Circa 1999, Maruti launches WagonR to compete against the Hyundai's tall boy Santro. But before WagonR could even start to stand on its own, Maruti launches Alto on September 28th 2000 and kills the WagonR in just 3 days.
New car buyers termed it as the WagonR as the ugly duckling from Maruti against the sleek and curvy Alto. Even Maruti dealers started offering Alto to WagonR buyers under one pretext or the other. That day and today after 14 years, Maruti's ugly duckling after its nth makeover is going as strong as ever, clocking a massive 14000 average cars sales a month and refusing to age. Back in 2000 most car experts and even with the foyers there were many who were on the verge of writing an obituary for WagonR.
Indian car buyers tire easily, a fact that forces Indian car manufacturers to come up with face-lifts at regular intervals, as complete changeover is not only a costly and time consuming proposition, but is also fraught with uncertainties. Why tinker dramatically with success, seems to be the Mantra when it comes to revamping old established and successful car models, New WagonR is one such classic case.
However, unlike past face-lifts of the car, this time with the New WagonR Maruti has even retuned it's engine in addition to expected cosmetic changes as is the wont with such face-lifts. By doing so they have made the New WagonR a little less thirsty. Whilst the final test and it's result from the end buyers will still take time, we at ecardlr.com decided to take it out for a spin, to present to you, our impressions of the New WagonR.
New WagonR- Exteriors
Though the company has tried hard to make the changes on refreshed version perceptible; they are so limited, that it takes a hawk eye to spot the difference. Even staring head-on won’t guarantee, that people will recognize the change and one need to focus hard to notice the details. Refreshed version now wears chrome accentuated large flowing two-part grill (like Ritz) and bumper too gets some angular detailing. Fog lamps had drawn inspiration from bezel though no alterations have been done to the headlamps.
Side and rear profile has been carried over from older version as upgraded model retained its forte of tall boy design. Doors are large and ingress-egress doesn’t require you to perform some gymnastic moves.
Rear of the car continues to feature the large wind screen and chrome embellished strip at the back adds to the WagonR premium quotient. Tail lamps are slim, long and have excellent detailing. Overall the changes made are subtle in nature and Maruti could have done it better by implanting some more perceptible and glaring changes. For example redesigned lamps would have made the changes more complete and holistic. The same would have also communicated the changed image of WagonR in customers’ minds.
New WagonR - Interiors
Cabin of refreshed Wagon R now features two-colour beige black interiors. While the dash board has used trims of black and beige, seats are coloured in light beige only. A new push type instrument storage space has been added between AC vents in front of the passenger seats and the music system has been redesigned.
Grains feel smooth and hard wearing and overall quality is decent for its class. Music system works well but we have apprehensions about the AC controls which lack the tactile feel. A new day-light rear view mirror has been added to aid the visibility at night.
On the space front, Wagon R continues to impress us with its roominess. With its decent legroom and ample head room, Wagon R is one of the roomiest cars in its class though provision to sit 5 in comfort is best left to the Indica or Liva. New WagonR like most other hatches of its category are best suited of a family of 4. Boot space is decent though the loading bay is tad high.
New WagonR - Engine
New WagonR in human terms has undergone a bypass surgery. Whilst the silent, refined and free revving K-series 3-cylinder motor displacing 1.0 L of capacity with power and torque figures of 68 PS and 90 Nm respectively is still on job under its hood, Maruti claims that retuning has been done on the power plant which has resulted in improving the overall ARAI mileage by 8% in the New WagonR.
Though the engine has enough power to keep pace with traffic, it feels a bit weary as you need to shift the gears continuously. Real strength lies in mid-range and like Honda, this engine loves to rev hard. Noise becomes fainter as the revs increases and that is sure to excite you.
Complementing the engine is 5-speed manual transmission which also claimed to have undergone some mechanical changes to aid the overall shifting experience. We still find the shifts a bit notchy but that has to do something with the long gear lever rather than shifting inaccuracy. Clutch is very light and so is the steering to aid the overall convenience to the city driving. Overall Wagon R continues to be a practical city car and would quite capably move you from A to B, without delving deep into your pockets.
New WagonR - Ride and Handling
Suspension hardware of the older model has been carried over as new version continues to use McPherson strut up front and trailing link at the rear. Top model Vxi comes with 14” of wheels shrouded with 155 mm wide rubber, while lower trim has the provision of 145 mm of rubber on 13” wheels. Being a practical car, Wagon R features soft suspension setting that is particularly helpful in absorbing the bumps at low speed. But the high speed stability is nothing to boast about as car feels soggy as suspension feels clunky. Also nose feels a bit heavy and tends to dip under hard braking.
Tall design certainly has advantage in space aspect but then you have to bear its compromises also. Case in point is handling of the New Wagon R which is mediocre at its best. Car has lot of body roll and light steering with limited feedback does nothing to assuage the feeling. You need to be careful while trying to do any misadventure with this tall design. It's best better one steers clear of blindly following formula one and applies the learnt skills to your car also. New WagonR like most tall boys hate to be cornered and braked hard.
New WagonR - Overall Verdict
Maruti has taken a marginal price hike with the new WagonR and its range extends all the way from 3.57 lacs to 5.50 lacs ex-showroom Delhi. Despite this expected price hike, Wagon R is a good value for money car and the upgrade has actually given a more matured look to its tall boy design. New WagonR retains the practicality and convenience virtues of the old WagonR with its engine getting retuned for higher fuel efficiency figures. We believe that the New wagonr has all te bells and whistles to keep its franchise strong its fans and hopefully add new numbers from competitors kitty to make it worthwhile for Maruti and Its dealers.
New WagonR - Overall Rating
Style & Substance : 3/5 Ride & Handling : 3/5
Interiors & Ergonomics: : 3.5/5 Safety & Equipment : 3/5
Power Plant & Transmission : 4/5 Fuel Efficiency : 4/5
Value for Money : 4/5