Whenever we talk about Japanese imported cars, we either have hybrids or small Kei cars. But this time around, we are bringing you something different; a detailed review of a one of a kind 660cc hybrid, the Suzuki Wagon R Hybrid. But before we start with the review, let’s talk about Suzuki Wagon R a bit.
Suzuki Wagon R Hybrid
Wagon R is small 5-door hatchback first launched back in 1993. Uptil 2016, there had been five generations of Wagon R. In 2017, Suzuki unveiled the 6th generation of Wagon R. And in this gen, the Japanese automaker also introduced this hybrid Wagon R. The car we had for the review was 2017 Suzuki Wagon R Hybrid.
2017 Suzuki Wagon R hybrid is available in 3 variants,
Where FA is the basic variant, the FZ Hybrid is the top of the line model. It is available in both the front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive drivetrain. The car we had for the review was the front-wheel drive with CVT FZ Hybrid variant. This kind of vehicle is also known as semi- or mild-hybrid which is explained below.
As for the dimensions of the Suzuki Wagon R Hybrid 2017 are concerned, the car is 3395mm in length, 1475mm in width, and is 1650mm tall. If you want to compare it with other Kei cars size-wise, Wagon R hybrid has exact dimensions like the Honda N WGN except for the height. Wagon R hybrid is 5mm shorter than the N WGN. The wheelbase of the car is 2460mm.
Talking about the exterior, thing that I immediately noticed when looking at the front end of the car that it kind of look like a smaller version of Toyota Vellfire. Overall the shape of the 2017 Suzuki Wagon R hybrid is kind of boxy. You get straight lines cuts and corners from front to the back of the car with softer edges. It looks similar to Honda N WGN in overall shape and size. The frontend although looks a bit boxy, but overall it has a sporty shape. You can see how the front bumper extends to the bottom with splitters protruding on both sides.
The profile of the car presents a neat look with minimum sharp edges and cuts. There is just one crease that starts from the front, goes over the wheel arches and meets rear brake light at the back. However, you will notice the rather odd design of the rear doors and how the metal work covers the corner of the window. Some might even think it is a two-door car at first glance due to the shape of the rear door. Since it was the top of the line FZ variant of Suzuki Wagon R Hybrid 2017, it also comes with side skirts. The tyres are 155/65R14 wrapped around 14-inch factory alloys.
Looking at the rear of the car, you will notice two prominent things about the Suzuki Wagon R hybrid. First is that Suzuki has mounted the rear wiper on top of the rear windshield instead of the bottom where usually it is mounted in most cars. Secondly, you will notice how low the rear brake lights are placed on the car. In previous Wagon R iterations as well as older generation Suzuki Alto and other various imported 660cc vehicles the brake lights are usually mounted on the C-pillars or on the rear boot hatch right next to the rear windshield. However, in 2017 background hybrid, these are mounted almost at the bottom of the vehicle.
The car comes with a keyless fob where you just need the fob to be in your pocket for you to get into the car as well as to start the engine and drive it.
The dashboard of the new Suzuki Wagon R hybrid is quite contemporary and modern looking. Unlike many other 660cc Japanese cars you will notice how Suzuki has wholly revamped the idea of a dashboard. FZ hybrid comes with dark coloured interior whereas the FA and FX come with a light interior. It would be fair to say that its dash panel looks quite futuristic. You get four rectangular AC vents horizontally mounted in a straight line on the dashboard of the car. Right in the middle of the dash, you get factory fitted touch display multimedia system which is standard in FZ Hybrid. In the lower variants of the car, you only get a CD player as standard although you can opt for this kind of multimedia touch system in those models as well. Under the multimedia system, you will find the automatic climate control switches. And right under those AC control switches, you will find the button for your heated seats as well as a 12-volt charging port.
On the right side of the dashboard next to the steering wheel, you will find the engine start-stop button. On the lower portion of the dashboard, you will find traction control button as well as the idle start-stop button.
