Maruti Suzuki S-Presso - First drive review. Drives better than it looks?
Maruti Suzuki is king of the small car market, there’s no doubt about that. But with the recent slow down in the automobile industry, even the country’s largest and most successful car maker has been felt the pinch. The all-new S-Presso is its attempt to revive its fortunes and enter a segment where the Renault Kwid has enjoyed much success since its launch.
Design of the S-Presso
Visually, the S-Presso is distinctive but not attractive, to my eyes at least. Sure, the bright colours on offer make it stand and grab plenty of attention on the road, as we experienced on our drive in Jodhpur. But it’s not what you would call a particularly good looking car. The ‘mini-SUV’ styling as Maruti is calling it, feels a bit too boxy as an overall design. The grill and squared-off headlamps dominate the front, while the DRLs are well integrated in the bumper, giving the car a modern looking face. Viewed in profile, it is clear that Maruti’s designers have tried to ape a tall SUV stance for this hatchback. The S-Presso’s proportions are similar to those of their original tall boy, the Wagon-R with touches that hark back to old-school, flat-fendered vehicles. The rear is a bit flat, with not too many styling or design elements that make it stand out. A noticeable miss are any sort of LEDs, either on the front or the rear of the car, making it look rather basic.
Interiors of the S-Presso
There is good news, because things get much better once you enter the cabin. The insides look very modern and the dash is dominated by the centre console, which gets a centrally stacked digital instrument console, which Maruti says is inspired by ‘sports digital watches’. It design is properly funky, going well with the overall youthful vibe that the S-Presso offers. Like the competition, it uses hard plastics throughout its interior, although it has a typical Maruti built-to-last feel about it. Fit and finish is good too, with most panel gaps being consistent. The overall style feels aspirational too. Maruti has tried to maintain a level of quirkiness inside, with a smart infotainment system, which houses Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with Suzuki’s own app. The system itself is easy and intuitive to use. It also gets a driver airbag as standard, while higher variants get passenger airbag too.
Rear seat passengers will appreciate the space at the back, with enough leg room and nice supportive seats which offer a good view of the road ahead, something that will be particularly useful on long journeys. The boot space too is great for a car it’s size.
How the S-Spresso drives
The S-Presso does one very important thing which customers in this class are looking for — it has a commanding driving position. Though we didn’t drive it within the city too much, the brief stint we had to get out of Jodhpur city and towards the highway, the S-Presso felt very easy to drive in the environment most users would spend most of their time in. We drove the AMT (or AGS) version which has the same 5-speed gearbox seen in other Maruti Suzukis. It does have improved refinement and smoother shifts, which was especially evident at lower speeds. The S-Presso powered by the familiar 1-litre K-Series engine present on the Alto K10 and one that we are familiar with. It gets better refinement on the S-Presso, while making the same 68bhp it does on the other models. It is also BS6 compliant, something it’s rivals are still not. Like many new-age Maruti Suzukis, the S-Presso boasts a fairly involving driving feel, the gear are well ratioed with the engine and things feel in sync with the car's acceleration in most situations. Just lift off the throttle when it’s about to shift up and you'll barely know it’s an AMT, the transmission smoothly changing gears as the car builds speed.
Out on the open highway this engine gearbox combination works well, giving the S-Presso decent straight line performance, able to maintain triple digit speeds on the highway, even with three of us plus all our luggage in the car. This could be down to its low kerb weight of around 740 kilograms, though this might impact the the athleticism of the S-Presso when shown a set of corners. Unfortunately, our route didn’t have too many corners, so we will leave that judgment down to a proper road test or comparison with the Kwid. The S-Presso rides slightly firmer than most Maruti Suzuki small cars at lower speeds. As speed builds up, this stiffer suspension set up gives you confidence at highway speeds, and provides good body control while switching lanes with a fairly comfortable ride. The steering is not very communicative, but it doesn't have anything interesting to talk about in any case, considering it’s not a car aimed at being driven enthusiastically. What could have better is the isolation from wind and road noise, a lot of which creeps into the cabin. One major area where the S-Presso could use some improvement is the way it stops. You really need to hard on the pedal to get it to a standstill, not something you want to do running on skinny 14 inch wheels and tyres.
Our brief drive with the S-Presso in Jodhpur had great roads, with very few undulations, where the S-Presso did a good job. We will need to drive it more within the city and on slightly more urban roads to get a proper idea of what it’s like to live with the S-Presso. Our first impression of the car, however, are very positive, aside from the questionable looks. But there is a good chance that this ‘mini SUV’ could well be another hit little car from the Maruti Suzuki stable, in our market that is currently raging for SUVs and cars that are styled to look like SUVs. This is as close as Maruti Suzuki has come to having a car that can rival the Kwid and take it head on in terms of price and features, along with a decent driving experience too. Launched at a competitive price of Rs 3.69 lakhs ex showroom for the base model and Rs 4.91 lakh for this top end AGS model, it is very good value for money too.
The car market in India has matured over the past few years. We no longer appreciate cars that are below ordinary and our definition of an ordinary car today is vastly better than an ordinary car from few years ago. Maruti Suzuki knows this all too well and with the S-Presso, they recognise the reality that even entry level cars today exists on a higher plane.