Maruti Suzuki S-Presso First Drive Review
Maruti Suzuki says that with the new S-Presso, they have brewed a new segment - the Mini SUV. And with the SUV craze showing no signs of abating, they just might have come up with what many first time buyers were hoping for. Of course the Renault Kwid (its face lifted version was introduced a day after the launch of the S-Presso) has been around for a while and a large part of its success has been attributed to its SUV inspired styling.
And though it looks the part, it's actually a hatch with somewhat SUV like styling and this is where the new Maruti Suzuki S-Presso differs from it. Because it was conceived of (remember the Future S concept displayed at Auto Expo 2018) as an SUV right from the very beginning, and this is apparent in its design.
A SUV body-style vehicle this small, is still rare and a novelty. But if the S-Presso succeeds like I think it will, it might well be the first of several entry level mini SUVs. The tall S-Presso has an elevated stance and a high and straight front and dual split bumpers (top portion being body coloured in the VXi) both in the front and rear.
The taillights stretch out into the fenders to give an impression of width and are located far above the ground to emphasize the S-Presso's soaring stance. The sides are flat with prominent square shaped wheel arches and side body cladding that along with the raised door sills and high ground clearance (180 mm unladen), ensures that the S-Presso has bona fide SUV design elements.
While the styling maybe completely SUV, the proportions are not, and being so small means the S-Presso does not have the dominating presence many look for in SUVs. It's like someone trying to rise up to match the naturally tall basketball legend Shawn Bradley, by wearing high heeled shoes! It can give you height, but not the stature.
While driving the S-Presso near Jodhpur, it stirred a lot of interest and triggered of several conversations with locals. More than a few people came up to me and inquired if it was a new small Mahindra. Yes, the styling can make the S-Presso look slightly similar to some Mahindra SUVs, and few even thought it was a new mini version of the Brezza. Having spoken to these locals who were very enthusiastic about it, I have a feeling that the S-Presso is sure to do well in rural parts of India and Tier 2 and 3 cities.
But personally I am not a big fan of the Maruti S-Presso's styling. Though the higher end variants have 14 inch wheels, there is still a lot of empty space between the tyres and wheel arches and the high stance without the proportionate width to match, makes the S-Presso appear ungainly, especially when viewed from the rear. The S-Presso actually seems like its standing on stilts and in my opinion, it will look a lot better if it's lowered and fitted with fatter wheels and tyres. As a matter of fact, I would not be surprised if aftermarket players offer such modifications soon.
The two most striking things about the passenger compartment are the space and the dash. The S-Presso is just 3565 mm long, 1520 mm wide and 1564 mm tall. Normally most vehicles are wider than they are taller, but that is not the case with the S-Presso. And despite the overall small dimensions and tiny footprint, the designers have used the height and their skills, to generate appreciable room. As is to be expected, the headroom is of course excellent, but the legroom and shoulder room, both at the front and rear is also fairly good, as is the boot space.
The most noticeable thing about the dashboard is that the area immediately in front of the steering wheel is vacant, and the instrument cluster is situated in the center of the dash. Two body coloured (in VXi variant) semi-circle garnish rings that are almost the size of the steering surround it, and draw your attention, while also casting a slightly distracting reflection on the windscreen. These rings are clearly inspired by the dashboard of the Mini and the round a/c vents at the extreme ends of the dash also have body coloured rings that complement the ones in the center.
The digital instrument cluster is easy to read, but I am not quite sure how people will react to having it in the center, instead of in front of them. And it only has a speedo and no rpm meter. To its credit, the center console is trendy and visually quite likeable. All controls are easy to reach and operate and the front power window buttons are smartly placed on each side of the hazard light switch just below the digital display, but there are no power windows on the rear.
The high seating and upright A-pillars give a very good view of the outside with the ends of the bonnet also being visible. But the steering, which is not height adjustable, may feel a bit low set to some taller drivers. The high stance makes ingress and egress easy and the S-Presso has an acceptable amount of cavities and storage spaces. The cavity above the glove box is nicely shaped and is the ideal location for your cell-phones, sunglasses, etc. There are door pockets with bottle holders in the front, however none at the back. The front and back door armrests do have a small cavity, but I would not want to keep anything valuable there because it could drop out while opening or closing the door.
The seat fabric and trim is nice and the quality of materials and fit and finish is honestly above expectations. The Maruti Suzuki S-Presso offers first in its class steering mounted audio and voice controls and has a graphic user interface, compatible with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and other Smartplay Studio Apps.
Built on Suzuki's 5th Generation HEARTECT platform, the S-Presso meets all the latest Indian crash safety regulation and also comes equipped with dual airbags, ABS with EBD, seat belts with pre-tensioners, seat belt reminder, high speed warning alert and reverse parking sensors, etc. But Maruti has kept certain parts like the LED DRLs and alloy wheels as dealer fitments, to make the sticker price more attractive. While no fog lights are available, the DRLs are surprisingly bright, but obviously cannot be a replacement for fog lights.
Engine and Transmission
The S-Presso is powered by the proven 1.0 litre petrol, K10B engine, which is now also BS6 compliant. It produces 68 PS and 90 Nm of torque and the S-Presso comes with a manual gearbox or one with Maruti's AGS (Auto Gear Shift) option. The manual like most Maruti gearboxes has a light and user friendly shifter and the AGS is quick to respond while downshifting.
Push the pedal to the floor and the AGS drops not just one, but even two gears if required, to give you instant acceleration. But the upshifts although well timed, do get your head nodding and you can actually feel the time lapse between gearshifts, making you wish they were faster and smoother.
The S-Presso is peppy with the little engine being energetic and rev happy. But like many small engines it too is a bit vocal, especially while being revved hard. Although we were not able to do our proper fuel efficiency test, the claimed mileage of 21.4 and 21.7 kpl (for VXi with bigger wheels and tyres) appears to be quite satisfying. The steering is light and the nimble S-Presso also has one of the shortest turning circles of only 4.5 metres.
Our test drive route from Jodhpur to Khimsar on a well paved and largely traffic free highway was more or less straight, and one often had the opportunity to push the little Maruti Suzuki S-Presso to its limit. I found the braking to be really impressive and it's remarkable how stable the S-Presso is even when you brake really hard or come to an emergency halt.
There is no shifting of line or any of the massive diving you expect in a high sprung vehicle. But the light steering does feel vague at speeds and thanks to the ground clearance, not only is the cg (centre of gravity) higher, but a lot of air also gets under the S-Presso making it feel slightly floaty at speed. It's not disconcerting or anything, but you definitely do notice this floatiness. However to be fair to the Maruti-S-Presso, it's not the kind of vehicle you drive flat-out. It's just that the test-drive route was such, that one could not resist it.
The Maruti Suzuki S-Presso could very well become the flag bearer of "Mini SUVs" and might just usher in more vehicles into this new segment. Launched at an introductory price of Rs 3.69 lakh, for once a Maruti vehicle appears more expensive than its immediate rival the Renault Kwid, which starts at 2.93 lakhs. But the S-Presso has all the makings of a 'good brew' and I think many will develop a taste and liking for it. Particularly those who cannot afford to buy a proper mid or full size SUV.
Also see: Maruti Suzuki S-Presso | First Drive
Photography - Ram Shrikhande
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