I like unconventional cars, ones that try to break away from the usual set of wheels you and I are used to seeing on Indian roads. The Maruti S-Presso is one such product. Ever since it was launched a few days back, it has been the talk of the industy for a lot of reasons. Yes, the design is not what we would expect from a small car but then again, this is one topic that is very subjective. But all said and done, in flesh, this thing look better and I was more than eager to get behind the wheel while flying into Jodhpur from New Delhi.
As luck would have had it, we got the AGS to our disposal for a good two days and ended up covering almost 500km including a 170km fuel economy run that will be on our site (and Youtube channel) by 9th afternoon. Remember, prices for this one start at Rs 3.7 lac, going all the way to almost Rs 5 lac for the top end VXI+ AGS, the one you see here in the article – prices being ex-showroom, Delhi. Our first drive review is up in the video below : so you can either pick to watch or scroll down to read our opinion.
As I said above, looks are subjective. Maruti has played a gamble here in terms of the design but truth be told – in small towns, the S-Presso will set the charts on fire. On our route of Jodhpur-Khimsar-Jodhpur, the thumbs up and looks we got from other road users is a testimony to the same fact. Up front, the raised stance with a bold grille, square headlamps and black bumpers (no matter which variant you pick) are the talking point. The chrome on the front grille and the slim DRLs by the way are dealer add-ons. And though the raised stance lends 180mm of clearance, the side profile is a bit bland and could have done with side cladding.
Ditto for the rear of the S-Presso. Just because the front is rather imposing for a small car, the rear ends up looking incomplete. The top spec S-Presso rides on 165mm wide tyres on 14-inch wheels but given the height of the car and the amount of sheet metal, these do look thin for the vehicle. Talking of which, the S-Presso is a proper compact hatchback, with both length and width being less than that of the Kwid. However, its taller and that ends up liberating a lot of space on the inside.
Yes, the interiors are a highlight. Getting into the car is easy – the doors do open very wide and the seating is high. This is also a boon for short drivers as the driver’s seat does not get height adjustment, even for the highest variant. The speedometer console is off-set, in the sense that it is not placed in front of the steering wheel but in central part of the upper fascia. We first saw this in the likes of the Etios sedan and the Live hatchback. This in turn aids visibility as you have a clear view of the road above. Ergonomics are good too, with everything falling into place easily.
Practicality and space is good on the inside. That said, even the top spec version misses out on powered outside mirrors, a day/night internal mirror, a front arm-rest and adjustable head-rests. However, the audio quality of the infotainment system is good for the price and overall fit and finish upto the mark.
Like the front seats, getting into the back is easy too. You do sit high and even with the front seats positioned for 6 feet tall people, you have ample space at the back for similarly sized passengers. This is a big plus point but on the other hand, given the narrow cabin, space is best for 2 adults and a child. You do get a cup holder that is placed behind the brake lever and the parcel tray too is large, allowing you to make good use of it. The boot in the meantime has a usable capacity of 270 litres, which is up there with the best of the segment.
The S-Presso is offered with the same 1000cc, 3-cylinder engine that powers the Celerio, Wagon R and the Alto K10. It retains the same power and torque figures too, putting out 68 PS of power and 90 Nm of torque in the process. However, do remember, the S-Presso weighs less (its even lighter than the Alto 800) and Maruti has clearly tuned it towards offering a peppier drive. The reason why it has the lowest ARAI certified among its sibling – 21.7 kmpl to be precise. This small shortcoming takes a back seat the moment you start driving the car.
We had the AGS (auto gear shift) version with us for both the days and I couldn’t be happier. I have an Ignis AGS back home and the calibration on the S-Presso seemed spot on. The peppy motor, altered gearing and light weight meant I was all smiles the moment we left out hotel and headed into the heart of town. Low end punch is really good and this means you can potter around in traffic using part thottle inputs. The AGS unit upshifts quickly and the lag is really well controlled.
And when the road opens up, the AGS-motor combination makes the S-Presso a rather quick car on the move. The first three gears are good enough for 41, 75 and 112 on the speedometer by the way. And the manual mode allows you to upshift at an early stage as compared to the auto mode – this isnt the case with the Ignis for exmample. Doing so does reward you with good economy figures but the downside is that at lower revs, there is a pronounced boom inside the cabin.
I also like the way the S-Presso rides. Suspension works really well to absorb bad roads but the flipside is the amount of body roll in there. The soft suspension does nothing to keep horizontal movements in check and at higher speed, even changing lanes requires a lot of confidence in the driver. It isnt as bad as I sound, but drivers will need to understand this is a tall vehicle with a softish suspension set-up.
At a starting price of Rs 3.69 lac for the base model, Maruti has got it right in terms of offering a good value proposition. That said, the base model does not offer air-con or power steering so do keep that in mind. With the S-Presso, Maruti has made one of the boldest moves ever and I can sense them winning the segment already. There is a lot of curiosity around the car and if you end up taking a test drive, there is no reason why you will not come back impressed. ‘enuf said!