Yes, I have a thing for tall, boxy cars. And the Suzuki Wagon R was on my radar back in the late 1990s when the wider, non-kei version Wagon R+ was imported to Europe and was a minor hit there. Marlin shot this fetching purple one at. I can’t readily tell whether it’s a kei-car Wagon R or the Wagon R+, with a 1200cc Suzuki four under its hood. It is from the first generation (Marlin says its from 1997-2000), and the fifth generation is still being built, but it’s reverted back to kei-only (660 cc) status.
Like so many Suzukis, the Wagon R was built in numerous places around the world, and under different name plates. Opel sold it as the Agila (above), from 2000 – 2007. It made a great city car, with deceptive amounts of room. It really is quite similar to the gen1 Scion xB/Toyota bB, although narrower and shorter yet.
So if I lived in Austria, a Wagon R+ might quite likely be what you might see me in. I like plenty of airspace above my head. And something easy to park.
Here’s how the current version looks.
Boy, I wish they’d import stuff like that into the US. Not all of us are enamored with the “sorry-but-my-****-doesn’t-work-anymore” F-150 monstrosities. I love little cars, cars that can whip around the rural back roads, cars that don’t crowd the rest of the world by their very presence.
In fact, right now I’m in a semi-serious conundrum: My ’05 xB is ten years old and has 53k on the clock. Still in perfect condition (other than the damage I did to the right rear corner backing into a post – to be fixed this spring), but I’m in the mood for something new, or at least newer. Like a Fiat 500, or preferably an Abarth?
Its just this matter of dumping a perfectly excellent car that I enjoy driving a lot. And enjoy it even more since I got the Kia Sedona for anything long distance. And occasionally, I’m tempted to do the bigger rims, coilovers, add a turbo route . . . . . .
Stick with the Scion, it’s barely broken in.
Thinking about Fiat, that hot Romanian model in their Abarth ads may be what that 500 wagon will turn out to be: nice to look at, but high maintenance. Scion, OTOH, is rated the highest in overall brand quality by CR.
I wish I went with the xB when I bought my Cobalt, but the financing was better at GM. I regretting not buying the xB after only 3 weeks of ownership of the Cobalt.
Totally agree. Keep the xB.
If you already have something bigger and quieter for long highway rides, you have overcome the xB’s only fault. I sold my 2004 after racking up over 80k miles, and it was still pretty much like new. I miss it.
The Fit and the Soul come close, but you will find that there is still nothing that compares to the ideal blend of utility + fun factor of the first gen xB.
Well, Syke if it helps any I’m fully functional and my F-150 4×4 Super Crew is hands-down the most versatile vehicle I’ve ever owned.
Little cars are great, but my F-150 will pull any little car at 65 mph. 🙂
Uhhh…what? My 1962 Ranchero will pull any little car at 65 mph!
Interruptions when typing can lead to odd sentences! I meant to add on a trailer and up a 4% grade with the a/c blowing and five passengers aboard.
If there wasn’t a need for any given type of vehicle, it would not survive in the marketplace. Given their sales volume to a broad spectrum of buyers, it appears there is a distinct need for a half-ton pickup.
There doesn’t have to be a need for a vehicle, only a desire. Nobody “needs” a Ferrari. You might genuinely need an F-150, but some people are extremely creative when it comes to excuses for buying a truck.
Small, tall, boxy, narrow, skinny wheels. The kind of car that is only bought and driven by the elderly, a DAF Variomatic 2.0 in other words. Or an older model Honda Jazz (Fit). Hence nobody wants to be seen in one, dead or alive.
Please note that I’m not judging. I’m observing, supported by the facts: very poor sales numbers for this specific breed of compact cars.
But compact and somewhat taller cars can sell like hot cakes though, but then you’ll have to give them some sort of design. Like a Peugeot 2008 or Renault Captur. Then you have a winner, bought and driven by all generations.
In Europe, perhaps. In Japan, this was the country’s best seller for many seasons, knocking the Corolla off its perch.
I’m surprised Hondas are considered geriatric in Europe, unless old folks there have softer bones that can tolerate firm suspensions. I don’t see many elderly Honda drivers Stateside, at least of the smaller models.
Moreover, the Scion brand was aimed at younger buyers here, for Toyota has become bland & gentrified, no more Celicas, GTS Corollas, MR2s, or Supras.
