Wednesday, December 20, 2006

K’s Honest Car Reviews Part 3 : The WagonR Duo

I haven’t written a car review on the blog in a while, so I’ll post two in rapid succession. This will help in two things – first I admit I’m a ‘hit whore’ so, writing car reviews get in a lot of hits as I discover on Google Analytics (as do references to jiggly-wiggly objects on Mallika Sherawat’s chest). Secondly, my post count has taken a tumble recently, so two quick posts on matters completely unrelated to the media should help.

I have spent a considerable amount of time in the past three months driving the boxy WagonR. I’ve never been fond of the WagonR’s dubious aesthetics, even though the new redesign has made it a wee bit more appealing. But the reason I happily drove a car I don’t like for so long was because of the sheer economics of it. This was the WagonR Duo, which ran on LPG – cooking gas to you and me by another name.
Now, everytime someone does a story on LPG you hear the sob story of how much the oil marketing companies lose subsidising it. Nobody writes about how restaurant owners have milked the government by taking huge numbers of multiple connections, but that isn’t the point. Even without the subsidy and actually with a slight profit margin, LPG costs Rs 25.44 a litre in Delhi. Even with the new petrol price hovering at Rs 46.50-something, that is cheap. (LPG actually cost Rs 29.16 at the pump till a month and a half ago). Anyway, you do the math, the WagonR gives a maximum of 14km to a litre of petrol. On LPG, it gave me an average of 11.5km per litre. Factor in the Rs 20 discount on the price of the fuel, and you’ll work out just how cheap it is. The LPG fitted WagonR costs Rs 24,000 more – so if you drive 18,000km a year, you’ll be breaking even in around the same time.
The downside to this economy? Maruti has detuned the engine by around 10 per cent making the car feel very sluggish at times lower down the revs and you find yourself mashing about the gears a lot more than you expected to – so instead of notching back to third, you end up on second, and if you hit a flyover not carrying enough momentum, you’ll have to go back to first. But then again, inside a city you rarely get a chance to open up, when you do, the car does take some time to deliver the power – so there is no surge, but it can go fast if you really want it to.
So the car is cheaper to run and because this is a factory-fit it might cost more but you do not void warranties, the chances of blowing up on the DND are much less – many of the cars going up in smoke – all of them Maruti vehicles coincidentally were running on do-it-yourself CNG kits.
The only problem is that the car has next to no luggage space. Because the LPG tank sits in the space meant for the spare wheel, the spare wheel has gone above the floor and that means half the already meager luggage space vanishes. And the car continues to look just as ugly. So, buying this as the primary vehicle is not a terribly good idea – because fitting a roof rack to the vehicle is not the smartest thing to do since centre of gravity moves even higher. This is a great vehicle as a daily commuter car – but read on because it does have one major failing and that isn’t the fact that it looks butt ugly. That said, the interiors, though dull, aren’t bad – I liked the new look to the speedo, and the inbuilt system though a bit too dhin-chak for my liking, go the job done sufficiently well.
The other major problem is LPG pumps – even though I read a story in BS I think it was that the government might allow the private companies to sell LPG at the pump – because it is not subsidised and they actually make money on it – it is available at very few IOCL pumps across Delhi (and almost none outside the metros) and the small tank that Maruti have fitted has meant range on a full tank of LPG is around 180-200km. Though you can switch over to running on petrol at the flick of a switch, meaning total range is an impressive 700km, that isn’t the point really, but even the 5km detour I had to make at least twice a week to fill gas still makes sense when you look at the price of fuel. Therefore, the WagonR Duo makes sense only in large metropolitan areas where there are LPG pumps – however if you live near an LPG pump, or one is on the path of your daily commute this cars makes immense sense. The LPG kit only gets fitted in the LX and LXi versions, so the pic is a bit misleading.
End of the day, this isn’t a racer, it isn’t pretty (even the inclusion of pretty girls in the advertising can't help it), and because luggage space goes for a toss, practicality does too. But it is cheap to run, and that is what matters - inside the city and that is it. I really liked the car by the end of it, but since it was replaced by the new Zen Estilo, I didn't mind. I'll write about that in a few days.


Nandini said...

i think the zen estilo looks a lot like the matiz. well, it also comes in garish colours.

santosh said...

Hmm...good insights on the practicality of the car. But I don't agree when u say it is 'butt ugly'. Afterall, it has inspired the new Santro design. It is not as popular as the Santro as there's no Shahrukh promoting it.

GBO said...

LPG as supplied in and around Delhi is more like a waste/bye-product from Karnal, so the IOCL PR people need to be prodded a bit more. (Does their corporate office continue to be under the threat of sealing, BTW??)

Also, with the Wagon-R in LPG, please ask around and see what happened to the rear suspension within 6 months. So much for MUL's R&D department . . .

Best way to test cars it still and will always remain like the way Clarkson does it - borrow your own from a real-time customer. Please don't depend on the manufacturer . . . that way you get a real honest review.


Bonatellis06 said...

enzoy :)

Bonatellis06 said...

sorry .. wrong comment in the wrong blog.

Rajesh said...


Trying to decide between petrol and duo. A few questions:

1. Is it safe to buy an LPG vehicle?

2. Is the AC effective in Delhi heat? You seem from Delhi.

Is the performance sluggish even when you switch to petrol in a duo?

Well, effectively should one stick to Petrol or go for Duo?


Anonymous said...

the duo is not worth the money now.i.e 2008 july. Back then 2006 it might have been a good choice but now you can get more car for a lill more money. I know cause i got mine in mid 2006. I ve covered 28000 kms and the car has lost its tuning. Nobody from maruti knows how to fix the gas petrol engine and im stuck with a shiny car that cant even be sold in the second hand market.
So pick ur the stile multjet of the swift diesel for a lill more money and rest assured you will be happy with the performance and the economy too. The only advantage is that you know that the bunk cannot sell you adultrated lpg and that you r car is really green on lpg.