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Suzuki Wagon R+ (1997 - 2000)

CAN WAGON WHEELS GET ANY SMALLER? (some text hidden)

BY ANDY ENRIGHT

Introductionword count: 114

The Suzuki Wagon R+ is something of a landmark vehicle. Initially dismissed by the European market as just another example of Japan's obsession with miniaturisation, the design has been embraced by General Motors and made available to a far wider audience. As Vauxhall badged variants appear, the gulf between what constitutes a European and a Japanese citycar will quickly narrow. As a used buy the Wagon R+ makes a great deal of sense as long as you can get along with the looks. If you can't, no amount of logic is going to sway you from something a bit more conventional, a concept with which the little Suzuki struggles to come to terms with.

Modelsword count: 11

Models Covered: First Generation: (5dr hatchback 1.0, 1.2 petrol [GA, GL])

Historyword count: 215

The Wagon R+ was introduced in October 1997 in 1.0-litre form, its tiny four-cylinder engine generating 64bhp. The bodyshell was very square and upright, if not quite so brutally cubist as the Daihatsu Move. The Suzuki really was one of the most micro of micro-MPVs, and UK buyers felt the car was perhaps a little too extreme to compete against established citycars such as the Ford Ka, the Fiat Cinquecento/Seicento and the SEAT Arosa. Many buyers also underestimated Suzuki's strength as a manufacturing concern. Available in GA and GL trim levels, the first-generation Wagon R+ was a strong offering that never reaped the success it deserved. It received a 1.2 litre engine in August 1998 along with a very mild facelift. The second-generation cars received more critical acclaim and remedied the stylistic excesses of the early model. Launched in summer 2000, the newer car was a different proposition. Although the basic dimensions were unchanged, the look was more rounded off, mature and acceptable to the European eye. The engine was changed to a 1.3-litre unit, which although only generating 75bhp, nonetheless did a good job of propelling the lightweight body. This car was manufactured in Hungary, and spawned the General Motors offshoot, marketed in the UK as the Vauxhall Agila, albeit with a smaller engine.

What You Getword count: 279

The first-generation cars are the ones that will be widely available for used buyers. So what can you expect from one of these? It wouldn't be overly demeaning to say a box on wheels, because that's exactly how Suzuki's designers set out to style the Wagon R+. It's a narrow, tall, wheeled box that holds as much internal area on as little floorspace as possible. Suzuki quickly realised, however, that sensible reasons were not the only ones that attracted new converts to Wagon R+ motoring. So it is that you could have your own version painted a lurid purple or order it with a variety of imaginative option packs. These included mock-chrome for the grille, mirrors, roof rails and wheel covers as well as wood trim for the interior and - rather worryingly - for the exterior! You didn't have to make a style statement, of course; without all these dubious add-ons, the base GA model looked almost restrained in lighter colours. It also came well equipped and full of handy features like cubby boxes, a ticket holder, a 'lights-on' warning buzzer and a headlamp-levelling device. The GL added electric power steering (just like an MGF), body-coloured bumpers, electric windows and mirrors, a retractable luggage cover, central locking and, believe it or not, a pull-out shopping basket that nestled under the passenger seat. As for safety, Suzuki did their best to impress; twin airbags, side-impact bars in the front doors and seat-belt pre-tensioners came on every car. Having said that, there's no denying the sensation of vulnerability some drivers may feel behind the wheel, due mostly to the car's diminutive size. You just have to get used to it.

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Scoring (subset of scores)

Category: Small Runabouts

Performance
70%
Handling
50%
Comfort
50%
Space
90%
Styling, Build, Value, Equipment, Depreciation, Handling, Insurance and Total scores are available with our full data feed.

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