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Can S-Presso bring back the ‘Cuppa Joy’ to Maruti?

S Muralidhar | Updated on October 10, 2019 Published on October 10, 2019

The S-Presso has a high ‘glass to body’ ratio and that shows in the amount of light that the cabin gets

Add-ons galore Some of the chrome elements, 14-inch alloys and faux skid plates etc. can be chosen for fitment at the dealership

The Suzuki Jimny style toothy bonnet grille and the raised position for the LED DRLs make the S-Presso’s front look interesting and SUV-like

Transmission choices include a 5-speed manual and an Automated Gear Shift

It is being positioned bang at the centre of the entry-level small car segment at a time when volumes are down significantly. Will it turn the blockbuster the company wants?

The Renault Kwid firmly established the preference even amongst entry car buyers for an SUV-like body-style. The trend set by gas-guzzling American SUVs was for heft and road presence, which then spread quickly to other markets where drivers (especially women) tended to also feel safe being inside them. Of course, the SUV wave swept into our market too and a decade of development later, our appetite for this body style hasn’t been sated. In fact, even more now than ever before, buyers across segments seem to want an SUV or an SUV-like vehicle.

But make no mistake, nobody in the entry car segment was delusional and bought the Renault Kwid for its assumed heavy, domineering road presence. They bought it for its high-set seating position, good view of the road, and its high ground clearance, which then makes it practical for handling our flooded and pothole-riddled roads. They also bought the Kwid knowing full well that it is still an entry small car with all the compromises which come with that positioning. That is reason enough for more to join the race with their own version of an SUV-like entry small car. Last week, Maruti officially joined the fray with its own. So, can the S-Presso bring in the volumes; will it be able to woo buyers away from the refreshed new Kwid and the Datsun GO with its new CVT gearbox?

 

 

Design

First off, don’t be misled by the pictures, the S-Presso is smaller in the flesh than it seems in the photos. A narrow track and a disproportionately tall build is part of the SUV body-style image that its design is meant to conjure in our heads. It is just a centimetre or two wider and longer than the Alto. But full marks to Maruti’s designers and engineers for trying real hard to give it all the visual attributes of an SUV. The upright A-pillar, the sculpted squared-off wheel arches, The Suzuki Jimny style toothy bonnet grille and the raised position for the LED DRLs make the S-Presso’s front look interesting and SUV-like. The thick, dark grey cladding for the front fender, high shoulder line and the lifted door sill with 180mm ground clearance abets the illusion that this is a mini-SUV.

 

At the rear, the tail-lamps are set high on the haunches and the tailgate is a compact unit that leads to a high-set boot loading lip

 

 

At the rear, the tail-lamps are set high on the haunches and the tailgate is a compact unit that leads to a high-set boot loading lip. The rear fender is also a contrast grey in my test mule and there is no variant nomenclature (LXi/ VXi etc.) adorning the panels. The tail-lamps are C-shaped and the faux aluminium skid plates for the front and rear (optional accessories; not pictured here) make its SUV styling complete.

Maruti designers say that the S-Presso has a high ‘glass to body’ ratio and that shows in the amount of light that the cabin gets. Also reassuring is the simple straight lines for the shoulder line and windows, so you can be sure that the rear seat is also equally well-lit, unlike some of the older cars like the A-Star. I would have liked grab-type door handles, instead of the lift-up ones that the S-Presso gets. And the 14-inch steel rims look puny within the large wheel arches, taking away from the SUV character; though we all know why small wheels are inevitable.

Cabin

The S-Presso has been completely designed and developed in India says Maruti’s team and the brief seems to have been to design the cabin also to be a complete departure from the usual small car norm. In keeping with its SUV-styling, the dashboard is quite vertical with all the elements stacked upright. But grabbing all my attention, as soon as I slide on to the high-set driver’s seat, is the circular central unit which houses the digital instrument cluster and the 7-inch infotainment screen right below. Though digital, the dials are a rather simple configuration that sport a speedo and Odo, but misses a tachometer. There are what look like unlit, unused markers on either side of the instrument screen, but they are just dummies. Just below the infotainment screen and within the circular element are the power window buttons; an unintuitive position, but you’ll probably get used to it after a few days of use.

 

Novel and practical The circular centrally positioned instrument display is novel. But the cabin is mostly focussed on being practical

 

 

The optional additions on offer can help spruce up the cabin a bit more with body coloured surrounds for the outer aircon vents and the circular dashboard element. Steering wheel feels good to hold and seems like it is from a segment above with audio, phone and voice command controls; but there is no adjustment for tilt or reach. The seats in the VXi variant I was driving felt good, with decent thigh support even in the rear seat. The front seats are not exactly sporty or large, but do their job well. The seats also don’t get height adjustment and since they are set high, visibility may be a problem for tall passengers. Some of my counterparts were complaining of the rear view mirror getting in the way of their view of the road through the windscreen. Storage options for driver and front passenger are adequate with enough spots for bottles and phones, rear passengers, though, may miss more storage options. Touch-screen infotainment system (only in top two variants) features what Maruti calls the Smartplay Studio - a proprietary suite of applications that can also be operated using your paired smartphone. The system also offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. Overall, the cabin feels well made, with the clean edges of the textured plastic imparting a sense of uniformity and reliability, though it is still a lot of plastic all around.

Performance

The S-Presso is offered only with the 998cc, K10B petrol engine. Transmission choices include a 5-speed manual (carried over from the Wagon-R) and an Automated Gear Shift (AGS). The K10 engine, also found in other Maruti cars, sees adjustments being made to calibration and changes to the after-treatment making it BS-VI compliant. Hardware changes include three-point pendulum mounts for the engine, making this three-cylinder unit more refined compared to similar units made by the competition. In-cabin noise levels are relatively well contained, though there is a sense of light build that is inescapable. The engine is quite peppy for a car in this segment, producing 50kW of peak power and 90Nm of torque. The S-Presso weighs barely 750 kg on average and it is quite easy to get to speed from standstill. Gear shifts are decent, with just a hint of notchy gating. The AGS is more responsive and features less perceptible shifts than any of the AMTs of the past from Maruti; the worst one was in the first Celerio.

The new car has been built on the 5th-generation Heartect ‘K’ platform, which uses a higher percentage of high tensile steel (part of the reason for the lower weight). The S-Presso is said to meet all current Indian safety regulations including frontal offset, side impact and pedestrian safety. Suspension set up is good for a vehicle in the entry small car segment; though the low kerb weight and high sprung set-up leads to body roll that can be felt at the tall seating position. Safety kit includes dual airbags (passenger airbag is optional addition except in the VXi+ variants), ABS with EBD and rear parking sensors.

Bottom line

The S-Presso’s ride quality is good, feels stable and progressive even during hard braking and there is a general air of assurance while driving over various road conditions. The steering feels good to use, though self-centering and return assistance after u-turns can be bettered. Fuel efficiency is said to be 21.4-21.7 kmpl depending on variant. There are four variants on offer with the AGS being a choice for the top two. But the barebones, base Std variant doesn’t even get an aircon or power steering. Prices start from ₹3.69 lakh and go up to ₹4.91 lakh.

Forget the S-Presso being a mini-SUV, it is practical and is possibly the best entry small car made by Maruti. That is reason enough to consider it.

 

Published on October 10, 2019
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