The overall build quality of the interior including the plastics, fabric, and other materials used in the making of the interior of the car is very nice for a small car. Somehow Suzuki is pictured as someone who would cut corners, but that is not the case in these imported vehicle models. So it would be fair to say that the quality of the interior of this hybrid Wagon R is at par with almost all others small Japanese imported cars in the segment if not better.
Due to the better build quality of the car, the cabin is quiet. You can hear a slight rumble of the engine when you throttle it hard but it is not that evident and as a result does not make it annoying to drive the car. Otherwise, outside noise is also quite minimum.
The instrument cluster is mounted in the middle of the dashboard facing the driver. The cluster looks modern and user-friendly with the speedometer in the middle and a small digital display on the right that shows all the relevant information like the trip meter, fuel average, outside temperature, fuel level indication, gear indication, battery level, etc. The LED lights in the clusters show when you are charging the batteries or using the electric motor. On the left of the speedometer, you get the RPM meter.
The steering wheel is tilt-adjustable but not telescopic and the small gear lever mounted on the dashboard right next to the steering wheel allows for a lot of leg as well as storage space between the front seats and the dashboard in the middle.
All these new small cars are quite savvy when it comes to technology as well as space and storage. You get small storing compartments and trays throughout the interiors. There is an abundance of cup holders in the front as well as in the back. There is storage tray under the front passenger seat like you get in local Wagon R VXL. One interesting thing that I found in the interior of the car was the umbrella holders in both rear doors.
Before I discuss the performance of the hybrid Wagon R, it would be better if I explain the concept of semi-hybrid or mild hybrid here and how it is different than the regular conventional hybrid systems.
What Suzuki has done is quite cleverly converted the conventional alternator, that is used to start the engine of a car, into a DC motor. Suzuki has dubbed it ISG (Integrated Starter Generator). The motor is used not only to start the engine of the car, but it also supplements the internal combustion engine during its regular operation. The major difference between the semi-hybrid and other conventional hybrid systems is that the motor is not capable of driving the wheels of the car on its own. In a car like Prius or Toyota Aqua, you can drive the car on just battery power. Whereas in this mild hybrid Suzuki Wagon R the motor only helps in providing additional power during the regular operations of the engine. The motor also helps in the idle start-stop scenario. The same motor helps to recharge the main as well as the auxiliary battery of the car when decelerating. The dedicated lithium-ion battery is placed under the front passenger seat.
Now let’s talk about the performance of the car. The dual overhead cam, liquid cooled, inline-3 internal combustion engine (engine code: R06A) of this 6th gen Suzuki Wagon R Hybrid makes around 53 horsepower and 60 Nm of torque whereas the electric motor makes approximately three horsepower (2.3 kW) and the maximum torque of 50 Nm). The engine is mated to a continuously variable transmission. It is a typical engine gearbox formula that many Japanese automakers use.
If you have driven one of these 660cc Japanese cars, you will notice that they can be a bit sluggish. The engines are small, and on top of that, they have a CVT gearbox. That means a lot of lag and sluggish performance. Although it is kind of true in the case if hybrid Wagon R as well but with the help of the electric motor the small Suzuki engine performs fairly well. Yes, of course, there is that lag when you throttle the car hard, but it is not as much as found any other CVT Kei car; let’s say the Honda N WGN. You can feel the difference the extra torque of that motor makes during the normal city driving.
Almost all small 660cc cars give quite a decent fuel economy at least when they are new. But considering the quality of fuel in Pakistan, the overall performance, as well as the fuel economy of these cars, drop. Since the car we were driving was pretty new, it was showing us almost 25 km in a litre, and that is a very good fuel average. Suzuki claims the car can do 33 km in a litre, but that is not always possible in real life scenarios. The car has a fuel tank of just 27 litre which is odd since mostly Kei cars come with the minimum 30-litre fuel tank. In many Kei cars, it is 35 litres.
As for the braking of the car is concerned it was fairly decent. The car comes with the ventilated discs in the front and drum brakes in the rear. It is also equipped with ABS as well as electronic brake force distribution (EBD). So the car stops quite nicely.
The day we were driving the car it was around 35-degree Celsius outside and considering the temperature as well as the city traffic the air conditioner of the Suzuki Wagon R Hybrid performed considerably well. This is also something where you can feel how the hybrid system overall helps the performance of the car. In cars with such a small engine, the AC performance is not always as good as you would hope. But with the help of the electric motor mounted on the engine, it was quite noticeable how well the AC was performing along with the continuous engine performance.
Comfort & Handling
Overall the ride quality of the car is pretty decent. If I compare it to something like Honda N Wagon, I must say that Suzuki Wagon R Hybrid felt more comfortable and it had more relaxed ride compared to the N Wagon. N Wagon feels a bit stiffer compared to this Suzuki. Due to the smaller footprint of the Wagon R hybrid (2460 mm wheelbase), the car is very easy to manoeuvre in the traffic and tight spaces. The turning radius of Wagon R hybrid is 4.4m which is quite typical for most Kei cars out there.
But softer ride also does not mean that it is in some way sluggish or has body roll Suzuki has done a pretty decent job designing the suspension of the car. You get McPherson struts in the front and torsion beam in the rear. The car holds the road nicely. Considering the higher centre of gravity of the car one can say maybe there is some body roll, but it is definitely ignorable.
Passenger space is one area where these cars excel. All these small Kei cars are made on specific parameters given by the Japanese government so they can only be so much wide and long, but they can have as much headroom as they want. Wagon R hybrid comes with a pretty decent headroom, but since it is not as wide as a full hatchback is, it is only suitable for two adults in the rear. Fitting in three adults is going to be a challenge. But you get a lot of legroom; both in the front as well as in the rear. Like front seats, the rear seats are also slidable.
Boot space is one thing where these cars are not well equipped with. To maximise the interior space for the passengers the auto companies often sacrifice the boot space. But considering the fact that you can tilt forward the backs of the rear seat to make a loading deck, you can make some decent storage space in the back sacrificing the rear passenger area. Rear seats come with 60:40 split.
Although the car has a smaller footprint which can help you navigate over the most decent size speed breakers but if the car is full the road clearance is going to be an issue. Suzuki Wagon R hybrid has the ground clearance of 5.9 inches (150mm).
Most of these modern imported cars are fairly equipped when it comes to safety features even if it is just a small Kei car. FZ Suzuki Wagon R hybrid comes with dual airbags in the front and seat belts for all the passengers in the front and the back.
The car also has Anti Lock Braking System along with electronic brakeforce distribution. It is also equipped with traction control which can be a lifesaver in tricky driving conditions. And the idle start-stop, of course, provides great fuel economy.
The 2017 Suzuki Wagon R hybrid FZ is usually priced around 1. 4 million rupees depending upon the condition of the car as well as the auction sheet grade. If you go on PakWheels used car section you will find the FA and FX variants priced 1 to 2 lac below the price of FZ hybrid.
Considering the features and technology this car brings to the table one can argue that the price is justified. You get local Wagon R with fewer features in the vicinity of the FA Wagon R price range. The Wagon R hybrid not only provides good fuel economy, but it is also feature packed.
If you are looking for a used Japanese imported car, I would suggest you do look at one of these Suzuki Wagon R hybrid’s as well. But there are a couple of caveats. First of all, being an uncommon imported car the parts will be a pain to find if you end up in an accident. Secondly, being a hybrid car which our local mechanics are not used to, the troubleshooting in case of a malfunction will be a challenge.
But if you can get past that, it would not be wrong to say that this hybrid Suzuki Wagon R brings a lot to the table. It can be a great little city car for your day to day use.