Maruti S-Presso : Short Review What I liked:
Funky design stands out from the crowd, fantastic engine & MT gearbox, fun & perfect for the city, well-priced for what it offers, optional AMT available (I've not driven it yet), 180 mm ground clearance & tiny 4.5m turning radius, spacious cabin with enough room for four 6-footers
, boot has a practical layout + rear seat folds down, touchscreen ICE with Android Auto + Apple CarPlay + steering mounted controls, fuel-efficient, chilling air-conditioner. What I didn’t:
Controversial styling with oddball proportions – you’ll either love it or hate it, basic ride quality - has a distinctly firm edge to it + gets bumpy, terrible highway dynamics, best driven at double-digit speeds, narrow width makes it a 4-seater & not 5, weird poorly-calibrated steering, skinny 165 mm tyres or atrocious 145 mm tyres (lower variant), missing rear power windows + rear defogger + day/night IRVM, tiny 27L fuel tank (even Alto has a larger tank), NVH at speed.
• Yes, the S-Presso’s styling is very controversial and it has divided opinion on our very own Team-BHP too. 50% of BHPians love it, the other 50% hate it. This is by design. If Maruti were to launch a neutral looking car - like say the Celerio - in this crowded hatchback segment, it would sink without a trace. Boring won't work. Make no mistake, the controversial styling is fully intentional…it is designed to stand out. Last month, the car had 10,000 factory dispatches, so the strategy has clearly worked!
• To its credit, the S-Presso does look better in person than its (ugly) pictures would suggest. But it’s no beauty queen at all. Let’s just say it looks “less bad”
• Indians love SUVs of any size, whether they are big or small, and real or fake. This thing in orange turned heads like Jennifer Love Hewitt in a red dress on Indian roads!
• Build quality is typical economy-grade Maruti. It’s not so tinny that too many will complain, but it’s no Hyundai either.
• Looks more "Mahindra" than "Maruti" from the front! Everyone thought so.
• Would look way better with thicker tyres. Skinny tyres make it look like the S-Presso is standing on stilts, especially when viewed from the rear! The lower variants with their toothpick-thin 145 mm tyres look absolutely atrocious!
• Forget all the talk about “Micro SUV”. Think of it as a more practical, tall hatchback instead.
• Doors open wide! Ingress & egress are effortless! Easy even for the elderly.
• Like the exterior, the dashboard also has a funky, unconventional layout. Reason? You guessed it = differentiation & to stand out from the crowd.
• Nice taller seating position, especially if you compare it to the likes of the Alto. Seat is not height adjustable, yet it will suit everyone. Can see the bonnet while driving. Many people will like this.
• Tall people will find the non-adjustable steering to be too far away. It’s too close to the dashboard. Should have come out a little more. Another issue is that the steering is tilted up 2 notches too high. I am feeling it at 5'10, shorter drivers will complain even more. Its facing “upwards” - that tilt angle should have been lesser. I am surprised with these two points as Maruti’s ergonomics are usually spot on.
• Good legroom, front & back. Two 6-footers will easily be able to sit front & back. How Maruti managed this in what is a 3.57m short car is damn impressive. The company is now on par with Honda in terms of interior packaging skills.
• Cabin width - It’s a very narrow car. The driver will definitely be elbowing the arms of the front passenger while shifting gears. Even without fully stretching my body, I could easily reach the passenger-side ORVM adjustment stalk!
• Quality overall is as expected from a Maruti of this segment (read = budget grade, but not too bad or cheap at this price point). There is no comparison to the Hyundai Eon or Santro, but frankly, the interior quality is acceptable at this price. I don’t foresee any owners complaining. The single area that feels cheap to me is the doorpad, which flexes so easily. Blackwasp says that the IRVM feels like it's the lowest grade unit Maruti could buy.
• Dashboard is too high for short drivers. Center fascia / round meter console area is even higher and will block the view of shorter folk (at 5’10”, I didn’t have any problem though
• Mini’esque round center fascia with orange highlights is extremely “trendy”. No revv counter or temp gauge sucks. Meters in the middle is a love it or hate it move. We had no problems with it after a couple of km in the car. The XL-size speedometer font makes it easy to read. Anyway, because it’s a small car, you don’t really have to turn your head to see it. Can view the reading in your peripheral vision.
