There’s no textbook definition of an ‘SUV’, but over the years, the term has been watered down from one used to describe rugged vehicles with some off-road ability to one that encompasses any vehicle that at the very least looks the part. With its upright design, relatively high ground clearance and elevated seating position, the Maruti Suzuki S-Presso has some of the elements that you’d associate with the latest vehicles of the type. Even so, to think of the pint-sized S-Presso as a ‘mini-SUV’ (as Maruti Suzuki calls it), is a bit of a stretch.
With that out of the way, let’s switch focus from what the S-Presso isn’t to what it is. The S-Presso is Maruti’s latest budget model and one that’s aimed squarely at the ‘SUV-inspired’ Renault Kwid, itself fresh from a facelift. Built on Suzuki’s latest-gen Heartect platform, the S-Presso is far removed from older models like the Alto and Alto K10 that it will complement in Maruti’s line-up. There’s only one engine on offer – a BS6 version of the 1.0-litre K10 petrol engine – but buyers do get the option of manual and AMT auto gearboxes.
What’s it like on the outside?
Design and styling is a subjective matter but the S-Presso’s appearance really is an acquired taste. The upright pillars and relatively high-set bonnet give the Maruti a somewhat SUV-like silhouette but the overall proportions are off. Measuring 3,565mm long, 1,520mm wide and 1,549mm tall, the S-Presso appears too narrow for its height. Think first-gen Mahindra Scorpio and you’ll get the idea.
Maruti and Suzuki’s designers have tried to give the S-Presso’s front end some visual mass with chunky cladding on the lower portion of the bumper, and it does work to an extent. Some will also see a link to the latest-gen Jimny in the S-Presso’s toothy grille that is flanked by angular headlights. Do note, the chrome embellishments on the grille of the car pictured here are paid accessories, as are the LED daytime-running lights lower down on the bumpers. There are a lot more ways you can spruce up the S-Presso’s look and we’d recommend you consider the optional wheel arch and side cladding (not pictured here) that do a lot for the look. And if you don’t mind splurging, there’s the option of machined alloy wheels too. The standard 14-inch wheels not only look boring but are also a size too small amidst the large squared-out arches.
The S-Presso’s sides are pretty featureless and there’s nothing particularly remarkable about the tail either. The tail-lights are simple in look but once again, you’ll find plenty of cladding at the rear bumper. A roof spoiler and skid plates are options for S-Presso buyers looking to do up their cars.
What’s it like on the inside?
Like its exterior, the S-Presso’s interior might also divide opinion. And that’s partly down to the centre-stacked instrument cluster. The speedometer doesn’t sit in the conventional position behind the steering wheel but takes pride of place at the top of the very Mini-like circular centre console. Then again, the position of the instruments is something you get used to. The big font of the digital speedometer makes it easy to read but the odometer isn’t quite as legible and there’s no tachometer.
The circular centre console is also home to the infotainment system. Top-spec models feature Maruti’s latest SmartPlay Studio unit that comprises a 7.0-inch touchscreen. The screen is responsive, the menus are well laid out and the system also gets you Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Lower down are the knobs and buttons for the AC and heater.
If you aren’t too fussy about the position of the speedometer, you’ll actually have much to like about the S-Presso’s interior. The dashboard is smart and elements like the body-coloured embellishments around the centre console and side air-con vents do much to uplift the look. Cabin quality is also impressive by class standards. Of course, there are no soft-touch plastics in here but material quality is good, fit and finish is consistent and the textured surfaces on the dash also work well. The steering is also good to hold.
And there’s more good news. The S-Presso’s interior feels airy and that’s not something you can say about the cabins of most budget cars. The high roof and large glass area help the impression of space. The front seats, with their single-piece backrests, also score well on comfort and those of average height will like the view from the high-set seats. However, taller drivers will find themselves sitting a touch too high (expectedly, there’s no seat-height adjust) with a less than ideal view of the road. Larger headrests would also be part of our wish list.
The small, fixed rear headrests are a point of contention at the back too, but otherwise the rear- seat experience is surprisingly good. Even 6ft tall occupants will find headroom sufficient and kneeroom ample at the back. That there’s enough space to tuck your feet under the front seats also aids comfort. The flat seat is also more supportive than it looks but it works best for two occupants; the cabin isn’t wide enough to seat three abreast in comfort. What’s missing at the back is a fold-down centre armrest, a feature you get on the Kwid Climber.