Hondas are not considered geriatric. Hondas are considered exotic by now. (Only the Jazz/Fit has that geriatric image)
The market share of all Japanese brands has declined drastically in the past circa 15 years. Only Toyota and Mazda can offer a full line-up of vehicles. But the sales numbers of cars like the C-segment Toyota Auris~Mazda 3 and the D-segment Toyota Avensis~Mazda 6 are way, way behind their German and French counterparts.
Sales-wise the days of the late seventies, the eighties and the early nineties are over and out for the Japanese. Not only for their cars, but also for their vans and light trucks. Maybe even for motorbikes.
A shiny bright red Ducati, that’s what the amateur-racers (on public roads) lust for.
I still find that odd; the Fit gathers a lot of youthful buyers. A co-worker who is not even a full year out of university just bought one as his first new car, and there are *many* of them in my neighborhood, almost exclusively driven by people under 40. Even I like the second-generation Fit and wouldn’t mind a well-optioned one (though I think the first-gen is homely and the third-gen has grown too large).
I think small Japanese cars can seem cool or funky (sorry if those terms are no longer eh… cool or funky) to American eyes but are often outcooled and outfunked by their European rivals. If you see what I mean.
Small cars are a niche interest in the US, but normal here.
When Honda first arrived in the US there was a much bigger difference between “domestic” and “imported” cars. Buying a VW or a Honda was a lifestyle choice. These cars were interesting, different, and often bought by people who previously drove a European car.
In Europe, Japanese cars were seen as dull as dishwater but more reliable than the competition, so they were bought by boring people, thus are avoided by those who are too kool for skool.
Young folks’ first new cars are mostly A- or B-segment hatchbacks, like a Renault Clio. All automakers offer them, the choice is endless.
Once they get older and start a family the next step is often something like a B-segment wagon (Renault Clio Estate) or crossover (Renault Captur, fully based on the Clio).
Like Tonito just said: small cars are normal here.
That must be it: dull people like to arrive at where they’re going & not spend hundreds of dollars on unscheduled repairs, whereas more interesting people think breakdowns are an adventure to be embraced, a plot for a quirky French movie script.
Just checked: 387,835 new cars were sold in the Netherlands in 2014, 17 of them were Honda Accords (Source: RAI Vereniging-Bovag).
A very similar car (in size and uglyness), the Hyundai Atoz, sold relatively well though in Western Europe, for an exotic that is. Can be seen more frequently than the Suzuki. Any idea why?
No idea, Carolus. Big chance though that your next car would be a hearse.
Surely it would be a Wagon R+ because Suzuki sold them here. They didn’t sell that many though, so I wonder if it is the very same car I photographed as a CC last year.
Here is the one I shot. I saw a reference that Suzuki sold around 600 of these in 3 years, when they cost $12k. Ironically there are a few offerings in that range now from Mitsubishi, Suzuki, Nissan, Kia and Chery (although I am not sure if they are still on the market).
Vauxhall sells an Agila, a re-badged Suzuki Splash with a 1 or 1.2 liter engine….if that Agila a “descendant” of this car?
I also like these types of cars and trucks but after trying to negotiate a deal on a new Honda Fit I’m sticking with my 97 Civic with 270K on the odo.
Good call on the title. This vehicle seems to be smaller than the Xb. I have more experience dealing with the WagonR compared to the Xb. Glad people are enjoying the Xb since North American culture prefers big trunk. I can imagine fitting my stroller in the trunk of the WagonR and it would pretty much fill the whole trunk.
Back to the WagonR: it’s one of those car where any tall person can fit. Excellent for urban environment. As long as the latest MINI. 4 adults go getter (I don’t think it’s suitable for 5). Mini trunk (for NA standard). Not sure if this thing goes around corners since my experience was on traffic jam heavy roads.
Have been happily driving a Nissan Cube since 2010. They could have done a better job with the laydown of the rear seats but the car is otherwise very good. I have become a fan of this type car and in our case it is the long distance vehicle. Going to Florida next week to pick up a granddaughter for a month. Expect to hit low thirties again and it makes the seats feel softer.
Our work vehicle is another box but with 4runner slapped on the sides. Hook up a trailer and it will do everything.
I join those of you who wish more were sold in the U.S.
Plenty of them round here I dont know if they sold here new or just came in used from Japan but they seem quite popular with the elderly along with other Kei boxes.
I’d love a current version of one of these. As with a lot of Kei cars, there is a sportier sub-model with unique styling features called the Stingray:
This appears to be a good execution of a great idea. I can see where these would be very attractive propositions.