• Power window position works! And because the hazard light button is between the two buttons, there is no mistaking which switch is for what window. No power window console on the door means additional lateral legroom at the front.
• Quite a meek single-tone horn. Aftermarket upgrade to a nice dual-tone is compulsory.
• Powerful air-con will chill you to the bone. It made me c-o-l-d even on a hot sunny day.
• Slider knob for the aircon's recirculation / fresh air mode & rotary cable-operated headlamp leveler feel cheap & outdated.
• Cup-holders and storage console ahead of the gear lever are way too low. If you have your coffee cup out there or your phone, you are going to have to bend forward and go low down to pick it up. It’s as if Maruti raised the car, but forgot to raise the height of this storage area.
• Front seat is basic, although support is on par with competitors. Back support is fair. Seat will do for shorter drivers or those of medium height. At 5’10”, you could say that 40% of my thigh had no support. Seats are adequate for city journeys, but not long highway drives. They are quite narrow. I am slim and even then, my shoulders were popping out of the seat. The heavier amongst us might find support to be lacking.
• I love the placement of the gear lever. It’s close to the driver, just at the right height and your hand literally falls on it. The positioning is perfect!! That said, those with heavy legs might have their legs rubbing against it.
• Just 1 cabin lamp at the front. It is angled nicely & is powerful too. Angle covers not only the front, but also the rear - its almost like facing the rear seat.
• The DRLs (extra $$$ accessory) fitted in the media cars = you have to long press the button to turn it on and long press to switch it off. If you keep it continuously pressed, then the DRL starts blinking. Looks & behaves like a damn after-market accessory.
• Weak headlamps = clear cost cutting measure by Maruti's bean counters. Bulb upgrade is mandatory.
• Rear bench is good for 2 adults, not 3. There is simply no width for another person. Has lots of legroom for a 6-footer to sit behind another one on the front seat. Rear integrated headrests are useless. No center armrest which the Kwid has.
• As with most cars in this segment, the rear seat is basic. The backrest is also more upright than I prefer.
• Nicely laid out boot. Practical layout. Usable.
• It’s got just 2 speakers at the front. I expected terrible sound quality, but was pleasantly surprised, especially for a budget car. The sound quality is actually pretty nice for this segment. This is important to me as I'm a 24/7 music guy. Adjust the equalizer (bass, mid and treble the way you like it) and you will be surprised too. Handles everything except the bass-heavy EDM and R&B stuff. Far better than what you would expect in a 4 - 5 lakh Maruti. I've driven cars that cost 8 - 10 lakh rupees that had poorer sound than this. No rear speakers or any cut-out on the doors for them though!
• It’s pretty cool that even in this class of car, you have Android Auto + Apple CarPlay + music + phone + voice controls on the steering. Love how high-end car features eventually water down to these segments.
• Was terribly slow in hooking up to my S9’s Android Auto. Took almost 45 seconds to find, recognize & set up. Is slow to start Android Auto even after pairing. As an example, the next day, when I plugged in my S9, it took about 30 – 40 seconds before the music started playing on the already paired phone.
• Excellent engine
! Peppy, good driveability, revv-happy & fuel efficient. A jewel among the 1.0 litre motors. Makes the S-Presso quite lively to drive. Of course, the feather light kerb weight also helps. Motor feels tractable in the city. It’s got a practical state of tune. Redline happy – I enjoyed taking it to 83 km/h in 2nd & 122 km/h in 3rd
• I found the gearing also to be spot on.
• Gearshift is nice to use with throws on the shorter side. It’s a pleasure to use, even if it has a rubbery side to it.
• Nice light clutch with just the right travel length.
• Work the engine and you'll actually have fun. As the revs climb, you’ll hear that familiar 3-cylinder thrum that all of us recognise from the Maruti 800 / Alto days. The engine sounds good at higher revs. Not everyone is going to enjoy this sound, but enthusiasts definitely will.
• There is mild cabin shake on start up as well as shut down. Again typical of 3 cylinders, mild vibrations are felt while idling in the cabin.
