Suzuki S-Presso punches above its weight
SA’s most affordable car shows that cheap needn’t mean nasty
With a base price of R134,900 the new Suzuki S-Presso recently became SA’s most affordable car, in a market segment that will likely be eyed with renewed interest by cash-strapped buyers reeling from an economically ruinous lockdown.
Sold in a range of five models imported from India, it’s a small five-door hatchback but due to its elevated 180mm ground clearance Suzuki dubs it a crossover.
The S-Presso looks to lure primarily young buyers with its funky, youthful charm but the boxy styling is a double-edged sword — ironically my 50-something-year old self likes its chunky design but my 20-something daughters, not so much.
Such low price tags often mean an abysmal motoring experience, but I was pleasantly surprised by the tiny car and enjoyed driving it. Rather than feeling cheap and nasty, it’s a capable and fun-to-drive little hatch that punches above its weight.
For starters, the puny little 998cc petrol engine didn’t feel drastically underpowered, and because the car is such a flyweight it has a half-decent power to weight ratio.
The S-Presso scoots about town with lightfooted oomph and it’s not unhappy to break free of city confines. On the open road it’s able to maintain more than the 120km/h speed limit up hills, even with the power-sapping aircon running.
The three-cylinder engine isn’t the most refined thing and has lumpy idling, but the car’s general noise isn’t overly intrusive.
The bargain-basement price comes with a decent amount of toys. Our test car was the higher-specced S-Edition selling for R147,900, which comes with items like a reversing camera and a colour touchscreen audio system with smartphone Bluetooth integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, or USB and auxiliary ports.
The S-Edition also has some plastic body cladding, including front and rear skidplates, to give it an SUV-like look.
But the whole model range, including the base model, gets a reasonable level of knick-knacks including electric front windows (the rear ones are manual), remote central locking, trip computer, rear park distance control and aircon as part of an attractively-priced deal. There’s a full-sized spare wheel in the usefully sized 239l boot too, and the one-piece rear backrest folds down to expand luggage space.
At just 3,565mm long the S-Presso is smaller than competitors such as the Kwid and Hyundai Atos, but Suzuki’s managed to conjure a surprising amount of interior space; the car fits four adults inside quite comfortably.
I felt like I was sitting a little high in the driving seat and it can’t be adjusted for height — but the “command” driving position is what a lot of buyers seem to want nowadays.
My other gripe with interior user-friendliness is that the audio volume icons are tiny; give me volume knobs any day.
The S-Presso scoots around with great agility due to its tiny stature, but the elevated 180mm ride height makes it feel somewhat top-heavy if you try take corners too fast, and the skinny tyres quickly start squealing.
If feels sufficiently stable on the open road, though the tall and boxy design makes this lightweight car somewhat sensitive to strong crosswinds. Build quality feels reasonably solid too and it doesn’t come across as particularly cheap or tinny.
The interior decor is bright and funky with splashes of colour, and for a budget car the cabin ambience elicits no complaints. At this price point you won’t get a soft-touch dashboard, but the hard plastics are neatly finished.
Fuel economy in the test vehicle averaged 5.5l / 100km in a mixture of urban and open-road driving, which isn’t bad as Suzuki quotes a 4.9l figure. It provides a range of about 480km from the tiny 27l fuel tank.
Overall I think the Suzuki S-Presso is a good deal for the price. It’s a fun and funky city car that should delight first-time buyers. The only thing I’d like to know is how it rates in crash safety as this hasn’t been tested yet, though theoretically it could achieve three stars like the Swift and Dzire with which it shares a common platform.
Sweetening the S-Presso deal is one year’s insurance included across the range, together with a five-year/200,000km warranty and two-year/30,000km service plan.
Type: Three-cylinder petrol
Type: Five-speed manual
Type: Front-wheel drive
Top speed: N/A
Fuel Consumption: 4.9l/100km (claimed); 5.5l /100km (as tested)
ABS brakes, dual front airbags, electric front windows, aircon, remote central locking, rear park distance control with reversing camera, trip computer, touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, 180mm ground clearance, 165/70 R14 tyres
Warranty: Five years/200,000km with three-year/unlimited km roadside assistance
Service plan: Two years/30,000km
Lease*: R3,237 per month
* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit
Datsun Go, 50kW/104Nm — R165,800
Hyundai Atos, 50kW/99Nm — R162,900
Kia Picanto 1.0 Start, 49kW/95Nm — R173,995
Mahindra KUV100 Nxt, 61kW/115Nm — R163,999
Renault Kwid 1.0 Expression, 50kW/91Nm — R150,900
Suzuki S-Presso 1.0 S-Edition
Value for money, fuel consumption, trendy styling
No crash test information
An appealing hatch for first-time buyers
*****Value For Money