Drive Review: The little big things make the 2019 Maruti Suzuki WagonR a winner

Few car makers can boast of selling between 10000-15000 units of a single model consistently month after month. And that’s what makes the WagonR special for Maruti Suzuki. Having sold more than 2.2 million units since its launch over two decades ago, the WagonR is amongst the all-time top selling cars in India. And now in its 3rd generation, it has gone through a complete makeover to keep up with the times and woo over a new generation of buyers in the small car segment.

Launched in January 2019, the 3rd generation WagonR is bigger on space, better in aesthetics, and brings modern flair to the interiors with updated tech and safety features. We spent a week with the WagonR ZXi AGS 1.2L petrol variant, which is the range topping model and comes with the Auto Gear Shift (AGS). At an ex-showroom price tag of INR 5.69 lacs it may feel a bit excessive, but we can assure you will be spoilt for choice with over 14 petrol and CNG variants to choose from, starting at INR 4.19 lacs.

So what makes the WagonR so hugely successful in the first place? For one practicality. It is spacious, fuel efficient, versatile, manoeuvrable, has a low cost of ownership, and everything that would appeal to the middle class left-brain. From Gen-X families to millennials getting on with their own independent lives, it has found utility in every household across metros and tier-II/III towns, as a primary or second car. And now it is aiming for the next million.

The new generation WagonR goes a step further to make a compelling case for itself. It is more confidence inspiring in its design and performance, and hits the ball out of the park in terms of space, making a big small car even bigger. It is 56mm longer, 125mm wider and 25mm taller than before and adds 35mm to the wheelbase. Making it super sized, with an insane amount of headroom, legroom and shoulder room all around.

Thanks to the SmartPlay Studio, it is adequately packed with all the infotainment you would need while on the road, and the Auto Gear Shift makes life quite a breeze while navigating city traffic. But a word of caution here. Fuel efficiency can be severely compromised and dips alarmingly if you throw caution to the winds behind the wheel. This one is meant to be driven by the book, in a zen state of mind.

In terms of design and styling, it still looks like, well, a WagonR. Sitting on 14″ steel wheels it remains boxy in character, with a dash of added vanity. It gets dual split headlamps and a new matte black wave grille in the front, that complements the tall boy design. With a wider stance a lot of the earlier awkwardness is gone, and there are softer curves and rounded edges that make it look more ‘designed’ than put together. At the rear, the tail lamps travel right up to the roof vertically and a bold horizontal chrome panel carries the branding. The blacked out C-pillar together with the electrical retractable ORVMs adds a smart touch to the profile.

The new WagonR is built on the 5th generation ‘Heartect’ platform which is available across the Swift, Dzire, Ertiga, Baleno, Ignis & Ciaz. The form framework makes it lighter by 65 kgs, with smooth and continuous curves that disperse energy and increases rigidity. Making the vehicle safer, and improving performance while cruising, turning or stopping.

The interior is where the WagonR will have you grinning widely. The ballooned up cabin is not just extra spacious with easy ingress and egress, but offers great all round visibility too. The dual tone dashboard together with the steering wheel, infotainment screen and instrument cluster follows a geometric ‘square & circle’ pattern which is surprisingly pleasing to the eye. Everything is in place and follows a left-brain logic in terms of functionality. No quirks or clever little things that surprise. Everything is what you would expect, done with a sense of refinement. Of course the fit & finish of the trims and quality of material may not be to exacting standards, but considering the segment, it has a fresh ‘new car appeal’ that makes up for minor shortcomings. There are lots of cubby holes and storage spaces all around, and the 7″ touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration is the centre of attraction. This no-compromise piece of tech alone has the ability to swing a decision in favour of the car, in an instant.

There are however a few areas where the new WagonR could have done better. The air conditioning is manual and we think the top version deserved a digital climate control. We drove during a week when temperatures were hovering around 44 degree C, and keeping the AC speed at 3 & above made it effective, but resulted in a noisier cabin. The slim front seats don’t come with enough bolstering and the rear seat lacks adequate thigh support. While both of these add a couple of extra mm to the legroom, the WagonR has enough to spare in terms of space, and could have done with a little bit of extra comfort. Having said that, it isn’t something that would make a huge impact on buyers, as extra space is the primary concern, and this isn’t exactly a highway cruiser, where the niggles around comfort start to creep in over long drives. The boot offers 341L of space which is more than adequate for a few overnighters or a round of monthly grocery shopping. The rear seat splits 60:40 and offers a generous amount of additional space.

The tilt steering comes with mounted controls for calls, messages, music and modes. Syncing Apple CarPlay simplifies things even further and the introduction of the SmartPlay Studio makes for a more connected in-car infotainment experience. Once it is connected with the SmartPlay App, it makes the smartphone a remote for browsing music and radio channels, and one can view navigation data and get real time information on the latest news, weather, and search for nearby places. It supports radio, bluetooth, USB and AUX, with video playback capabilities via USB. There are active vehicle alert features that can be further customised and it works quite effectively without glitches. An interesting feature is the vehicle performance history that is displayed on the touchscreen. One can check mileage history including trip and refuel data, driving range and average fuel economy on the big screen with ease and the data is easy to comprehend. The touchscreen also integrates the rear parking sensors making it convenient to park in tight spots.

While the new WagonR offers keyless entry, the engine comes alive the old-fashioned way. There is no start/stop button in this one. The circular speedometer and digital tachometer are easy on the eye and gives out all relevant information on trips, fuel consumption, distance and gear indicator.

In terms of driving dynamics, the WagonR is quick off the block, impresses on straights, and is great to manoeuvre around town. It has a small turning radius that makes it very nifty in narrow lanes and tight spots. We took it around some of the most crowded places in Delhi where we wouldn’t dare go with other cars, and it didn’t disappoint. On short distance drives along highways, we found it to be nimble and responsive while overtaking and fairly stable while cruising at speeds around 100 km/h. It does have a bit of body roll due to its inherent tall design, but that is expected. Contrary to reports, we found the suspension a bit stiff for our liking, and the knocks over bumps and rumble strips made the ride a bit harsh, with a lot of noise creeping into the cabin. The quick shifting 5 speed Auto Gear Shift responds well to throttle inputs and is a huge boon. For those who wish to get introduced into the world of ‘automatic’, without having to pay big bucks for one, this is a great option. There are minor issues like the head nod in lower gear shifts, which does get a tad irritating. The clever thing to do is to start off in manual mode and then move to the auto drive mode for a smoother ride experience.

The 1.2L K12M 4 cylinder petrol engine is the same as the Baleno, Swift and the Ignis, and does a stellar job here with 61kW peak power @6000rpm and 113Nm torque @4200 rpm. The more powerful engine with a lighter body frame with a light steering wheel means improved performance, and driving around the city was a pretty smooth and stress free experience. The impact absorbing structure makes the new WagonR safer and more stable too, and the dual front airbags and ABS with EBD inspire a bit more confidence.

We drove about 500 kms and clocked a fuel efficiency of 12.8 km/l. While it is a far cry from the company quoted 21.5 km/l, expect the figure to be closer to the 15 km/l mark under normal driving conditions.

Overall, the new WagonR consolidates on its already strong and secure position and adds some flair to remain relevant amongst younger buyers. It is the little big things that make a difference. The bigger size, bigger engine. technology and modern refinements make it a very attractive proposition and a sure shot winner. This one is not going out of fashion amongst India’s value conscious car buyers in a hurry.

Some more interior shots of the 2019 Wagon R:

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