Our second Wagon R+, (we had a 2001 1.3GL Arctic (special edition with air-con), which was very reliable apart from tracking issues, time clock and expensive servicing). When we traded for a Kia, we missed it terribly, so after six months, traded for the new 2006 1.2 model with air con and the "new" Vauxhall engine and gearbox.
We were expecting it to have less power, but this new transmission is way superior to the 1.3 unit, with an easier gear selection and a better reverse gear selector- it never grinds into reverse like the 1.3 box. The car pulls better with this new engine, which suits the type of car better than the revvy 1.3 unit, allowing effortless cruising in a light car at low revs with easy pick up. This means that islands can be done in 4th gear which is great. Less gearchanges mean less effort and stress.
The whole car is now better thought out, with a hard parcel shelf, rear headrests that can be left in place when folding the rear seats, plus better seat fabrics, steering wheel and a chrome gearknob.
The stereo, however, is a weak point, and shows the car is ready for the new model, due 2007. It is fiddly, poor quality and has a removable front panel instead of being part of the dashboard like the Swift and Ignis.
We find the car to be ideal for a retired couple, and exceptionally useful for carrying frail and elderly passengers due to its height, wide door apertures and easy to use controls.
It gives good visibility which does help drivers with slower reactions, and is the only car we could use when either of us are feeling ill, due to its ease of use.
It is basically a small MPV with very light controls, good seats, sensible fittings and it is perfect for our needs.
It is ideal for sight-seeing and shopping, visiting distant relatives, and taking out grandchildren. It works very well being the only car in the household once retired, due to its excellent versatility and carrying capacity when needed. It's like having an estate that does 45mpg and is as easy to park as a Mini.
We have found that Wagon R owners are a loyal breed, as many seem to be on their second or third one!
It is an all round better package than the identical Vauxhall/Opel Agila, but Suzuki insist on 9000 service intervals, rather than Opel's 20,000 intervals for the identical car, which increases the running costs. Services are carried out efficiently by the excellent dealers, with the car cleaned before being returned.
It is not an enthusiasts car, more of a workhorse for people uninterested by cars, that care little for fashion. It is most endearing as such, and feels like it was designed by a wise old woman, to be useful rather than ornate; to give good service without fuss. It is not an obvious choice when looking at "normal cars" but an obvious choice the second time around.
They do grow on you, and the only reason that we defected to Kia was because we need air conditioning, which was included on the Picanto, but an £1100 dealer fit option on the 1.3 Wagon R at the time. When the 1.2 was launched with standard air con, we were delighted to be able to afford one again.
If you are considering buying one, stop another Wagon R owner and speak to them; they all seem to adore them!
The style, number of seats, engine and gearbox combination has altered over the last 7 years, but I do find the current 1.2 is the very best to date, now having the most suitable power plant with more power at lower revs.
NB. The dealers are horrified that it is no longer available with an automatic transmission, as they are losing many sales to disabled customers. Nearly new 1.3 VVT autos are highly sought after because of this.
We have never gone to the expense of having an automatic, as the Wagon R controls are so light. In particular, the 1.2 has a finger-light gearbox and feather-light clutch, which is usable even if you suffer pain through poor health.
We really can recommend it very highly indeed. Unlike so many things, the whole design is founded on common sense.