What is it?
The way things are being planned, the Maruti Suzuki Wagon R Flex-fuel (FF) is set to become India's first mass-segment flex-fuel car. It's one of the answers to the never-ending quest for alternative fuels for cars. The Wagon R FF is designed to run on any ethanol-petrol blend and will eventually help reduce tailpipe emissions. It also goes without saying it will comply with the upcoming and more stringent BS6 phase-II emission norms. The prototype exhibited at Maruti's pavilion at the 2023 Auto Expo looked exactly the same as the standard Wagon R on sale in India, save for the fluorescent badging. We believe the 'Flex-Fuel' branding on the side will be mellowed down in the production avatar. However, the bright green embellishments may be retained to display its green, environment-friendly avatar.
How is it on the inside?
Maruti Suzuki updated the standard Wagon R's colour scheme for the fabric upholstery to the beige and dark grey melange. And the basic layout and upholstery remain more or less the same in the Wagon R FF as well. However, the same fluorescent embellishments are seen on the inside too, for continuing with the theme. We were not shown if there are any changes to the instrument cluster or screen. However, from the images it is evident there's no apparent change in the cabin of the car and hence the quality of materials or space remains unchanged.
What kind of features will it get?
Since the Wagon R FF is based on the regular version, it will get all the equipment from the enhanced Wagon R's feature list. The update brought in last year to the hatchback ushers in provisions like a seven-inch SmartPlay Studio with smartphone navigation, four speakers, and cloud-based services. Then, there's ISS (idle stop-start system) and hill-hold assist system in the automatic or AGS variants. All of these are in addition to the existing features, which include steering-mounted controls, AC, keyless entry, all four power windows, electrically adjustable ORVMs, etc.
Even in terms of driver assistance and safety features, the Wagon R FF is well-equipped like the regular hatchback. It boasts dual airbags, rear parking sensors, front seat belts reminder, a high-speed alert system, and ABS with EBD. On the other hand, the automatic (AGS) versions, if offered, will even get hill-hold assist.
What is it powered by?
The Wagon R FF prototype's version continues with the 1.2-litre naturally-aspirated petrol engine that churns out 88.5bhp and 113 Nm of peak torque. This mill comes mated to a five-speed manual transmission with no confirmation about the automatic yet. The most crucial part is that this powerplant can run on any ethanol-petrol blend between 20 per cent (E20) and 85 per cent (E85). This fuel is actually a blend of 15 per cent gasoline and 85 per cent ethanol. It will not only be significantly cheaper than regular petrol but greener by 79 per cent as well. The Wagon R FF will also deliver the same power performance in comparison to a conventional gasoline Wagon R model.
The aforementioned benefits are all thanks to the modifications brought in by different teams in India and Japan. The tweaks majorly pertain to accommodate the blended fuel that will eventually help in running the car effectively. Then there's added technology comprising ethanol sensors to measure its overall percentage. What's more, it gets heated fuel rails for cold start assistance too. Moreover, with an aim to improve engine endurance, the Wagon R FF benefits from an upgraded engine management system. It further encompasses more robust fuel pumps, injectors, and other mechanical components.
What about its price, competition, and launch?
Maruti Suzuki plans to bring in ethanol compliance in all its cars by March 2023. And if everything goes according to the carmaker's plan, the Wagon R FF's production version will be on Indian streets by 2025. There's no word about its price but we expect a slight premium to the hatchback's current ex-showroom price which ranges between Rs 5.3 lakh to Rs 7.10 lakh. Similar to the 2023 Auto Expo, this vehicle made its debut at the SIAM Ethanol Technology Exhibition in Delhi. Suzuki Corporation Japan is providing assistance in developing this product and we shall soon get to know more about it in the coming days.
Pictures by Kapil Angane and Kaustubh Gandhi