If you’ve grown up in the Indian middle class, you’ve probably spent a good time in the Maruti WagonR. Such has been the reach of this hatchback. Seeing a generation change after a gap of 10 years meant there was a lot of catching up to do. But Maruti says all the shortcomings that came with the earlier car despite it seeing huge success have now been rectified. These include a bold new design, more features and a peppier drive.

Exteriors

The boxy angles have made way for curves all around this new car. The front gets a new grille, new fog lamps and dual split headlamps that have a bit of a quirky design. The profile looks appealing too. Standing out here are the flared wheel arches that ensure a sporty stance. The car also gets retractable ORVM’s with side indicators. Rear combination lamps and a horizontal chrome bar add flair to the rear of the car. The car is now wider than before and that apart from giving a bigger car feel also ensures improved cabin space. There are also three customisation themes to choose from. They’re called Playtime, Robust and Casa and where you generally see changes are the garnish on bumper and grille, side skirts, wheel arch claddings along with designer mats and interior styling kits. This also includes alloy wheels.   

Interiors

A dual tone colour theme has been used inside the car. The Instrument cluster looks rather nice with a combination of analog and digital meters. The steering wheel gets many controls to use the new Smartplay infotainment system which is a highlight inside this car. The 17.7 cm touch screen system is compatible with both Apple car play and Android Auto. Connect with the smart phone through the Suzuki app and your experience becomes seamless. You can in fact connect multiple phones simultaneously. The system also tells you weather details and helps locate eateries around. The AC vents are placed nicely and the silver accents around them look modern. Getting in and out was never a problem in this car and it continues that way in this new generation. However, absence of adjustable headrests on both the rows hints at cost cutting. The wheelbase on the car has gone up by 30 mm and that has ensured more space on both the rows. The boot space too at 341 litres is seriously good and by folding the second row, it can go up to a whopping 710 litres. 

Engine

There are 2 Petrol engine options on the WagonR. The 1.0 litre K series engine churns out 67 bhp and 90 Nm while the bigger newly introduced 1.2 litre mill gives about 15 bhp more and a good torque figure of 113 Nm. Both come with 5-speed manual and Auto gearshift variants. Maruti says there’s a 10% improvement in the fuel efficiency when compared to the earlier car. On the bigger engine it stands at 21.5 kmpl while on the smaller engine it is 1 kmpl more. On this drive Maruti made only the 1.2 litre engine variants available for test and here the mid-range was where the car felt at its peppiest. The gearshift is smooth too and slotting into different gears is a smooth process. You won’t really complain about the pick-up in the city traffic but out on the empty highway you will need to show some patience. Having said that, the combination of AGS technology and the bigger 1.2 litre engine seems to have done the trick when it comes to finding an acceptable combination between convenience and performance.

Ride & Handling

The new 5th generation Heartect platform on which this car is based ensures stability, confident stance and lesser body roll all at the same time. The drive position in the WagonR is as clear as it ever was. The pillars too don’t really obstruct your view. You sit rather high up here and that helps the driver to a great deal. The only drawback seems to be the steering wheel which falls short of responding quickly to your inputs. In chaotic city traffic while attempting quick manoeuvres that might be a bit of a letdown. On the other hand the ride is good on both the rows and the suspension is able to absorb most uneven patches of the road.

Verdict

Use of high tensile steel has made the WagonR lighter and safer at the same time. NVH performance too is pretty acceptable even at high speeds. The car also gets dual front airbags, ABS with EBD, seatbelt reminder for both front seats and rear parking sensors. Starting at Rs 4.19 lakh the new WagonR feels like a yet another impressive value for money offering from Maruti. The good thing is that price difference between similar variants of both engines is just about Rs 20,000 and the AGS at a premium of Rs 50,000 over manual is also quite affordable.

Shams Naqvi is an anchor/producer for the News X motor show Living Cars

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