IT’S EASY TO understand why Suzuki succeeded with the Wagon R. It made a list of all the problems associated with small cars, identified problem number one – lack of interior space – and then designed a small car with the biggest interiors possible. Needless to say, it was a runaway success in space-starved Japan, and Indian small-car owners, long habituated into folding themselves into their cars, fell hard for its charms too. The earlier model, however, failed to connect with owners on other levels. The quality and design of the interiors was dismal, the gearbox felt like it was made of flexible plastic parts and handling was as sloppy as wet spaghetti. What Maruti needed was a Wagon R with the same strengths but a much wider appeal – a car that was friendlier to live with and drive everyday.
This is just what we’ll be looking at in the long-term reports of our new WagonR. We’ll tell you what it’s like to live with on a day-to-day basis, how much we appreciate its practicality and space, how efficient it is, how much in demand the keys are among Autocar staffers and even how good it is for intercity jaunts. It is a family car after all, and many Indian families use their small cars for weekend breaks. We’ll even tell you if the looks happen to grow on us with time.
So while it’s early days yet, and we’re still in the process of understanding this car better, what is already very apparent to anyone who’s driven it is that this new version is a big step up from the earlier car. I found myself enjoying the crosstown commute – not something you could say of the earlier Wagon R. The suspension is very absorbent and stability at speed is good – this makes for relaxed commuting. And there’s acres of space in the rear as well, much more than on the older model, which actually comes as a bit of a surprise.
There’s no getting away from the thrum of the three-cylinder motor, however, and it’s not as perky from low engine speeds as we would have liked. But performance after 3000rpm is pretty good and there’s even a nice little kick in the top of the powerband.
We also feel the cabin insulation could have been better. The new gearshift, however, is much nicer and that goes a long way in adding to driver comfort. There’s no doubt about it – if you liked the earlier model, you’ll positively love this one.
Much more on the new WagonR coming up in future issues. Keep watching this space.