The Wagon R is the quintessential Japanese Kei-car / K-car and has indeed been the best selling K-Car since 2003, with well over 5 million units now made. What's a K-Car? TL;DR - A teeny weeny car category introduced post WW2 to help stimulate the car industry, nowadays regulated by size (3,400mm x 1,480m) and a maximum 660cc engine restricted to a 64 bhp output.
Who’d have thought that there have been 6 generations of Wagon R’s since 1993? Perhaps that reflects the highly competitive nature of this little mini car category. Such is it’s success that it’s been produced worldwide including India as the Maruti Suzuki Wagon R, in Indonesia as the Suzuki Karimun, in China as the basis for the Changhe-Suzuki Big Dipper/F-MPV and in Europe as an Opel Agila/Splash. Oh and the racy sounding “R” stands for “recreation” rather than any thing racy, possibly dashing the hopes of Honda fans.
It’s been quite popular in Sri Lanka as well, with the Indian version being sold here of late at a good price point. The all new Sixth Generation tested here though, it is now back to being a proper Japanese built model. This version was only launched in February 2017, it’s already been on the market in Sri Lanka through the grey market. The Agents AMW have pushed back and are now launching the Wagon R themselves and at a very competitive price and spec.
The Wagon R has always had that cute and boxy styling often referred to as a bread box or in Sri Lanka as a “paan baagey” (half a loaf). The first generation in particular embraced the box and was all the better for it. Some of the subsequent generations started rounding out a bit and got became more conventional and slightly boring as a result.
But the latest generation is now back on full-box mode and all the better for it. It’s probably the most boxy since generation 1 and it looks as a result looks delightfully and quirkily Japanese. The four wheel are pushed out to the corners, there’s a retro modern touch to the looks with a bluff front end and at the rear, low set and sleek tail lamps, Slightly confusingly, there seems to be three versions of the front end with either a set of big square lamps, long vertical lamps or the split twin lamps in the officially imported version tested here.
Suzuki have embraced the Japan-ness with other interesting touches such as the reverse floating B-Pillar and a confident deep swage line that runs across the full length of the sides. The Wagon R will also come with a sporty bodykit style set of front and rear be-spoilered bumpers, side valances and roof spoiler. The local agents have also fitted neat halo-type DRL’s in the front fog lamps pods. Neat multi spoke 14’ alloys complete the funky and attractive look of the Wagon R.
Mechanicals & Technology
The engine sticks to the presets of the K-Car requirements with a tiny658cc lump and producing a modest 50bhp, barely bothering the 64 bhp limits. It’s not stated what the mini hybrid drivetrain produces but it should supplement that wee figure and to be fair it only has relatively lightweight 790kg to move around. The rest of the oily and metal bits aren't that revolutionary and include a CVT gearbox, McPherson Struts up front and a torsos bar rear with coils springs all around. Stoppers are Discs up front and drums at the rear. The bigger hybrid battery now allows for greater electric assistance in traffic conditions to provide both a smoother and and more eco friendly mode and better fuel sipping ability. The car actually provides it’s best fuel economy figures best in traffic conditions rather than on out of town drives.
Credit has to go to the attention to detail and testing though. Taking customer complaints about the lack of smooth stop/start functionality of the previous generation, they’ve now introduced a higher amperage hybrid battery which allows for a battery powered creep function from stop, allowing for a smoother electric/petrol motor transition. The previous version required a combustion engine start up at stop points. Other highlights including rigorous testing by Suzuki Japan for local conditions, having taken the car up to Nuwara Eliya to check hill climb and cold start ability and even testing our local petrol quality. The latter has resulted in some modifications to the engine bearing components to allow for the lower quality fuel we experience. Interestingly, they've not modified the ride height, leaving it the same as JDM vehicle, a testament to our improved road surfaces.
If you wanted reminding that R stands for Recreation and not Race, mashing fast pedal to metal is the way to do so. We didn't expect much from 658cc lump and our expectations were thoroughly met. We tried a 0-100kmph test but didn't reach beyond 80 in our available stretch to be honest. The 100kmph benchmark maybe in the nether regions of 18 plus seconds we’re reckoning, but hey this R is designed explicitly to perform as well in congested city center as well as a Type R does on the Nurburgring. We have to remember that driving a sport suspension endowed, eager to rev sports car in the city would likely be as annoying as driving a Wagon R on a race track.
