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Value for money changes, but...

The boxy WagonR has for long cried for a bit of jazz. But will the sporty name and limited changes be enough push sales? Sumant Banerji reports.

india Updated: Sep 05, 2013 22:52 IST
Sumant Banerji
Sumant Banerji
Hindustan Times
WagonR,small car,India

The term Stingray emanated in automotive landscape when GM in the US started producing the Corvette Stingray, a high-on-adrenaline convertible sportscar that attained such cult status that consumers queue up for every next generation version as it promises power, grunt and endless oomph factor.

So, putting the Stingray nomenclature on a bread-and-butter small car sounds sacrilegious. If anybody can pull off something like this in India, it has to be Maruti, which has used the name on its WagonR.

To be fair, the WagonR is a car that does need a little spice. But is the name enough?

Spot the difference
That is not difficult, as it is in-your-face. Whether you like it or not is subjective. A boxy looking car that would get the boot in the very first round of a beauty pageant, a lot can be done with the WagonR.

So the Stingray gets sharper looking projector headlamps and an attractive reflector grille. It does make the car look different from the standard WagonR, but it also gives the impression that Maruti has tried too hard, and falls somewhere between being smart and downright tacky.

The rest of the car, along with the dimensions, stay the same, but for a couple of Stingray badges for effect. There is also chrome garnishing at the rear to compliment the blingy grille up front, but you can’t tell the difference from the back.

Oh, and it also gets gunmetal alloy wheels, just in case you missed it.

So is it a looker now? Tough call.

What’s inside
If beige spells premium, black is sporty. At least, that’s what car companies seem to think. So the Stingray has all-black insides. They call it piano black.

No comments. Like in the Swift, it does not look bad though. A little somber, maybe. There is also use of chrome here and there like on the door handles and AC knobs, but it is mostly cosmetic.

The one good addition is of 60:40 split seats at the back. Few people realise it up front, but it is a very useful feature, one that even now, few cars offer in India.

It also gets retractable cup holders on the dashboard ala Swift, which is also very welcome. What is a little disappointing is that the overall fit and finish and quality of interiors has not improved and there was room for it.

The drive
It has the same 1-litre K-series engine that does duty on WagonR, so there is no change in the ride or handling characteristics: reasonably peppy in city traffic and highly fuel efficient.

However, it lacks the grip and solidity of a Hyundai i10. But there has never been a perfect car. One would have aspired for more performance to justify the Stingray tag, but given the constraints of pricing and fuel economy, Maruti’s hands were tied at the outset.

The Stingray sticks to Maruti’s tradition of offering a great value for money package while steering clear of the outlandish. It costs roughly R20,000 more than a conventional WagonR, which continues to do well even in a subdued market.

With the performance staying the same, to pick one over the other — for that is what it boils down to — depends on whether you like what you see.

The new headlamps and split rear seats alone justify the price increase, but it is tough to imagine someone who is not a potential WagonR customer rooting for the Stingray.

First Published: Sep 05, 2013 22:36 IST