The much-hyped micro SUV by India’s largest auto manufacturer is finally here, and after a thorough trial of both the manual and the Auto gear shift model, it’s fair to say to that it most certainly isn’t for those seeking SUV like excitement at a hatchback like cost.
Among the various comparisons on its looks, the Maruti Suzuki S-Presso isn’t very different from the car it’s been targeted at – the Renault Kwid. So the main question is if will be able to help the company achieve the kind of sales numbers Marutis are known for, and in doing so re-elevate the otherwise dropping segment in the market. That being said, the S-Presso brings the same appeal that the WagonR once did, and given that it’s also priced in the similar range of 3.5 to 4.9 lakh ex-showroom, means that it might strike a note with such buyers as well.
Design and styling
To put it simply, design and styling aren’t one of its strengths and let’s understand why. The car looks very rural and quite incomplete in a lot of respects. It doesn’t look like it was designed for 2019-20 and with high ground clearance and petite wheel size of 13 inches, looks somewhat oddly shaped. Its polygonal wheel arches with exaggerated “wheel wells” cause a visual gap making the wheel rims appear smaller than they are. Only the top-end model VXi+ gets 14-inch wheels, and for that too, buyers have to pay extra. The wheel well has no cladding, and that’s just sad given that the company is selling the S-Presso as an SUV in the entry-level segment.
There’s a complete absence of any side lines or character in the surfaces, and it makes the car look very plain from either side. The only excitement can be seen in the front facia with the grill, the headlamps and the tall chunky two-tone bumpers. Daytime running lights come as an option and they too have to be paid for separately. Buyers can opt for an aluminium skidplate which does some justice to the car, giving it a slightly more macho vibe. The rear bumper could have been at least as chunky and wide as the front bumper to provide a visual connect between the front and rear ends of the car.
The boot provides 240 litres of space with the parcel tray folded up and 270 litres with it removed. The car doesn’t come with any distinctive badging between variants – not even for the Auto gear shift variant. The car is available in two body kit options named Energetic and Expedition, and they’re the only way one gets to add some style to its otherwise plain-Jane attire. Despite the not so exciting looks, the S-Presso will somehow make you attached and the fact that it’s supposed to be an upgrade to the likes of Alto will certainly prove an advantage.
Drive and Handling
Moving on to important things – Drive and User experience. Given the visuals, one can certainly not think much of the experience, but this is where I must remember to not judge books by their covers. The S-Presso makes up for almost all of the visual lacking, in drive quality and passenger experience. Despite the small and thin tyres, it provides for a surprising amount of passenger comfort and the manoeuvrability is quick and agile. It happily crosses the triple-digit barrier and still doesn’t break much of a sweat – as if it’s been built to do so regularly and with quite some ease. It is at highway speeds that it begins to feel like an SUV among small hatches. The seating position provides an ample view all around, and the tall windows give it an open, airy greenhouse. The steering is unlike regular Marutis – firm and stable, and has surprising responsiveness when put to the test.
Performance and Efficiency
The engine is a 67 bhp 90 Nm producing K10B series unit and frankly could have had better damping. Gearshifts are smoother, both in manual and the automatic variants and will try and make up for the engine noise discomfort.
The company claims a mileage of 21 km and at just 726 kgs, one might think it’s possible for the S-Presso to be that efficient in terms of fuel consumption.
Safety and Infotainment
The car comes with ABS and driver airbags with the option of dual front airbags and seat belt pre-tensioners. The digital instrument cluster is on top of the central console and isn’t very distracting, though very obviously inspired from the car that the S-Presso plans on challenging. Power window buttons are only available for the front windows even in the top variant. The Display is controlled via buttons and joystick but lacks a touchscreen interface in the top-spec car too. One, however, gets a smart play dock and connectivity for both apple and android phones. The USB inputs in the smart play studio feature and a 12V power outlet are tiny reliefs.
What most people would prefer, as is with us Indians, is to buy a base variant, and then have it upgraded at their local aftermarket accessory shop. The Maruti S-presso will likely challenge Kwid sales and even threaten them slightly, and the drive quality, air conditioning and the added ground clearance are sure to be tiebreakers.