An entry-level hatchback from Maruti Suzuki is inherently big news, after all these sub-compact Marutis are known for absolutely dominating sales charts. But this new S-Presso enters the space of the highly successful Alto K10. We hit the road to find out if it has what it takes to stand shoulder to shoulder with the K10.
4 years ago when the Renault Kwid hit the market it grabbed attention with its crossover styling that gave it more road presence than other entry-level hatchbacks. Its styling was in fact at the core of its success. Of course it did also help that the Kwid was a very spacious car on the inside and brought with it the novelty of a touch-screen infotainment system, something that was unheard of in an 800cc car!
4 years later here we are with the Maruti Suzuki S-Presso, a car that is aiming straight for the Kwid! It’s got tall design lines to give it more road presence than a traditional hatchback, a consequence of which is a spacious cabin in terms of headroom, it’s also wide enough to appear proportionate and hence has a good amount of shoulder room for occupants. And surprise of surprises, it has a touchscreen infotainment system too! You get the drift.
Research says that design is the single biggest influencing factor when it comes to a new car purchase. And while design is a matter of personal taste, the S-Presso’s design has raised some eyebrows. It looks fairly basic on the face of it and even a little agrarian from certain angles. But Maruti Suzuki has an ace up its sleeve, for it has numerous customisation options for the S-Presso that allows you to pick from not just individual interior and exterior accessories but also full accessory packs that will set you back a relatively affordable Rs. 26,490 while dual tone alloy wheels are also on offer for an additional Rs. 5,590 per piece. So trick out your S-Presso with exterior body cladding, exterior and interior colour trim inserts, seat covers and alloy wheels from the numerous options available and what you end up with is a car that will definitely stand out on the road. It’s worth noting that our Pearl Starry Blue test car was fitted with a few accessories that included LED DRLs, front grill chrome garnish and a rear tail gate plastic garnish, all of which are available at a packaged price of Rs. 11,990.
Step into the S-Presso and you are greeted by a fairly basic all-black interior. On the upside, the plastic quality and seats are on the money. Although, I do have to say that the interiors of the more affordable Alto K10 is definitely more upmarket in terms of appearance and plastic quality. Nevertheless, this top-end VXi+ model comes fitted with remote central locking, front power windows and Maruti Suzuki’s SmartPlay Studio infotainment that offers a raft of smartphone connectivity features that makes it feel very premium for this segment. There is no reverse camera here though, but do bear in mind that this is a price sensitive entry-level hatchback. What cannot be overlooked however is the lack of a central lock/unlock button. The S-Presso has speed sensitive automatic door locking which is good, but until you pull out the key from the ignition the doors will not unlock. Of course, you can unlock the cars via the door lock switches on the door pads, but they are quite fiddly to operate.
When it comes to cabin space though this car simply impresses, even with tall front seat occupants, there is just so much rear seat legroom that you can literally stretch your legs out. The rear seat bench is long and the seat is high so you get plenty of under thigh support while the back rest has very decent lower back support. The rear seat head rests though are disappointing as they are tiny and offer no support whatsoever.
Gem of an engine
Like all cars, the S-Presso too has drawbacks as I have mentioned above. But to me personally, all of that is written off by its engine. Suzuki’s K10B petrol engine is a gem of a motor, its all-aluminium head and block construction makes it light and fuel efficient. And it absolutely loves to rev! On paper it develops 67bhp of max power @ 5,500rpm and 90Nm of peak torque @ 3,500rpm. But it’s the real world driveability of this engine that impresses. Right from the get go there is enough power and no matter what gear you are driving in, throttle response is always immediate. Step on it and this engine feels very entertaining in the way it revs and as you head higher up the rev range, and you do get an inspiring soundtrack as well. While the S-Presso does not have a rev counter, cars like the K10 and Celerio that are powered by this engine rev past the 6,000rpm while the engine continues to punch with all its might, it’s a very very entertaining and rewarding engine this! So much so that is makes the manual S-Presso a whole lot of fun to drive! Just like any other car powered by this engine.
The AMT model meanwhile brings the comfort and convenience of an automatic transmission to the party without sacrificing on fuel efficiency. Both manual and automatic models of the S-Presso have a claimed efficiency figure of 21.7km/l. Now the AMT in the S-Presso did feel a little jerky during upshifts and downshifts compared to the Alto K10 which has the same powertrain. But I have had a long term AMT Ignis in the past and the way to live with this system is to gently lift off and get on the throttle (like you do in a manual car) every time you want an upshift and the gearbox will give you a seamless upshift. So it’s a matter of getting used to an AMT and once you learn to live with it, the benefits of fuel efficiency over other automatics and the lower price differential will make you smile every time. This AMT transmission otherwise is on the money when it comes to driveability as it holds the right gears, always allows for instant part-throttle acceleration and kick down acceleration is fairly decent as well.
New chassis talk
The S-Presso is built on a new Heartect K platform which is derived from Suzuki’s Kei cars in Japan. But Maruti Suzuki has had to heavily rework it to make it longer and accommodate the spare wheel compartment while the taller ride height has also required Maruti to put in some work. On the whole, this chassis feels is really good, it feels well balanced and fairly rigid as it allows you to carry some serious speeds around bends. I say this because we have driven this car on a race track as well and beyond the body roll generated by the tall springs, there is a very good amount of grip and stability for a car with 165/40 profile tyres. Out on the road, straight line stability is great, you do feel some amount of body roll around high speed bends, but on the whole the car feels well balanced and confident to drive. Fortunately or unfortunately I haven’t encountered a single pothole while driving the S-Presso (very strange for Indian roads but Rajasthan does have brilliant roads) so I will refrain from commenting on its ride comfort at this point. Although, the ride did feel a little firm over speed breakers.
Another sales blockbuster?
On the face of it, the S-Presso’s styling may not appeal to everyone, but those affordable accessories really help spruce it up. And once you get past its looks, what you have is a really capable hatchback that is very practical with its incredibly spacious cabin and high ground clearance. Equipment is limited but you get a very contemporary infotainment system. And once you drive it, there is simply no going back. No other car in this segment has such a good engine! Go for the manual model and you will truly enjoy driving it. Go for the automatic model and you’ll love its convenience, affordability and fuel efficiency. And this being a Maruti Suzuki, it’s needless to say that it’s going to be reliable till the end of time and will be very affordable to run and own as well.
- Maruti Suzuki S-Presso MT/AMT
Engine: 998cc / 3-Cylinders / 12 valves / SOHC
Transmission: Front Wheel Drive - 5-Speed Manual/ AMT
Power: 67bhp @ 5,500rpm
Torque: 90Nm @ 3,500rpm
X-factor: Affordable customisation options can trick out the car.
Also read - Maruti Suzuki S-Presso launched at Rs 3.69 lakh