What is it?
Why I would buy one?
Comfortable ride, great performance, unmatched interior space
Why I would avoid one?
Sound insulation isn't great, interior design could have had more flair
The car you see in these pictures needs no introduction. With more than 2.2 million of them on the road, the Maruti Wagon R is a car that is popular and has its own set of fans. So what made the previous two generations of the Wagon R so popular? It was easy to get in and out of, had an airy cabin and the flexible interior made it practical. With the recently launched new generation Wagon R, Maruti has tried to build on these strengths and address the old car's weaknesses.
Based on the A plus Heartec platform (same as the Ignis), the new Wagon R is wider, taller and longer than the outgoing car. Despite this, the new car is around 65kg lighter thanks to Maruti using 40 percent high strength steel. This also makes the body 1.5 times more rigid and helps the Wagon R be compliant with all future crash test norms.
As far as the design is concerned the new Wagon R still employs the tall boy stance but in a more stylish avatar. Upfront the wide grille flanked by the tall headlamps look striking and the wider dimensions make it look more hunkered down. In profile Maruti designers have played with multiple creases and curves to break the monotony of the boxy shape. At the rear the wider body helps it look more conventional than before and the bigger tail lamps add a bit of spice to an otherwise plain design.
How is it on the inside?
Like the old car it is easy to get in and out of the new Wagon R thanks to the wide opening door and the ideal seat height. Once inside you are greeted by a cabin that looks much more contemporary as compared to the old car. It’s a well thought out cabin as all the frequently used features like the infotainment system and air con controls are placed higher up. Unlike the old car the new Wagon R now gets the top ZXi variant that adds a lot more features than before. The seven inch touchscreen infotainment system dominates proceedings. It’s a brand-new unit and it features Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Maruti has also developed a SmartPlay Studio app that connects to the system. Through this app you get music, offline navigation and many more features. The screen quality and touch sensitivity is good too. Overall interior fit and finish has taken a big step-up over the old car, but still it isn’t as good as the recently launched Santro in this respect.
Thanks to the bigger body and better packaging interior space has grown in all directions. The front seats are accommodating and offer good support. But it’s at the back where space and comfort has taken a big leap forward. The new Wagon R offers much more knee room and the wider cabin gives it an airy ambiance. As compared to the Hyundai Santro, the new Wagon R has 30mm more knee room, 70mm more headroom and 70mm more shoulder room. This results in a car that can easily accommodate three adults at the back in good comfort. The rear bench itself is well shaped and the upright backrest gives good good support too. What would have made the rear seat even better is better under thigh support and adjustable headrests.
Boot space is humongous for a car of this size. You get a massive 341 litres of luggage space and the boot is deep and well-shaped too. To put things into perspective, the Wagon R’s boot is 50mm longer, 10mm wider and 100mm taller than the Hyundai Santro’s 235 litre boot. You also get 60:40 split folding rear seats for added convenience.
Although there are plenty of storage spaces in the cabin this is one aspect where the new Wagon R doesn’t improve upon its predecessor. You do get large door pockets, storage in front of the gearlever and a decently sized glovebox. But it misses out on unique storage options like the twin gloveboxes and cup holder in front of the AC vent of the old car.
In the top ZXi trim the Wagon R comes equipped with touchscreen infotainment system which houses Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, navigation and bluetooth telephony. Apart from this the Wagon R gets all the basics like air conditioning, key-less entry, parking sensors and a comprehensive trip computer. Missing equipment includes seat height adjust, reversing camera, rear air con vents and alloy wheels. In terms of safety, Maruti is offering single airbags (dual for top variants) and ABS with EBD as standard across the range. You don’t get ISOFIX anchor points which is glaring omission in our eyes. (None of its rivals offer this features as well)
How does it drive?
The new Wagon R comes with two engine options. In the lower variant you get the same 1.0-litre engine as the old car. If you choose to buy the higher variants you get the larger 1.2-litre K12 engine from the Ignis and the Swift. We got to drive the more powerful car and it felt quite impressive. The motor is responsive and has a linear tug from low engine speeds, which makes it great for city commutes. In fact, the motor’s drivability is really impressive and you can get away in third gear from as low as 20kmph without any judder or vibration from the motor. Even the 5-speed manual gearbox is crisp and snappy to use. The light and short throw allows you to execute a quick shift with just the flick of a wrist, and this reduces the stress on the driver even further. Sound insulation though isnt that great, as the engine gets noisy past 3500rpm and there is lot of road noise seeping in the cabin too.
But where the Wagon R has improved the most is in terms of its ride. Over any surface, at any speed, the Wagon R felt unfazed and the refined suspension simply goes about its job, keeping you isolated from the biggest of potholes. It’s only at low speeds that you feel some stiffness and the sharp bumps do jar you a bit. We drove the car on the in and around Udaipur. With hardly any corners to speak of, it was difficult to assess its handling prowess. But first impressions are pretty positive. The steering though a little vague at first feels surprisingly direct as you add more lock and the Wagon R felt rock steady at high speeds too. What has also helped the new Wagon R’s dynamics is the new torsion beam rear suspension as compared to the rudimentary ITL (Isolated Trailing Link) setup on the old car.
Should I buy one?
There are very few reasons not to. The new Wagon R is a huge step ahead of its predecessor in almost every department. That is a huge compliment for a car that was already selling in big numbers. It gets a more premium cabin, good interior space, loads of equipment, is very practical and more importantly, it now drives well too. What makes the deal even sweeter is the price which is in the same ballpark as the old car. So like before, the new Wagon R remains a hatchback that is great value for money but unlike the old car, it is less compromised and has improved in almost every department.
Where does it fit in?
The Wagon R rivals the likes of the Tata Tiago and the Hyundai Santro. It undercuts both its rivals albeit by a very small margin. In the same price bracket you can also get the Maruti Celerio and thanks to some good discounts going on the Ignis, it isn’t too far away either.
Pictures by: Kapil Angane