• It passes the second gear speed breaker test with flying colours. Forget the speed breaker test, it easily moves away from a standstill also in second gear.
• What you'll find annoying though is that whenever you drive in a pedal-to-the-metal driving style, the ECU switches the A/C compressor off for that extra pep. Because this car has a very healthy power-to-weight ratio, Maruti didn’t need to do that. Even if you’re climbing a flyover in a taller gear and you floor the accelerator, the air-con switches off. This compressor switching off is too aggressive & too annoying!!! On a hot summer day, you can't drive the S-Presso hard, else you'll feel like a baked potato.
• The power to weight ratio is enough for its acceleration and mid range to keep up with hatchbacks from a segment above. And it will absolutely murder something like the Polo 1.0.
• This engine and gearbox combination reminds me of why I love the Alto K10 so much.
• Wind and road noise are on the higher side @ 100 km/h. NVH is overall poor. It will tire you out on long journeys.
• The downside to a tall + narrow car is that you have to firm up the suspension (else your handling will be all over the place - take a spin in the original Safari). It’s the case with the S-Presso as well. Suspension is livable & not a deal-breaker, but it’s firm. Ride quality is such that you feel everything on the road. And cars from this segment anyways have basic damping, so ride quality is not something that owners will be raving about. You feel everything on the road (I mean, EVERYTHING). On broken roads, the car suffers side-to-side body movement that can make passengers uncomfortable. Sharp bumps do come in strong. And on a fast undulating highway, the rear is even more bouncy than the front seat. So again, keep it at 80 - 90 km/h on such highways. Note: Lower variant with 13" rims & taller tyre sidewalls might ride a little better.
• I distinctly remember the Kwid’s ride quality to be superior; that’s an advantage the Renault has.
• The S-Presso is awesome in its natural habitat = the city. Its narrow width + tall seating + good low end + peppy engine make it easy to dart in and out of traffic. But on the highway, the car is mediocre. It is tall, it is narrow and it has skinny tyres. Just those 3 things should tell you what to do when you see corners = back the hell off & take them calmly. This is not a handler at all. Don’t make fast lane changes either, the S-Presso doesn’t like it. I did once and it felt nervous. Straightline stability is acceptable at 90 - 100 km/h, but in such a small & light car, we wouldn’t recommend going over 90 – 100 km/h on the highway anyway. Keep your speeds in check. Crosswinds on the expressway easily affect its composure. Frankly, this kind of car is best restricted to city use only.
• Please get fatter 185 mm tyres for better handling & safety reasons. They’ll make the car look sweeter too.
• One of those rare cars that neither rides nor handles well.
• Weird steering is poorly calibrated. Feels more like a Mahindra-tuned steering than Maruti (surprising because Maruti steerings have usually been fuss-free to use
). At parking speeds, the steering should have been lighter. Some people, including women, will feel that they have to put in a little more effort than they wish while parking. The steering absolutely lacks self-centering. On a long left-hand curve of the highway and another on the Sealink, I left the steering in the middle (of the curve). Guess what? The S-Presso held its line and continued taking the turn perfectly (didn’t center back at all!!).
• I took a right turn at a signal and after the turn, I left the steering. It’s stuck in that right turn position only
. I had to manually straighten it. My antique Mahindra Jeep steering needs the same straightening after a turn. I’ve not driven any modern car that behaves like this.
• The EPS is a bit vague at some speeds, and a bit too sensitive at others. A regular joe may not notice these inconsistencies with the steering, but a BHPian who drives it for 300 km most definitely will.
• Super small turning radius of just 4.5 meters! A car in which u-turns are fun just to experience that tight turning circle!
• Brake pedal has a strong bite.
Old Bombay-Vashi bridge was opened up due to some road work on the new one. What memories! We used this bridge a lot in the 1980s & 90s. Literally a drive down memory lane:
Crazy-intelligent Google now suggesting destinations based on where you are. I was in New Bombay and it suggested Godrej City, Panvel as the 2nd choice (I keep going there as my brother has invested in some property there):
So narrow that I can stick it to one side of my small driveway & take the fat 5-Series out easily from the remaining space:
How I stuck it to the wall: