Braveheart: 2021 Suzuki S-Presso GL MT

Braveheart: 2021 Suzuki S-Presso GL MT

I’m a sucker for small cars. Growing up with the original Suzuki Beaver/Jimny and the Kia Picanto, my parents believed downsized vehicles carrying three boys around including groceries were enough and we didn’t find the need to grab a larger car. That mentality carried over into me to this day and whenever I see a small car on the road, I get enamored with it.

Suzuki S-Presso front profile left close

Never mind the fact that I’m almost six feet tall and that all my friends think a larger car suits me better, I still think that micro cars are my cup of tea.

Enter the 2021 Suzuki S-Presso. Marketed in other countries as a crossover-styled "micro SUV," Suzuki Philippines thankfully shied away from this strategy and called it what it is: a fun, economical small car with big aspirations and a high ride height. It’s difficult for me to start this review without being biased, but I just want to get this thought out of the way. If potential buyers think that the Suzuki S-Presso should be on their list of cars to buy just because of the ridiculously low price, then they don’t understand the Suzuki S-Presso at all.

Suzuki S-Presso front profile right close

Exterior

The 2021 Suzuki S-Presso, when viewed up front, is the closest thing to a boxy square design as one can get. It’s actually taller (1,560mm) than it is wide (1520mm). With a length of 3,565mm and a wheelbase of just 2,380mm, one may be forgiven to believe that on paper, this is a recipe for disaster in terms of interior space.

But we’re talking about Suzuki here. In Japan, there is a certain classification of vehicles, "kei cars," available only for the Japanese domestic market, These cars are small, fuel efficient, and widely popular, and Suzuki has been dominating this segment for the longest time. I think they know a little thing or two about maximizing inhabitable space.

While some cars tend to go the sporty, angular and angry headlamps route, others embrace the miniature character and go all Sanrio-cute on us. When it comes to styling, the Suzuki S-Presso breaks away from the current mold of micro-cars in the country. It draws inspiration from its slightly bigger brother in the Suzuki Jimny in this regard. Suzuki gave the S-Presso boxy and macho proportions all around. The squarish halogen headlamps and SUV front “grill” that houses the Suzuki “S” badge won’t look out of place in a full-fledged SUV at all.  

Suzuki S-Presso side profile

Observers won’t find any air holes on the upper grill. Air passes through the larger lower grill but only from the left hand side of the 2021 Suzuki S-Presso. This may be an odd design choice but is perfectly designed to redirect just the right airflow to both cool the engine and improve aerodynamics. The bonnet is also raised much higher compared to other small cars and has a flat nose profile. What this does to the overall aerodynamics of the vehicle may be questionable, but I doubt anyone else will be bringing this car to triple digit speeds for that to matter much. An interesting quirk would be the single nozzle on the bonnet for the windshield washer, probably to save on the bottom-line cost. The S-Presso also has the tiniest windshield wipers I’ve ever seen on a vehicle.

Suzuki S-Presso rear quarter

When viewed from the side, the Suzuki S-Presso features nicely molded bulges around the rear arches creating the illusion that it is actually larger than it is. While the large and tall doors open to an almost 90 degree angle allowing easy access to the interior, the throwback door handles look like they were taken from their '90s bin catalog. I usually dump on these choices but given the overall boxy look of the S-Presso, they work quite well.

What doesn’t work for me are those skinny 14-inch steel wheels with hubcaps. While this may work for other smaller cars in the segment, I believe that 15-inch steelies or even alloys might do wonders for the overall look. Luckily potential buyers do have shops that can easily replace those but it would be nice to see the S-Presso with 15s as standard.

Suzuki S-Presso mags

The genius of the S-Presso’s design continues on the rear. Continuity is important in creating the overall character and signature look of a vehicle and, thanks to squared off and high-mounted tail-lamps, it doesn’t look like a car that was designed by a committee. The blacked-out lower bumper matches quite well with the overall painted body. My only gripe would be the absolute lack of a rear windshield wiper. On any hatchback with a flat, vertical rear windshield. It also helps with the overall look of the car, in my opinion.

Suzuki S-Presso rear quarter

Interior

Inside the Suzuki S-Presso, I’m surprised to find a modern-looking dashboard and nicely patterned seats. I don’t know why I was expecting much less from it but considering that the model it replaces in the Suzuki Philippines lineup (the Alto had amenities that felt like those plastic toys one would find at a pediatrician's waiting room) I was wonderfully surprised with this one. Admittedly, there isn’t that much space to begin with when compared to other cars. Car companies can only go so far to bend the laws of physics. I, however, don't find myself wanting for room as I still have enough for myself in both the front and rear. Headroom, in particular, is plentiful, and I still get a decent amount of knee and leg room which is quite surprising for the S-Presso and its dimensions.