There's only a single bottle holder at the back and rear passengers will find themselves passing on items to those seated up front where there’s a bottle holder on each of the front doors, two cupholders, and even a shelf above the useable glovebox. There is plenty of room for luggage with the S-Presso’s boot seeming larger than its 240-litre capacity would suggest. The high lip and low boot floor make loading heavy luggage a bit of a task but you’ll be quite pleased with how much you can fit into the back. The rear seat backrest also folds should you need more space.
What features does it get?
The Maruti S-Presso is available in four trims, with the AMT auto only offered in the top two. Standard safety kit includes ABS, a driver side airbag, speed warning system, seat belt reminder and rear parking sensors. A passenger side airbag is available as a Rs 5,000 option on the STD, LXi and VXi trims and is part of the package on top-spec VXi+ versions.
The STD version is absolutely basic and misses out on modern-day essentials like air conditioning and power steering. The LXi trim gets these features and little else. VXi trim cars get body-coloured bumpers, larger 14-inch rims, central locking, front power windows and an audio system with Bluetooth connectivity. A 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, class-first steering-mounted audio controls and internally adjustable wing mirrors are features exclusive to the VXi+ trim featured here. What’s missing are power windows at the back and reverse camera.
What’s it like to drive?
The 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine is easily one of the highlights of the new Maruti. Sure, its 68hp and 90Nm figure are only par for the course for this class of car, but the engine is easily the best among budget cars. For starters, the 1.0-litre engine runs really quiet. The K10 engine was refined to begin with and the hardware upgrades required for BS6 emission norms have only enhanced this. Idle is silent, and even on the move, you don’t hear all that much from the engine bay. The engine does get vocal when revved hard but that three-cylinder thrum is well contained here.
Performance is also good. Power delivery is smooth and the rev range is free from flat spots. The engine is also impressively tractable pulling cleanly from low revs even in a higher gear. That you don’t have to work the gearbox to get to the best of the engine makes the whole experience very user-friendly. The S-Presso builds speed with ease and you won’t have any trouble in typical urban environs.
The S-Presso’s standard-fit 5-speed manual gearbox is also really nice to use. Gearshifts don’t need much effort and even the clutch is well weighted and easy to modulate. What also came as a pleasant surprise was the smoothness of the 5-speed AMT auto. To know how much AMT autos have evolved, you really need to have a go in the S-Presso. Gearshifts are timely and smooth, and the AMT-typical pause between shifts is also much shorter here. It responds well to throttle inputs but for a quick overtake you’ll need to mash down on the throttle for the system to grant you the necessary downshift. Or you could just take manual control of gearshifts. In manual mode, gearshifts are quick and borderline fun too.
The S-Presso is an easy car to drive. The tight turning circle is a boon and the steering is also friendly. The lack of adequate self-centering at low speeds, a trait of all newer Marutis, remains a sore point but the steering is light and easy to twirl. In town, you’ll also appreciate the S-Presso’s impressive low-speed bump absorption and the 180mm of ground clearance also comes handy. There is a hint of firmness in the suspension setup but this becomes more pronounced the quicker you go.
At highway speeds, the suspension can’t smoothen out surface imperfections so there’s always a bit of up-down movement. You do get a reasonable feeling of connect at the steering wheel and straightline stability is fine, but the tall S-Presso doesn’t feel comfortable with sudden changes in direction. That the car weighs all of 760kg is a fact that’s sure to play on many people’s minds too.
Should I buy one?
The Maruti S-Presso is not a looker and you won’t be alone if you pass over it solely on the basis of its appearance. However, see the S-Presso for its merits and you’ll realise the list of positives is a long one. It’s got a relatively roomy cabin, it’s well equipped, it’s easy to drive and performance is good too. There’s also the promise of excellent fuel economy with the manual and AMT auto rated with an ARAI figure of 21.7kpl.
Prices for the S-Presso range from Rs 3.69-4.91 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), putting it in the same price bracket as the Renault Kwid. As things stand, you’d do well to give the S-Presso a long, hard look. Just don't think of it as an SUV.