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What Car? says

2 out of 5 stars

For It's cheap, reasonably well-equipped and has sufficient space for four adults

Against The ride is choppy and the engines are noisy

Verdict It brings MPV looks to the smallest of city cars

Go for… Post-face-lift 1.2

Avoid… Early 1.0

Suzuki Wagon R+ Hatchback
  • 1. The suspension can cause problems - listen out for unusual noises from underneath
  • 2. On the pre face-lift models, the handbrake can be unreliable
  • 3. On newer cars, slipping clutches are one of the most frequent faults
  • 4. The cabin is big for such a small car, with plenty of head- and legroom for four adults
  • 5. The boot is small, but not abnormally so for a car in this class
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Suzuki Wagon R+ Hatchback full review with expert trade views

If you want MPV looks, but in a package no bigger than a city car, then the Wagon R could fit the bill. It was one of the first cars to use the high-sided mini-MPV design, so it'll be one of the cheapest examples you'll find.

The cabin is big for such a small car, with plenty of head- and legroom for four adults, although the boot is small, if not abnormally so for the class. Some drivers may struggle to make themselves comfy because there's no height adjustment on the drivers seat, and the steering wheel is fixed. But, they'll be happy that the dash is very clear and easy to use, although the materials look cheap.

The Wagon R is best kept confined to town, where speeds are limited, the stodgy handling isn't exposed too much and the ride is reasonably accomplished. Out of its natural habitat, though, and handling, ride and refinement deteriorate very quickly.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Easier to sell used than a Vauxhall Agila. Popular with the over 60s

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

The cheapest Wagon R is the 64bhp 1.0-litre model in GA trim. These ran from 1997 to 2000, and come with electric mirrors, an airbag and an immobiliser.

This engine also came in GL trim for a while, which adds alloys, electric windows, central locking and deadlocks. There was also a 68bhp 1.2-litre engine, but only in GL trim. Eventually, the 1.0 GL was discontinued to leave either the 1.0 GA or the 1.2 GL.

Sadly, both engines are fairly wretched; each is underpowered and noisy. Of the two, go for the 1.2, because at least you'll get a vaguely decent level of performance.

The car was face-lifted in 2000. As well as looking much better, it was also better to drive thanks to a 75bhp 1.3-litre engine. Available only in GL trim, its standard kit includes remote central locking, twin front airbags, a CD player, anti-lock brakes and electric windows. If you can afford it, we'd strongly recommend you choose this one.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Values are constant for the right clean models, especially autos

James Ruppert
Used car guru

The Wagon R isn't as cheap as some similarly sized city cars of the time, such as the Daewoo Matiz, but it's by no means expensive. Also, you'll pay a lot less for the Suzuki than you will for a Vauxhall Agila, which is mechanically identical.

Running costs aren't bad. The 1.0-litre will give you 47.1mpg and cost you a group 2 insurance premium. And, although the 1.2 gives better fuel economy of 47.9mpg, its insurance classification jumps to group 4. The later 1.3 model will cost you more because it's a newer car, but an average fuel economy figure of 46.3mpg is competitive, and an insurance grouping of 3 makes it cheaper to cover than the 1.2.

Servicing might cost a lot however, because the Wagon R needs routine maintenance every 6000 miles. Even if you find a garage charging rock-bottom labour rates, the sheer number of visits you'll need to make add to the expense.

Trade view

Martin Keighley

Easier to sell used than a Vauxhall Agila. Popular with the over 60s

Martin Keighley
Valuations expert,
What Car? Used Car Price Guide

Suzuki's reliability record can't match that of some other Japanese manufacturers, but it has a pretty good track record overall. Recent JD Power Customer Satisfaction surveys put Suzuki mid-table, with most of its success being down to mechanical reliability.

With the Wagon R's simplicity, there isn't an awful lot to go wrong, and it should prove fairly reliable. There are a couple of things you should look out for, though.

On the pre face-lift models, the handbrake can be unreliable, and can either bind on or slip. If your chosen car has only had sporadic use, the brake discs can easily corrode. Keep an eye on the suspension, too, as it's likely to need regular attention.

On the newer cars, slipping clutches are one of the most frequent faults. The suspension can again cause problems, so listen out for unusual noises from underneath.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Values are constant for the right clean models, especially autos

James Ruppert
Used car guru
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