Suzuki S-Presso front view

Don’t get me wrong; every little bit from the dashboard to the door panels are made from pretty hard plastic, but I love the sense of symmetry on the dashboard. That symmetry is even more pronounced thanks to the center mounted instrument panel that houses the digital speedometer. There isn't a tachometer, or will anyone miss it, and I’ll explain more in the drive later on. The front passenger side has a nice shelf to place items in as well as a fairly shallow glove box for more stuff. There are two 2 cup holders right in front of the shifter and two fairly hefty bottle holders on each of the front doors. 

Suzuki S-Presso Cockpit view

The circular AC vents in each corner hide a nice design detail inside with honeycomb grills and the center vents that flank the center stack blend nicely into the dashboard. The entire design is well thought out and although there are some blank buttons, provisions for some accessories potential buyers might add after their purchase, and the polyurethane steering wheel is devoid of any media controls, nothing certainly feels out of place. 

Suzuki S-Presso ac vent

Manual AC systems are not surprising but so is the S-Presso’s ability to cool the entire cabin quickly. Powering the entertainment is a nice seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system that does have Bluetooth but does not have any Smartphone integration system to hook up and play through the two front speakers. If one needs to adjust the side mirrors, they’ll have to make do with stalks that stick out in the interior at the base of the A-pillars. Thankfully, they are easy to reach and easy to adjust.

Suzuki S-Presso side mirror adjuster

The seats are understandably minimalistic. They’re fabric with a nice touch of red in the mid-section. It can use a little bit of bolstering for my taste but they will most certainly do. While the Suzuki S-Presso can seat three people in the rear, I highly recommend that it be kept at two for maximum comfort, besides I believe that the IATF will have something to say about cramming too many people in an enclosed space these days. I feel like Marty Mcfly being taken back 20 years into the past with the rear windy windows, however, if Suzuki wants to save some pennies to help keep the production costs low and pass the savings on to the consumers, then more power to them! I am glad that I can fold the rear seats down for even more space for all my pandemic grocery shopping needs.

Suzuki S-Presso door handle

An interesting feature is, of course, what’s just right below the touchscreen system. Located here are two power window switches. It does take a bit of getting used to, especially when having to pay for my parking ticket, but it’s nothing that a few hours of learning can’t fix; it will be second nature to owners. What this affords is even more space for the interior. For the 2021 Suzuki S-Presso, every inch and millimeter of space is important. Taking away power switches from the front door enables the manufacturer to make the door panels as thin and light as possible. To my eye, the Suzuki S-Presso has one of the thinnest doors in the market. How will this bode for safety, one might ask?

Suzuki S-Presso Door Panel

There’s been a lot of talk about how the Suzuki S-Presso garnered a zero crash rating score for the Indian market. Rest assured that the tested vehicle at the time is the very bare bones version of this car which is not available in the market. It lacked force-tensioners for all seatbelts, ABS, and no dual airbags, of which our local market S-Presso does have. The S-Presso also has backup sensors, not that one would need it thanks to the amazing visibility offered by the high ride height as well as great outdoor view thanks to the expansive greenhouse. 

Suzuki S-Presso infotainment

 

Safety and performance

My favorite part of the Suzuki S-Presso, apart from the looks, is of course the drive. One might ask, how can I find enjoyment in a dinky little three-banger? As it turns out, it’s hella fun! That's right, the fun starts with the aforementioned three-cylinder one-liter DOHC gasoline engine that makes 66hp and 90Nm of torque which for a car that weighs just 770kg with full options is plenty sufficient. Thanks to the electronic power steering and small turning radius, operation is quite easy and just perfect for city driving. I didn’t notice any hesitation at all with the steering, and it does get tighter at speed to give drivers more confidence on the highway. Drivers need to get used to a limited range of driving positions as the steering wheel does not adjust either for reach or rake.

Suzuki S-Presso driver airbag

Driving the Suzuki S-Presso is one of the most visceral experiences I've ever had. I applaud the NVH capabilities of the car for putting forth a gallant effort but with a model that’s aimed to be the most affordable brand-new car, that just isn’t going to happen. It is acceptable to a certain point; passengers would still feel a certain level of isolation from the outside world but not on the same level as cars in upper segments. The car isn’t uninhabitable, but there is considerable wind noise. No thanks to those hard eco tires, road noise permeates the cabin as well, but therein lies the fun.