Handling & ride is respectable enough though again, like the latter category, you can’t expect revelations. This is built for majority low speed transport and at a price, so you can’t expect more than average. Still, the relatively long wheel base allows for a decently comfortable ride, never jarring. It rolls through corners, but not excessively so.
Interior & Living With it
This is where the money has gone in the R&D budget and it’s mightily impressive. Inside, it might as well be the Tardis. I can’t stress how big the interior of this diminutive little car feels. Absolutely massive, in all dimensions, side, height and forward space for all passengers. Clever design details abound: front and rear bench seats which are split to still allow individual adjustment or be in a straight line to accommodate the maximum number of passengers.
We have to start with the rear. It’s got almost impossible dimensions for head and legroom. A 1.4m width also aids things. But, that legroom. Even with a 6’1” gangly person as myself upfront the rear, it allows as much rear legroom as the rear seat of a Mercedes V Class van for similarly sized person as I, especially with the rear seats slid right back. It’s actually a bit mind boggling. Even with the seats placed up front fully on its rails, you still have enough legroom as an E-class. It sharply brings to contrast the pictures of me stuck in the back of another small car we tested last month which drew much hilarity from readers.
Up front, there’s a very minimalist and Japanese robo-tech style dash with an upright centre console consisting of a high spec 7” LCD screen with a radio, phone and rear view camera combo and the rev and speed counter dials in the cowl above. The cowl dash also has a simple but effective mono color LCD multi screen for eco driving and other info. The AC controls are also in a clear and easy-to-use strip in the centre. The steering wheel is also a mildly sporting looking affair and has a decent enough leather covering and stereo controls.
The layout the front is set back, continuing the sense of space and clever storage area abound from passenger under seat storage, door cup holder and under steering storage. At the back, the Suzuki interior design boffins have a brilliant umbrella holder embedded into the two side doors with water catch. The latter was particularly handy on the rainy day we tested the car.
At the rear, there’s rather small boot whose size will vary depending on the sliding depth of the rear seats. It seems small, bit fold down one of the rear seats and you have pretty huge storage space. Fold down both and it seems you can fit in a small piano. The victim in the search for space is the lack of a space saver spare, but you have a fix and go kit in its place.
Safety wise, you get two airbags only for driver and passenger but there’s ABS, EBD, ESP, Hill Hold and Isofix child seat anchors. Other impressive bits of Japanese rigor includes deleting the auto brake function because it probably meant, left on, the car would go nowhere or be stopping unexpectedly with our ridiculously hazardous traffic conditions and details such providing factory fit carpets as standard to avoid aftermarket carpets snagging under the pedals.
Fuel Economy & Price
The Suzuki agents inform me that for the first time, they’re able to go head to head on pricing with grey imports after careful negotiation with their Principals. The car is priced at LKR 3.499mn which compares with LKR 3.3-3.5mn for the grey imports. Couple that with the attention to detail in meeting local conditions and an impressive 4 year Warranty, the Wagon R seems like a winner in it’s category.
Economy is always something on the mind of a buyer of a small city car and the Wagon r delivers here as well. There’s 34kmpl possible in ideal conditions and the agents say in real world conditions they’ve averaged 28kmpl in the city and 22-24kmpl on motorway and long distance drives. That’s enough to complete with full hybrid cars. Impressive stuff.
The Kia Picanto we drove last month competes on price, spec and has one more year of warranty but as good looking and well engineered that car was, the new Wagon R smacks of ingenuity and great Japanese engineering.
Suzuki’s on to a real winner with the newest Wagon R. It’s not a meant to be a performance machine or a handler, which would have been great and given it that extra half a star, but but with a truly interesting unique Japanese styling, a high spec and an incredibly gargantuan interior, it’s definitely top of the tree in the micro city car segment.
658cc, 3-cylinder, 12-valve
Light hybrid system
50bhp @ 6,500rpm
60Nm @ 6,000rpm
Continuously Variable (CVT)
Front - Double wishbone
Rear - Torsion Bar
Front – ventilated disc
Rear – drum
Wheels & Tyres
14-inch alloy wheels
0-100km/h in 18s
Top speed 140+ km/h
(estimated, not tested)
Length – 3,395mm
Width – 1,475mm
Height – 1,650mm
Kerb Weight – 790kg