Tested: Suzuki S-Presso ticks the right boxes as a budget car
Johannesburg - There's small, cheap and nasty and then there's small, cheap and cheerful.
And when it comes to the latter, Suzuki pretty much steals the show when you think of the Jimny, Ignis, Swift and much of the rest of their line up.
In their latest release, the S-Presso, the Japanese manufacturer looks set to have another winner.
All indications are that the Covid-19 virus has had an enormous financial effect across the country with increased unemployment numbers, far less disposable income and those that can buy, likely to be buying down.
With this background, Suzuki is likely to get many more visitors to their website and dealers, and I reckon we'll see a lot more S-Pressos on the road.
At first glance the boxy exterior of the urban SUV may not be to everyone's liking but after having spent some time with it, it seems to grow on you with its four-slot grill flanked by squared off halogen headlights.
With a large air intake, black bumper and skid plate to emphasise its 180mm ground clearance and standing on 14 inch steel wheels, someone mentioned that it looks like something that could be used as a WhatsApp emoji. You see, cheerful.
The side shows off semi squared-off wheel arches over the wheels that have been placed at the outer corners of the vehicle, which allowed the engineers to fit a 2.38m wheelbase into this 3.56m long vehicle.
Pulling the cheerful theme through there are six exterior colours with sizzle orange, pearl starry blue, fire red, metallic granite grey, Metallic silky silver and White.
The test vehicle was in sizzle orange and sizzle it does. While finding it in a full parking lot probably won't be an issue, I think mature buyers will probably opt for a more sober colour.
The premium S-Edition model highlights all of the S-Presso’s most prominent SUV features with silver highlights in the four-slot grille, silver front and rear skid plates and bold side cladding over the wheel arches and on the lower sections of the doors.
Under the bonnet is Suzuki's K10B three cylinder engine that's good for 50kW and 90Nm, driving the front wheels through either a five speed manual gearbox or a five speed automated manual transmission (AMT). The AMT has automated gear selection including an in-built crawl function for stop go traffic, emphasising its city driving credentials.
While the engine may look a little underpowered, the S-Presso only weighs in at 770kg which doesn't exactly make it lightning quick but it's perfect as a run around both in the city and on the highways, with some limitations.
I found the gear changes a little sloppy at first but once you get the hang of it, easy enough with a very light clutch action.
The star of the S-Presso's show however is the interior which carries through the cheerful note of the whole vehicle.
You'd be excused for taking a second glance at the circular centre console with its digital speedometer and seven inch touchscreen infotainment system. Mini anyone?
It's Apple CarPlay and Android friendly, something that is almost non-negotiable these days, while the screen also displays the rear view camera images.
There are no switches on the steering wheel so everything is controlled via the touchscreen including the volume control which with my hand size, didn't always hit the right spot. Sometimes a good old fashioned dial wouldn't be out of place.
The high driving position gives the impression that you're in something bigger than the S-Presso, which also gives you a good view of the road situation ahead.
Turn the key and the by now familiar sound of a three pod motor reminds you not to behave like a robot to robot racer.
To get to where I live you have to drive on a piece of dirt road and it's often here that you can tell what the build quality is like. Built in India, the S-Presso felt very solid with no squeaks or rattles and the suspension handled the corrugations without any issues.
On the open road you can hear the engine purring away without it being intrusive while at the national speed limit there is some wind noise but again, not enough for it to be an issue.
It's here though that the limitations of a small and economical engine are exposed. Passing slower traffic needs to be approached with caution and some planning. Simply changing down a gear or two sends the revs up but not so much the speed and this is likely to be trickier with the car loaded.
Still, it's not a deal breaker considering the entire package that's on offer and given the current economical climate, the Suzuki S-Presso will, I'm sure, find favour across all age groups.
Price includes a promotional one year comprehensive insurance, two-year/30 000km service plan and a five-year/200 000km promotional warranty