Interesting that the elderly in Europe would drive this type of car. I suppose getting in and out would be a lot easier in one of these type of vehicle’s. And lot’s of room for walkers and wheel chairs. And grandchildren. In Europe I guess long road trips are not all that common, so I can see the appeal to the older generation. Interesting here it was marketed to the younger generation, although a lot of the buyers were middle aged. But I don’t recall seeing many in the US with 70 plus aged owners.
Easy getting in and out is certainly a major factor. But recently introduced compact crossovers, like this Peugeot 2008, offer the same. And as I mentioned above, all generations like them.
Man these early Wagon R’s are homely little things. Nice in execution but not exactly easy on the eyes!
It seems some of the subsequent generations have improved the aesthetic experience.
The only Suzuki 4 wheeler I ever liked was the Samurai convertible. It was a whopper of a deal, looked cool, could out Jeep a Jeep, and never broke down, no matter how you treated it. Mine made it to 200,000 miles, it had 100,000 miles on it when I bought it, and had never been properly maintained. It was my one and only Japanese vehicle. If they still made it I would buy a new one. The 2 door Sidekick (and Geo and Chevy Tracker) was more of a road only vehicle, it could not handle much off road use. It was the product of consumer reports malicious attacks on the Samurai. But even those were nice little street vehicles. Convertible top, 4 seats, cool looks, and high enough to get in and out of without serious pain.
I believe my aunt in Germany has the Opel version of this. In bright yellow. Nicknamed “Der Rollschuh” (The Rollerskate). She loves it. I thought it was interesting but a bit too yellow 🙂
She downsized from a Mitsubishi L300 passenger van a few years (maybe a decade?) ago.
Her first car was a Fiat 500 (the original one), I remember that from when I was a little boy. Her husband was a life-long Opel fan, when young a souped up Ascona, then various other Opel models in until a long run of several Omega wagons before he passed last year.
Bonus info: These were quite popular in Denmark due to our sky-high car and fuel taxes. I would estimate that around half of them were purple.
Even though this is a size larger, I spent some time in the Fiat 500L at a recent car show. I was impressed with the amount of room and the chair like seating position with good sight lines. But, outside of a few sporty cars, most Fiats I’ve been in are like that.
I could see this car escorting me into old codger-ism, provided I stick to a manual or the new Aisin automatic. The Abarth drivetrain sounds wonderful to me and I think I could live with the rest of the quirks of the car. This, coming from a current Pontiac Aztek owner…
As has been mentioned, the 1st generation Wagon R really kicked off the current surge in kei-class car sales here in Japan. It is still very popular but the new Honda “N” series (One and Box) is coming on strong and may give the top selling Daihatsu Tanto a run in 2015.
Its amazing how spacious and sophisticated these cars have become – I’m 6’6 and thirty years ago I couldn’t contort myself to fit in one. I recently rode in a friend’s N-One and had plenty of room.
Their only downside – I have no empirical data but just based on news stories in the media, most accidents involving kei-cars seem to result in a fatality.
I have never been a Honda fan, and they are the least favorite Japanese brand by a long way. Yes I did love the mid ’70s Civic, but it is long gone. Only “fun” car Honda ever made, except maybe the first generation CRX.
I hated the first generation XB when it first came out, but have changed my mind. Probably due to abominations like the BMW RX300 and all of it’s (almost exact) copies. One thing is for sure, I will never change my mind about those. They are the absolute antitheses of what I think an automobile should be. I searched in vain for a nice condition first generation XB locally, but everything I found on Craigslist had been trashed and has a zillion miles on it. The new XB is just a shapeless blob I have no interest in. I don’t know how many hundreds (or thousands) of times car manufacturers got something right the first time, then ruined the next generation. This has not always been done in 2 generations. Some, like the T-Bird and Mustang, went back and forth for many generations.
So I have gone back to the PT Cruiser/HHR. Both have style, both are also practical. The HHR has 2 big advantages over the PT. It does not have a timing belt that you have to pull the engine to replace (a $1000 job) and it gets almost 6 mph better than the PT on the highway. I am also much more familiar with it’s engine. And I have found several pristine low mileage examples locally.
While I don’t care for the Suzuki wagon that this thread is about, I do/did like Suzuki as an automaker, and wish they had not left the U.S. market. I blame the DOT and EPA for their demise here, and so did they in one of their statements. For a smaller manufacturer/importer, getting a vehicle DOT/EPA certified for sale in the U.S can cost more than they will make in profit. I see this as sort of govt. assisted monopoly building. Drive the small guys out of business with unreasonable requirements and tons of expensive fees.