The S-presso: A S-urprisingly fun car

Published July 30, 2021, 11:00 AM

by Eric R. Tipan

Suzuki S-Presso GL

Text and photos by Eric Tipan

I had my doubts about the Suzuki S-presso, especially after it didn’t score good marks in the ASEAN NCAP (New Car Assessment Program). It’s too small, it has really narrow tires, and comes with less than a thousand cubic centimeters of engine displacement (998 to be exact).

The upside is it’s cute, compact, and cheap. But what can it really do? Read on as I detail how much fun it was to drive for seven days.

First, the exterior. If you slice it in the middle horizontally, the top half looks amazing. This is the crossover-styled part that has people double-taking because of the bulbous façade that makes it seem bigger than it really is. It sports a more urban version of the macho grille found on the Jimny. On either side are halogen multi-reflector headlamps, and right below is its front cladding that also serves as the cover for the lowerpart of the grille. At the back is a small spoiler, a high-mount stop lamp, and a pair of LED combination lamps.

The bottom half is an immediate indicator that this is a budget vehicle. It has slim 165/70 R14 tires and tiny wheel wells, both of which don’t seem to match its rather beefed-up top.

Its body is pretty basic and so plain that it doesn’t even have a latch to open the rear door from outside. Options are to use the key or pull the lever from the driver’s seat.

But there is an option to touch up the body with several Suzuki-certified accessories. This test unit came with an upper grille and lower bumper garnish; a front, side, and rear skid plate; and even side and wheel arc cladding. All of that will set you back P27,000+ though.

Inside, the cabin is as straightforward as well. The seats are fabric and just adequately cushioned. The rear comes with detachable headrests while the four-way adjustable front seats have it built in.

That’s all well and good knowing the price point of this vehicle. What takes a little getting used to is the placement of gauges. There’s nothing in front of the driver. The digital speedometer, trip computer, and fuel indicator are all in the middle and are facing dead center. It isn’t that hard to look at as the vehicle isn’t very wide, but the blank space just behind the steering wheel is disconcerting at the start.

Another eccentric feature is the location of the front power window switches. Instead of putting it on the door panels, they’re located on the center stack like some Euro brands. I spent a week with it and still made the mistake of making a move for the door panel every single time.

It comes with a manual climate control system, a seven-inch touchscreen system with Bluetooth connectivity, a USB port, and a 12-volt socket.

There are no trims that come standard, so the cabin is just black by design. There’s an option to add a silver louvre by the center console and A/C unit and also silky silver ornament on the door panels. Together, that’ll cost you P13,000+.

As it’s powered by a diminutive 1.0-liter, three-cylinder petrol engine, you’d think this vehicle isn’t worth your time, but with a curb weight of only 770 kilos, this is where the S-urprise kicks in.

This is your perfect city car. It’s so little, I could squeeze it out of tight spots, in tiny parking slots, and even makes a complete U-turn on a three-lane road.

The meager 90 Nm of torque it has delivers a good enough punch to launch this light vehicle right away in stop-and-go traffic and in urban driving conditions. It’s a lively car that’s sensitive to steering wheel input and always eager to take off.

Suspension’s a little soft, which makes it bouncy at times, but as it carries very little weight, it didn’t sag too much along the winding roads of Tanay. This is where it really became fun. Combine that quickness and agility with its size and (light) weight and it almost felt like a tall go-kart on the road. This has been the most fun I’ve had in a five-speed manual transmission in a while.

Where it falls a tad short is on the highway with its 67 HP. Sure, I pushed it to 100 km/h but at that speed, it didn’t have that same snappy throttle response. Fuel consumption is 15 km/l in both city and highway driving.

For P523,000, you can’t ask too much from this car. It can fit five, plus 239 liters of cargo, and take you from Point A to Point B with a little flair. There isn’t much by way of cabin amenities but at least you can stream Spotify on the stereo.

Simple yet surprising, that’s the Suzuki S-presso.