Everyone and their pet parrot seems to want an SUV/Crossover-looking thingy these days and Suzuki is happy to comply even in the teeniest segment, the city car class. Suzuki has good form in the SUV market from the Samurai, Vitara nad XL7 of the past to the Current Kei cars such as Hustler and X Bee, and the giant-killer, the mighty little Jimny.
Yet, one could say it was awakened into this segment of cheap-as-chips crossover City car due to an unexpected interloper brand into the Indian market where Maruti Suzuki traditionally was king - the Renault Kwid. The Kwid enjoyed a sales bonanza in Sri Lanka as well, becoming a market favourite for its wannabe-tough looks and equipment on offer for the price. With the Kwid going even more all-in the SUV look for 2020, facelifted and called the Kwid Climber, Suzuki decided to get into the ring and start pulling punches! Always fun when the city car wars ensue!
This is the result – the S-Presso. I was intrigued by the name. Is it inspired by coffee, which the young and upwardly-mobile Indian seems to enjoy so much nowadays if we are to believe the ads on cable TV? Could be…
AMW, who are the agents for Suzuki, Nissan and Renault as well kindly sent us this S-Presso to test out, so pour yourself your choice of cuppa, sit back and read (or flip through our digimag) this review if you are intrigued…
I must say, the first time I saw the S-Presso it was on a Christmas give-away ad for a new Mall in Colombo. Shorn of any badges, and in a rather eye blistering hue of blue, the high-nostrilled car honestly made me think it was the work of some local photoshop artist trying out a concept. But nay, it’s a true car and I must say it’s a bit less in-your-face on the eye, in the metal.
Even with the cheery bright red of our test car, the first thing that does strike you are those high set nostril vents just grazing the lip of the bonnet. This car had them in black thankfully, rather than the silver of some other specs, which made them a bit more tolerable in my opinion – those who love silver and chrome garnishing will like it.
Suzuki seem to have gotten good at taking the styling cues of popular full-size SUVs and shrinking them to fit the Japanese Kei and small car segments – just look at the G-Klasse-esque Jimny, the Hustler which has Hummer cues and now this S-Presso which seems to have been inspired by a Jeep Compass in some areas. Side on, the profile is compact, stocky and damn cute, with the shortest of over hangs. Even the hub caps of this car are pretty stylish. The rear lights are pretty high set and standard and do have a hint Kwid about them. The SUV look aspirations are also assisted by a decent 180mm of ground clearance which is a characteristic of many Indian cars that allows them to just float on bad roads whilst many modern examples of Japanese and Euro metal with their low-slung looks and tarmac-kissing front bumpers suffer badly (along with their owners’ wallets).
Mech & Tech
Unlike the Japanese Kei cars with the ceiling specification of 660cc and 64bhp set by the segment guidelines, the Indian market where the S-Presso was birthed suffers from no such ceilings and as a result what we get here is Suzuki’s K10B three-cylinder engine, displacing a full litre – that’s 1,000cc for you, and putting out 68bhp at 5,500rpm and a maximum torque of 90Nm at 3,500rpm as it breathes naturally – no turbocharging in this segment. Those high-strung nostrils are actually functional as there is a slit above them to let air into the high-mounted air intake – a boon for when you get caught in flooded roads.
The power goes to the front wheels through the love-it-or-loathe-it AGS (Auto Gear Shift) which is a 5-speed manual box that has an automatic clutch and software to behave like a manual gearbox – you can select gears yourself a-la-tiptronic style, or leave it in ‘D’ and let the car do the work. More on that in the Driving Experience section.
Braking is via ventilated discs at the front with drums at the rear, suspension is MacPherson strut at the front and torsion beam layout at the rear, and the steering is an electrically assisted rack.
The driving seat is a high perch which allows great visibility and you can pick your way through the traffic mayhem with ease, positioning your S-Presso with precision and dancing around slow-moving, distracted drivers. The car’s low kerb weight of 760kg aids in helping every bit of that 68bhp make it move with brisk acceleration at city speeds, and since the maximum torque comes in at 3,500rpm, you need to rev the engine a bit.
However, the elephant in the room is that AGS gearbox which can sometimes be unpredictable, changing when you don’t expect it to. This is a characteristic of all AGS gearboxes as they are in effect manual gearboxes with an automatic clutch and software as mentioned in the previous section. You can take some control by slotting it into ‘M’ and using the shifter up-and-down to shift through the five ratios. A five-speed fully manual gearbox is also available and if you are adept at driving a manual gearbox I’d recommend it over the AGS. Funny enough, whilst Sri Lanka is a market which tends to eschew manual gearboxes, India on the other hand loves them! It is not uncommon to see new models introduced in India with only a manual gearbox, after which an automatic variant follows, or having the top tier trim level of a model offered only with a manual gearbox whilst the lower trims offer the automatic as an option.
