Extra shot of easy
Whenever we talk about affordable city cars, it's hard for us to not bring up the Suzuki S-Presso.
Our previous review of the S-Presso three years ago left us with a lot of positive impressions, especially how it suits the everyday driving scenario in the Metro. With such an attractive price of admission, the little hatchback knows how to make the most of what it has.
However, back then there was one thing that Suzuki left out with the S-Presso – they did not offer an automatic transmission that could save your left foot from cramping up in heavy traffic.
A two-pedal S-Presso had to wait until earlier this year, as Suzuki finally brought in the AGS and threw in some new features along the way. That brings us to this review.
In terms of looks, the S-Presso is still fresh and quirky even though it's already three years old. The upright stance used to be its unique feature until Suzuki brought in the new Celerio, but the SUV pretensions are aging quite well.
A lot of the exterior features remain unchanged, except for the new 14-inch two-tone alloys – the 2020 model was launched with 13-inch steel wheels with hubcaps, but ground clearance remains at a crossover equalling 180 mm.
Inside is also more or less the same story. You still get the Mini-like dashboard design with most of the functions integrated in the middle – the gauge cluster, the power windows, the A/C controls, and the charging ports, are all bunched together in the center. Suzuki did this all in the name of simplifying the manufacturing or assembly process of the S-Presso.
What Suzuki saved in terms of the production process, they made up for it with the choice of interior materials. While most of the things you see are plastic, the surface finish does not make it look cheap. All the material consistencies – the stitching, the panel gaps, plus the fit and finish are a testament to the manufacturing capabilities and quality of work being done in the Maruti Suzuki factory in India.
Of course, Suzuki also had to work around the constraints of a small car when it comes to space and ergonomics. So when you sit inside the S-Presso, you won't get the typical sunken feeling like on a sedan or hatchback from other brands. You get a pretty high seating position – a bit like sitting on a dining chair. And given that it doesn't come with seat height adjustments, you'd always get a commanding view of the road ahead, whether you're the passenger princess or the designated driver.
Surprisingly, even the second row is comfortable, and there's adequate legroom for someone of my height (5'9”). For those who will install child seats on the S-Presso, the ISOFIX anchors are also a good bonus. And before I forget, the S-Presso is perhaps one of the last few brand-new models in the market with manual window risers at the back. It's such a quirky thing, and it does remind you how simple cars were back in the day.
In terms of space for cargo, you have around 17 inches of length, 30 inches of width, and 36 inches of height when you remove the rear tonneau cover. The second-row seats, while they don't fold flat, can also be folded to get an additional 28 inches of length for your stuff.
Now on to the new bits. As we all know, smartphone connectivity is a major plus when it comes to buying a car nowadays. The 2-DIN touchscreen audio unit used to only have Bluetooth. Today, it now comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
So yes, apps such as Waze and Google Maps are now accessible via the S-Presso's head unit, along with your favorite music streaming apps. The head unit can even be controlled through the new steering wheel buttons. This is quite the game-changer as this makes the S-Presso the most affordable vehicle to have such features as standard.
Powering the S-Presso is the new K10C engine, which is essentially a reworked version of the old K10B in the 2020 model. Suzuki increased the compression ratio and introduced DualJet for better efficiency, but power outputs remain the same – 67 PS and 90 Nm of torque. What's also new is the EASS or the Engine Automatic Stop Start – a bit like Mazda's i-Stop feature that's designed to save fuel while idling at a standstill, but throughout my time I really didn't feel the need to activate this feature.
In terms of fuel economy, the AGS-equipped S-Presso is indeed very frugal. It returned 13 km/l in the city with moderate to heavy traffic, and it stretches north of 22 km/l on the highway.
I'm such a big fan of low-power, low-weight cars as they give me so much fun behind the wheel, and the S-Presso definitely hits the right notes. The small size and the added ground clearance meant it was easy to weave in and out of traffic without worrying about the road conditions ahead, plus the 3-cylinder engine's power can make the S-Presso zippy at double-digit speeds. It's very raw in terms of driving – no fuss and very direct on the controls, giving a mechanical feel.
You have to keep your expectations though when it comes to NVH and ride comfort. Expect noise from the outside to creep inside the cabin, but it's nowhere near pedestrian as you can still hold a good conversation with your passengers. The ride itself is not harsh by any means, though expect to get tossed around a bit when going over bumps because of the short wheelbase – typical of many hatchbacks.
Now onto the new Auto Gear Shift, which is essentially Suzuki's version of an automated manual transmission. On paper, you get the best of both worlds – the convenience of an automatic, and the efficiency of a manual. But really, I wouldn't want to call it best, as there's quite a bit of learning to do to master how the AGS operates.
On a conventional auto, a CVT, or even a dual-clutch matic, you'd simply put it in drive and have a steady foot on the throttle, you're good to go. But on the AGS, you will have to anticipate the shifting, as it takes a while for it to change cogs. The experience won't be a smooth one if you treat it like an automatic, and you'd be better off with a manual transmission style throttle work. Step hard, let off the throttle to shift, and then step hard on it again. For best results, put it in manual mode and do the shifting yourself.
We are all spoiled by a lot of interior, safety, and advanced driving features from new cars nowadays. But to be completely honest, the essentials have always been largely the same, especially for a city car. Most of the time you only need something that's compact and fuel efficient, with a good A/C system and lately, smartphone integration to keep you in today's connected world.
At just PHP 660,000, the Suzuki S-Presso AGS can already do those things. Suzuki managed to create a good brew within the constraints of budget, size, and what features to have for a starter car. However, the extra shot of convenience with the transmission may not quite give the extra kick you're looking for.