Suzuki S-Presso gauge cluster

Acceleration in the city is fairly brisk, I’d go as far as calling this peppy. Zero to 60kph is achievable in a flash. It’s like a shopping cart, but so much more maneuverable thanks to the small wheelbase. It does carry itself with a certain level of refinement when compared to other cars in the segment, I have to say. Bumps are barely noticeable and the suspension is tuned more for comfort rather than sportiness thanks to front independent MacPherson struts and a rear torsion beam. How’s life living without a tachometer? Pretty sweet, actually. 

Suzuki S-Presso front profile left close

Shifting by feel becomes quite the norm and don’t worry about accidentally blowing the engine up. If the engine detects that it’s at the red line for too long, it cuts off the power to save itself. It can be quite jarring, but just like the center-stack mounted power windows, becomes second nature after time. It also only comes in manual transmission, but shifting is as effortless as it can get without feeling numb. The shifting feel is notchy and it doesn’t feel hesitant to slot in whatever gear I needed it to be. This is a great car to learn driving manual in.

Suzuki S-Presso front profile right close

Fuel economy

Fuel economy is nothing short of stellar. Despite pushing it beyond its limits at times and not giving a damn about saving fuel, it still netted me around 11 to 12kpl in the city. Highway runs are even more impressive, giving me a 19kpl clip running at an average speed of 80kpl. With fuel prices being as volatile as they are, the Suzuki S-Presso proves to be quite the miser. Visits to the pump would still be a weekly habit if used every day, no thanks to the 27 liter fuel tank capacity, but if one keeps track of their expenses, the savings are quite noticeable. 

Suzuki S-Presso city shot

Pricing and conclusion

Here’s the kicker: Pricing for the Suzuki S-Presso starts at P523,000 and holds the distinction of being the most affordable car in the local market. This may be the case but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have hefty competition to face. The best-selling Toyota Wigo, which oddly has the same ground clearance, is a natural rival, as well as the fully loaded and well specced Mitsubishi Mirage and Mirage G4. Sibling rivalry is also present with its stable mate, the Suzuki Celerio and don’t forget about the powerhouse Honda Brio. The Changan Alsvin also makes its case for being a car a step up from the pack in terms of size, power and amenities but none of these can match the S-Presso’s quirkiness and character.

Suzuki S-Presso side profile

I review a ton of models from high-powered sports cars to large commercial mini-trucks, but for some reason the Suzuki S-Presso always remains in my mind. The moment I saw the Suzuki S-Presso in leaked pictures I knew there was something special about this car. It’s more than just a starter car although it’s priced as such.

It’s proof that an affordable, entry-level car need not be boring or follow whatever trend there is. 

SPECIFICATIONS

Suzuki S-Presso GL MT

Model Year

2021

Vehicle Classification

Sub-Compact Sedan

Warranty

3 years / 100,000 kilometers

Under the Hood

 

Engine Model

K10B

Type

1.0-liter I-3 Gasoline DOHC  Engine

Power

66 hp @ 5,500 RPM

Torque

90 Nm @ 3,500 RPM

Fuel Capacity

27 Liters

Transmission

5-Speed Manual Transmission

 

Drive

Front-Wheel Drive

Tested Fuel Economy City

11-12kpl

Tested Fuel Economy Highway

19kpl

Chassis

 

Brakes

F - Ventilated Discs; R - Drum

Front Suspension

F - Independent Macpherson; R - Torsion Beam

Wheelbase

2,380mm

Wheels

14-inch

Tires

185/70/R14 

Dimensions

 

Length

3,565mm

Width

1,520mm

Height

1,565mm

Ground Clearance

180mm

Kerb Weight

770 kg

Exterior

 

Headlamps

Halogen; Reflector Type

Foglamps

None

Side Mirrors

Manual-adjustable

Daytime Running Lamps

No

Body Kit

No

Interior

 

Instrument Gauge Cluster

Digital; Center Mounted

Infotainment System

7-inch HD Touchscreen with Bluetooth

Adjustable Steering

No

Passengers

5

Power Adjustable Seats

No

A/C System

Manual

 

Steering Controls

No

Speakers

2

Interior Material

Fabric

USB ports

Yes

Power Sockets

Yes; 12V

Safety

 

Airbags

Yes; 2 airbags

ABS with EBD and Brake Assist

Yes

Traction Control

No

Stability Control

No

Hill-Start Assist

No

Hill-Descent Control

No

Seatbelts

F - 3-point with pre-tensioner; R - Rear 3-point Seatbelts and 2-point lap belt for middle

Rear Defogger

No

Remote Start

No

Immobilizer

Yes

Forward Collision Warning

No

Autonomous Emergency Braking

No

Adaptive Cruise Control

No

Automatic Headlamp Levelling

No

Lane Departure Warning

No

Rear Cross Traffic Alert

No

Parking Assist

No

PRICE

 Click here for the latest prices

 

Photos by Roy Robles

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