On to ride and handling, the S-Presso rides fairly well for the class and has that typical Indian firm edge to the ride, given that it’s built to take on their roads which make ours seem like magic carpets in comparison. It wallows a bit in cornering at spirited speeds and the higher ride height tends to amplify this but this is under our testing conditions, areas which the average driver may probably never venture into. Still, we do it so that we can tell you how it would respond under such cases. The light kerbweight also adds to the ease of manoeuvring it in the city. It stops decently too, as the brakes are more than suitable for the task.
Living with the S-Presso
Entry level cars have certainly come a long way. It is no longer an area where designers tend to get lazy and slack off – in fact now they try to rival the exterior design! I think they have finally realised that even in a bargain basement car, the interior is the place where the user spends the bulk of the time! The large circular centre console in the S-Presso is clearly Mini-inspired, but as they say, if you are going to copy someone, copy with pride and it certainly works to uplift this interior and distract from the large swathes of plastic elsewhere which is par for the class. You can’t expect nappa leather and real wood trim here unless you want to add another zero to the price and buy a car from that segment. Thank God there’s no fake wood either, which was so popular with the Japanese in the nineties and early 2000s.
Modern tech helps with a centrally-mounted large colour screen handling infotainment and vehicle functions below the digital speedo and fuel cluster. Surprise, it’s got Android Auto and Apple Carplay too, showing that Suzuki clearly understands the priorities of their target segment. These features were the exclusive preserve of much more expensive cars just a few years ago! Bluetooth connectivity and charging ports round off the tech package. You also get front power windows and the efficient HVAC systems that Indians are renowned for making – and with 2020 shaping up to be yet another sweltering year, it’s a great benefit to have. Steering-mounted controls allow you to adjust the volume, change the channel or track, and take phone calls without your hands leaving the wheel.
Interior space is decent at the front and rear even for a six-footer like me and the seats are comfortable. The tall body also provides good headroom which vehicles from a segment or two above often overlook.
There’s plenty of space for your oddments with cupholders, bottle holders, front and rear console utility spaces, and a 270-litre boot complements these.
This was a segment that until not too long ago, didn’t really focus on this area. It’s a touchy topic so I shall not speak further about the past. Let’s look forwards at what the S-Presso offers. To start with, it’s built on Suzuki’s Heartect Platform that incorporates crash energy dissipating and crash absorbing structures to draw the energy from a crash away from the occupants. It’s also got airbags, ABS with EBD, reverse parking sensors, pedestrian protection and seat belt reminder. In its home market, it’s also got the compulsory warning buzzer that alerts periodically if the vehicle is travelling over 80km/h, and constantly if the speed exceeds 120km/h. This is a mandatory feature in India. There are no active safety features like auto braking, but given our chaotic traffic that causes many false readings, this may be more a boon than a bane.
Fuel Economy & Price
The rated fuel economy according to Suzuki is in the region of 21km/l (of course this is under their test conditions) but we expect it should do as well as any 1.0L K10-engined car in the city does. The benefit of an AGS is, that you don’t get the torque converter losses of a traditional automatic gearbox so it should be as good on fuel as a proper manual. It remains to be seen how it will fare in our market, but if it is like other Indian cars, should be a fuel-sipper.
Retailing at Rs. 3.425 million, the S-Presso is priced in a competitive segment, along with its major competitor the Kwid Climber which is also in the neighbourhood. It is also near the price of the Celerio and WagonR, as well as the myriad of Japanese grey-import Kei cars that offer much more electronic toys but no warranty or agent-backing. The S-Presso on the other hand comes with a five-year or 150,000km (whichever occurs first) warranty from AMW.
The S-Presso is made for specific target and that’s to lure those at the entry level who want SUV-looks and ground clearance but their budget only allows a city car. One would recommend the manual over the AGS auto but I’m told most new drivers won’t mind, in light of the convenience the auto offers in our traffic. Then again, if Indians can happily use a manual in their traffic which is aeons worse …maybe we are being a bit lazy!
Whilst the Kwid it must be said looks more striking in its tougher and more outdoorsy iteration, the S-Presso looks cutesy and characterful, much like a mini hippo to me. Definitely this is a car to consider if you want a practical and affordable little runabout, so head to AMW’s Borella showroom and check one out.
68bhp @ 5,500rpm
90Nm @ 3,500rpm
Four wheel drive
Front MacPherson Strut
Rear Torsion Beam
Front Vent. Disc
Wheels & Tyres
145/80R13 all round
0-100km/h in 14s
Top Speed 140km/h
Kerb Weight 760kg
Fuel Tank 27L
Boot Volume 270L