Car Review: Wagon R

Taking a test drive and driving a car once you've bought it are two very different experiences; if you're not happy with what you've got, then it's termed 'post-purchase dissonace', and it usually does affect everyone. We bought the Wagon-R Vxi 20 days ago, and though it is rather premature to do a review on the maintenance of the car, I thought I'd list my design likes and dislikes, and the problems I've faced so far:

Likes:
1. Dashboard: probably the most convenient thing about the Wagon-R's design is the Dashboard - lots of spaces for keeping keys, chewing gum, mobile phone, organiser, spare glasses etc. There's also a cup holder on the drivers side if you want to drink while driving (though I don't recommend it). It's a major improvement over the old zen Lxi that I switched from, where I was forever seeking a place for my mobile phone. There's also a hook in the dashboard, in case you're carrying plastic packets and need a hook to hang them around. This is a clear indication of the length to which Maruti went to make this care driver-friendly.
2. Magazine/Newspaper racks on all doors
3. Reclining seats: All four seats can recline, and almost fully. In fact, I've devised a way by which the seats can be re-positioned to make a bed, in case you're on a long trip and there's no hotel in sight: Push the front seat right in front, remove the headrest and recline it (correct grammar?). Then recline the back seat fully, and you have a slightly uncomfortable bed ready.
4. Extra dumping space underneath the front two seats: Something I didn't notice before I bought the car. The space under the front seats is slightly lowered so you can keep even a laptop easily. Useful if you want to hide something from the parkingwallah, or thieves.
5. Back windows are not electronic: Well, some can look at this as a disadvantage, but given a few instances of the central locking and power windows getting jammed, I think it's quite useful to have manual windows at the back in case of a similar emergency.
6. Low turning radius: or should it be high turning radius? Anyway, the car turns quite sharply, a necessity in the city and its cramped parking.
7. Seatbelts at the back: I don't know about you, but I now feel uncomfortable in cars without a seatbelt. It's almost instinctive for me to reach for a seatbelt when I sit in a car.

Now to the post purchase dissonance bit; the things I did not like:
1. Unreliable electronics: If at a traffic light, I've to stop for more than a minute, I switch the car off. Maruti has a key reminder feature that emits a beep when you leave the key inside and open the door. Unfortunately in my case, for some unexplainable reason, the beep is emitted even when the door is closed and the car is switched off. I went back to the dealer and there was no such problem with the demo car, so it's an electronics problem with the piece that I received. I'd have accepted this as a minor irritant and a design mistake, but since it happens inconsistently (sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't), so I consider it an electronics malfunction. More on the service advisor later in this post.
2. Power Steering: Frankly, WHAT POWER STEERING? Maruti's power steering is designed such that it reduces in strength as your speed increases to prevent accidents in case you execute a sharp turn at high speeds by mistake. Unfortunately, the power steering seems non-existent to me. The steering is only a fraction easier than the Zen, and lacks as much power at slow speeds as at high. It's almost not there. Or maybe it's an electronics problem with the car I've got.
3. Unlocking is injurious: I like to rest my elbow on the window, and its rather irritating that the locks are next to where the window comes up from, and not lower in the door, ala the Zen. What's worse, the moment you switch the car off (I do regularly at traffic lights) the car unlocks automatically and the lock jabs you in the arm. Very very irritating.
4. Auto windows: There's a switch next to the door on the drivers side for 'auto' window lowering and raising. What the salesman doesn't tell you (didn't tell me) is that it is only for auto down, and not for automatically raising the window. Not too much of a problem, but I think it should have been clarified.
5. Childproof rear windows: Like I've mentioned above, I like to rest my elbow on the window. On the only occasion that I've sat at the rear, I've been uncomfortable because the rear windows do not lower fully. Their minimum limit is around 2 inches above the base of the window, in order to make them 'childproof'. I don't know how Maruti does their research, but there can be people in this country who don't have kids, and who might like a fully lowered window to rest their elbow on. I'd have preferred a button for switching between the childproof and the childless options. The moment the front seat became empty, I switched.
6. WHERE DO MY SPEAKERS GO? I honestly don't know. There's space for the tweeters in front, but no space for the speakers at the back. What Maruti offers you is a flimsy, seemingly breakable, board that you've to attach at the back. The problem - your back seats can't recline because of the board that rests between the seat and the boot. So, there's so space for speakers at the back, unless you want to put two large boxes of speakers in the boot, which you can't fix anyway without cutting the interiors of the car.
7. Useless side view mirrors: They're high instead of being long, so you can't really assess the traffic at either side. Very difficult to drive without a long side view mirror in Delhi, though a majority of the people don't care enough to use them.

I went back to the dealer with a few of the electronics problems that I felt could be addressed. I didn't know that the automatic windows were only for lowering the window, so that problem was dispensed with. The power steering and the incessant beeping were not addressed. What was strange was that Maruti's service advisor didn't know of the cars features, which is ridiculous. He had no idea about power steering, and only on demonstration of the problem in comparison with the demo car did he agree that there 'could' be a problem.

What really irritates me, always, is the fallacious reasoning that he employed to try to make you accept inadequate performance of the car-
1. No other customer has complained about this car
2. I (the service advisor) have never noticed these problems
3. These things (the poor steering, the beeping in spite of a closed door and the auto window) are features of the car.

I'm sorry, but no one else having a problem does not mean that my car can't have a problem. Or no one else bothering to complain doesn't mean that a problem doesn't exist. The service advisors poor observational skills (he hardly knew anything about the car anyway) doesn't mean that my car doesn't have a problem. And when the features are clearly specified in the manual (because of which I accepted the poor design of the auto window) , how can you claim otherwise? He repeated his fallacious reasoning again after stating 'Main aapki baat maanta houn, par...' (I agree with what you're saying, but...), and I clarified again. He couldn't counter it, so suggested I talk to the salesman who said that the issues would be addressed at the 30 day servicing.

The car goes for its 30 day servicing soon. Let's see if things improve or not.

P.s.: I've to buy a music system, so I'm open to suggestions on MP3 music systems and speakers, and on how one can fit them in a Wagon-R with minimum inconvenience.

Crossposted with modifications at Mouthshut.com, here.

Update: Post first service review here.
8 Comments:
Anonymous Drumster said...

You seem to be more dissatisfied than satisfied :P Anyways about the music system, I recently bought Pioneer system that really rocks. Got it for 7.5k (only for the deck). I had good Pioneer speakers beforehand which give a terrific sound quality. Couldnt fix a sub-woofer, coz you know that once I do that the minimal boot space of the Zen would also go away. So anywaysm if you want buy a pioneer then go right ahead. Or you can go for the more expensive Sony, which comes with an AUXILLARY input for connecting a USB device like a pen drive from which it directly plays music, so no jhanjat of burning CDs. But it costs you about 13.5k Always buy a 4-channel deck, so in the future you can connect and AMP and a Sub-woofer if you wish to. Speakers, best is Blaupunkt or JBL.

And for gods sake, why do i get reminded of 1390 everytime... x-(

June 18, 2006 9:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"In fact, I've devised a way by which the seats can be re-positioned to make a bed..."

hahahahaha!

thats because they designed the seats to do exactly what you think you were so smart in making them do.

~ harneet

June 19, 2006 11:46 AM  
Blogger Nikhil Pahwa said...

Jay: I love driving this car. It's much more spacious than the Zen. Large windscreen and large windows. Good pickup and suspension. I just thought I'd comment on the driving aspect after the first two servicings. Too premature to comment on that now. But no doubt about the fact that the electronics really suck. My central locking - burglar alarm went off 7 times on Sunday, and I had to rush out to switch it off every time. Thanks for the suggestion. Will fix the stereo after the first servicing.

June 20, 2006 9:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nikhil,

i am thinking about buying wagon-r too.

can you post some good pictures of your car? especially the trunk side and interiors.

sasi

June 21, 2006 1:37 PM  
Blogger Nikhil Pahwa said...

Sasi: Sure. Will put 'em up in the evening.

June 21, 2006 9:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nikhil,

still waiting for you to put up the pictures. i would really appreciate if you can do it as soon as you can.

sasi

July 01, 2006 2:54 PM  
Blogger Nikhil Pahwa said...

I know. When I've had the time, I haven't had the opportunity, and vice versa. Google it...I will put it up, and a post-servicing review. Not possible, as of now.

July 02, 2006 7:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is really surprising is that Maruti service personal did not know or understand your issues. Maruti happens to be the winner of 7 consecutive customer service awards, then that means this is the standard in our country.

November 24, 2006 12:17 AM  

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