R is being offered, it faces a very tough competition from players like the Beat, Santro, i10, Figo etc. along with its own in-house competition like the Estilo and the A-star. However, the Wagon R employs some of the best features in its class that help the boxy car hold its ground against an army of the aerodynamic mice that I mentioned above. The Wagon R has cleverly distributed its features list amongst the available variants. While the VXi is the top of the line model, the LXi variant is what will sweep the entry consumers off their feet. To start with, the base model too gets a Power Steering and Powered Front Windows. Unlike most cars in its league, the base variant also gets a headlight beam adjustment switch; 60:40 split rear seats, soda can holders that are aptly placed to take advantage for the A/C cooling etc. These basics take care of almost all the creature comforts that you need for your everyday commutes. In fact, after driving the LXi variant for a while, you’ll feel that the presence of a certain Zen Estilo is absolutely unnecessary in MS’s portfolio.
The soda can holder benefits from A/C cooling, quality however isn’t the best in class.
The new gear knob is ergonomic and elliptical in shape
The quality of plastics has improved over the older car, but still not the best in class
The VX and VXi variants get some more icing in the form of rear windshield de-fogger and wiper, fog lamps, larger wheels (14”), a tachometer, in-dash music system and powered rear windows with a child-lock. But what I particularly liked was the novel idea of a removable storage basket that sits below the passenger seat. It not only can store away documents, netbooks, cash etc. safely, it can also double up as a small shopping basket – thanks to its detachable nature. Though none of these features are something that you could go gaga over, they contribute towards making life a tad easier in the Wagon R – which is exactly what an entry-level consumer is looking for.
The removable storage basket under the passenger seat (VXi only) is a novel feature and will appreciated by the Wagon R’s target audience
While the LXi model gets decent looking speedometer, the VXi model gets a sportier console (inset) with a rev counter and classier background decals
Ride quality, handling and comfort
Though the suspension doesn’t forward each and every bump into the cabin, you will constantly hear a lot of thuds when driving on broken roads
The ride quality of the Wagon R is decent and on par with the other city slickers in its segment. Our test car absorbed most of the shocks coming from Goa’s notorious array of ribbed speed breakers. However, I would have liked the suspension to be a little softer, but probably the taller design on the new car won’t allow it. Which brings us to the handling. Within the few curves that I found near the road I was testing the car on, it was evident that the car is not a big fan of spirited driving. Belt the car around corners and the taller design shod with 13” wheels will make the Wagon R lift its two wheels with lesser effort than what a dog needs to lift its leg when it sees a pole. The saving grace comes from the new Apollo rubber that does its duty quite well – without screaming too loud like most other entry level tyres do. By the time my test was coming to an end, its started raining in Goa. But even on the half wet surface, the new tyres (they were not run-in mind you) provided phenomenal grip with no nervousness whatsoever.
The wheels look too puny compared to the large wheel wells
Leg space has increased considerably over the outgoing model, thanks to the bigger cabin
For most customers of the Wagon R, the car will do duty as an everyday commuter through the urban jungles – so spirited driving isn’t exactly what you would dial for in this car. The drivability of this car is amazing, thanks to the light power steering. It makes the drive so easy that for a moment you’ll forget that you are driving a car that costs less than four lakh rupees! Comfort-wise, the new car has definitely excelled over the older model and also most other small cars in its segment. The wider form of the car has allowed for a wider rear bench while the increased length provides more leg space. Since my commuting vehicle in Goa was an older Wagon R itself, the difference in seating space was evident right from the word go. Even with a fat person with a 5’9” frame like me sitting in the front seat, there was enough room for another ‘me’ to fit into the back seat without having to dislocate any bones in my body. The car can seat three average sized adults on the backbench provided they are ready to brush shoulders to rest their back. The flat floor adds its bit to the passenger comfort as well. The front buckets are decent, but I would have liked more lumbar and thigh support. The driver seat has been given a significantly long travel, making it easier for taller drivers to fit in comfortably. The lengthier doors that we talked about earlier open wider as well – making ingress and egress significantly easy for passengers of almost all shapes, sizes and ages.
The doors are lengthier and open wider, making ingress and egress easy
The new Wagon R gets the compact 998cc K-series engine from the A-star and the Zen Estilo
The new Wagon R gets the same 998cc K-series engine that does duty under the hood of the A-star and the Zen Estilo. The three-cylinder mill emits its peculiar burble the moment you start the car. Unfortunately, it’s not just the people outside who hear it, but the people inside as well. The slimmer dashboard has reduced sound damping, making the engine noise and the loud horn and the tyre noise and pretty much every other noise outside, convert the Wagon R’s cabin into a noisy place to be in. Coming back to the engine, the Wagon R suffers from the same plight that the A-star and the Estilo suffer from – weak low-end power.
Like the A-star and the Estilo, even the Wagon R suffers from the lack of low end power
The revvy nature on the engine summons the 60-odd horses only at a high rpm-range. This leads to a comparatively weaker pulling capability at lower revs. Though this lack in torque doesn’t significantly affect your driving in the slow moving urban traffic, it can get really irritating when overtaking a bus or a truck when you seldom find a chance to, in the city environs. But in spite of all the frequent gear shifting you’ll need to do, you have a chance of extracting 18.9 kilometers from a litre of petrol (Maruti-Suzuki claimed / ARAI-backed fuel efficiency figure).
(Clockwise from top left) Lots of button space for modding community. The VXi variant gets a rear windshield wiper and defogger. The LXi gets power windows only for the front windows while the rear windows get motorised only in the VXi variant. Body-coloured ORVMs on the VXi variant.
Increased cabin space has taken a toll on the boot space
The rear quater glass leaves its place on the C-pillar (on the older car) and joins the rear window (on the new Wagon R)
The VXi variant gets an in-dash CD/MP3 player, but the sound quality isn’t too pleasing – good enough for ‘Radio Cabs’
The steering looks similar to the one in the Swift. Steering mounted audio controls on the VXi model could have added more value to the Wagon R’s VFM quotient.
The front seats can collapse to give you a comfortable laid back seating (or sleeping?) space
Considering the competition around, the new Wagon R looks like a lily in a bunch of roses. It looks fresh for now, but the freshness will last for a short period of time. However, the essence of the Wagon R doesn’t lie in its form, but in the function. The car my not be the best looker in the market, but packs enough features at a small price, to give the competition a serious run for their money. Though it has nothing to go ooh and aah about, it is like the ‘super saver pack’ that has all the essentials you need for your daily commutes – and this is exactly why the Wagon R has excelled and will continue to excel in the times to come.