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Maruti Suzuki S-Presso First Drive Review

What is it?

Why I would buy it?

Space utilisation, light controls, ride quality

Why I would avoid it?

Oddball design, fails to justify the price premium

This is the S-Presso. It is Maruti Suzuki’s take on a mini-SUV. And it competes against the car that pioneered this class, the Renault Kwid. But, the S-Presso is smaller. It is more quirky. And, for some reason, it is also more expensive. 

Now, if you think the S-Presso seems vaguely familiar, it is because it is loosely based on the Future-S concept that Maruti had shown at the previous expo. The Future-S, well, looked futuristic. The S-Presso though looks awkward. 

It has a high stance, a boxy look, and exposed wheel arches. It has an odd-looking grille that gives it the impression of wearing braces. And well, it looks tiny and disproportionate. 

So, if you like your car small and quirky, and a bit unique, well, the S-Presso works. Otherwise, it is just acquired taste.

How is it on the inside?

Inside though, the S-Presso is way more impressive. Now, it is strictly a four-seater, given its narrow width and the resultant lack of interior shoulder room. But, the headroom is more than usable. And even the knee room is surprisingly good. What’s more, given the small dimensions of the S-Presso - it measures under 3.6 metres in length - it still has a pretty impressive boot. The boot is both big on capacity and with very few protrusions, it’s usable too. 

Now, in terms of design, the S-Presso’s interiors are certainly more palatable than its exterior. And the quality of plastic for the car’s price isn’t half bad either. Plus, with that round central instrumentation console, one can clearly tell how serious Maruti was about producing a ‘MINI’ SUV! Operability of switches and buttons have a positive ring to it. And, you won’t find traces of cost-cutting when it comes to fit and finish either. 

The S-Presso is also easy to get in and out of. Plus, the front seats offer good cushioning. These are large enough to support well-fed individuals. And, they are supportive enough in the right places - thigh and back - which makes it less tiring to spend long hours in them. 

The rear seat though is not as good. To start with, both the backrest and the seat bottom are small. Then the seatback is too upright. And the mock headrests are more like shoulder rests and are completely pointless. Overall comfort levels aren’t good either.

Now, we are driving the top-of-the-line VXI  Plus trim. And it comes with manual air conditioning, front only power windows, a touchscreen multimedia system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and usable cup and bottle holders up front. It also gets steering mounted controls for audio and Bluetooth telephony. What it lacks though is a lock-unlock button, a rear wash-wipe, and an interior rearview mirror with a day-night flick switch. 

How does it drive?

So, we aren’t 100 per cent sure about it, but the goal of the S-Presso seems to be to replace the Alto as one’s first car. Naturally then, it must deliver on bits that made the Alto so popular. First, it needs to be easy to drive. And it is. The steering is light, the clutch too doesn’t require too much muscle power, and its small dimensions and a tight turning circle make it easy to manoeuvre. 

It should also be easy to see out of making it easy to drive in congested spaces. But that’s lacking in the S-Presso. Given the high dashboard and the relatively narrow front windshield, the view upfront is limited. It seems like one is looking through a pair of thick rimmed square glasses. It’s the same story when you try and look through the rear windscreen.; there’s very little visibility when you want to park. 

Then, the C-Pillar is so thick, it could hide a double decker bus behind it particularly when you try and look behind before joining a main road. And we are talking about majority of the drivers buying the S-Presso being new to the driving game. Naturally, they will find this mini SUV a bit cumbersome as a result.

As far as driving goes, the S-Presso is powered by a one-litre three-cylinder engine. This tried and tested engine continues to make 67bhp of max power and 90 of peak torque. It is still naturally aspirated but now it is BS6 compliant. It comes mated to a five-speed manual gearbox and the option of an AMT. 

Performance-wise, the engine feels adequate for the car. The S-Presso feels peppy enough, it can get to 100kmph without a struggle, and one doesn’t have to rev the daylight out of the engine to make swift progress. Even on the highway, with just two people on board, overtaking isn’t a bother. It’s not instant, but it isn’t slow or sluggish either. But yes, if you do decide to rev the engine, it does sound tinny and unrefined. And, it’s a bit loud too. 

We do like the ride quality on the S-Presso. It rounds the bumps well; even if these are of the squarish variety. The suspension has enough travel to take on deep potholes. And the damping is well judged too. So much so that we took it on a bumpy dirt trail with four people on board and it still remained flat and absorbent. If anything, the amount of jiggle over a long section of broken or poorly laid road could have been better suppressed. 

The body movement on the S-Presso is acceptable too. The car’s tall stance and the relatively soft suspension means the occupants can feel the Maruti move around over undulating roads, and even around corners. But, it isn’t pronounced enough to make the passengers uncomfortable. What can make them uncomfortable, correction irritable, is poor sound insulation of the cabin. Even at 80kmph, one can hear everything that’s happening outside the car - road, wind, and engine noise, you name it and you can hear it. We would also have liked a more responsive and more communicative steering.

Should I buy one?

Maruti says the S-Presso will appeal to those who are looking for a unique looking car. A car that defies the regular design logic. And we couldn’t agree more because the S-Presso is without doubt an odd-looking car. 

But, it has other things going for it. The space management is excellent; as a four seater mind, not a five seater. It has good ride quality, agreeable handling, and a big and usable boot. Plus, it isn’t short on equipment; specific for its class, of course. 

It does have its flaws, nonetheless. The noise insulation needs improvement. It could do with brakes with a better bite. We would love to see usable headrests for the rear occupants. And, the steering, well, it is as slow as it is dead in feel. 

So, if you like the car’s design and are looking for a compact city runabout that’s comfortable and easy to manage, well the S-Presso fits the bill. 

Where does it fit in?

The S-Presso, like we said at the start, goes up against the Kwid. And spec-for-spec, the S-Presso is more expensive. However, it fails to justify the premium it demands, be it in terms of space or features or even design. 

The S-Presso also goes up against a bunch of other cars, some of which are from its own family. There’s the Alto 800, and the Datsun Go and RediGo. And on the more upmarket end, there’s also the Hyundai Santro and the Wagon R. 

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Maruti Suzuki S-Presso Price in India

CityOn-Road Prices
Mumbai₹ 4.35 Lakhs onwards
Bangalore₹ 4.41 Lakhs onwards
New Delhi₹ 4.07 Lakhs onwards
Pune₹ 4.34 Lakhs onwards
Hyderabad₹ 4.35 Lakhs onwards
Ahmedabad₹ 4.17 Lakhs onwards
Chennai₹ 4.31 Lakhs onwards
Kolkata₹ 4.19 Lakhs onwards
Chandigarh₹ 4.14 Lakhs onwards
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