The Suzuki S-Presso is more than just your usual cup of coffee

This little hatch is looking to prove itself in this heavily-stacked market
by Leandre Grecia | Jun 17, 2020

“The S-Presso boasts a lot of character—that is its true edge over the competition”

Carmakers don’t often launch multiple vehicles—let alone multiple all-new nameplates—in the same event, but when they do, there’s a good chance the cars making their debut are highly anticipated models.

That’s why Suzuki Philippines’ cancellation of its big launch back in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic was nothing short of a disappointment for a lot of us, despite the reason being completely understandable and justified. But had the event taken place as planned, we would’ve seen the formal introduction of two new Suzukis—one of which is the S-Presso, a car that I myself have been eagerly waiting for to arrive here.

Thankfully, Suzuki is now lending out test cars once again. I believe Lady Luck smiled on me this time, as I was offered the chance to get up close and personal with the very hatch I was excited to try out. It was an offer I wouldn’t ever dare refuse.

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And now that I’ve finally gotten my hands on this little thing, I have to say it’s way more than everything I expected it to be. As its name suggests, it’s not like your usual cup of coffee.

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Cute, isn’t it? PHOTO: Kleo Hernandez

The S-Presso measures 3,565mm long and 1,520mm wide. That makes it much smaller than both the Swift and even the Celerio—and most small hatchbacks on the market, for that matter—but in reality, this doesn’t seem like the case. That’s because it’s 1,565mm tall and has a ground clearance of 180mm.

The numbers don’t seem like much on paper, but in the metal, you get their full impact. That ground clearance equals the Ertiga’s, which kind of justifies Suzuki’s insistence on calling this a mini-SUV, although I’m far from saying I agree—it’s more like a tall kei car. In that sense, the ‘espresso’ association makes sense—the teeny serving size might not look impressive compared with the specialty handcrafted beverages in a café menu, but that little shot packs quite a bit of caffeine.

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At its core is a measly 1.0-liter mill that’s capable of 67hp and 90Nm of torque. But again, don’t judge it by its size, because it pulls its weight and then some, even with a big guy like me behind the wheel. The S-Presso is nimble and quick off the line, though its tall and unorthodox physique makes for a floaty ride and isn’t well-suited for cornering. But this sort of vehicle isn’t meant to tackle twisties at speed, anyway.

It’s roomy enough. Take my word for it. PHOTO: Kleo Hernandez

Personally, I’m glad Suzuki did away with the automatic transmission and stuck to the good old-fashioned five-speed manual here. The lone variant available gives you a good sense of this vehicle’s end goal: to be the perfect starter car. It was never meant to feel upmarket, and it makes no pretension to luxury given its P518,000 price tag.

Then again, as a starter car, it still impresses. It’s more like a properly brewed beverage than a quick caffeine fix in a three-in-one mix. While it gets the bare minimum in terms of convenience features, it packs all the necessities. Yes, the S-Presso sits on puny 14-inch steel wheels with hub caps, and only gets vinyl and fabric seats complemented by hard plastic materials inside the cabin. Yes, only the front row gets power windows, and the tiller lacks adjustability entirely. And yes, the dismal touchscreen multimedia system up front is hard to operate, doesn’t come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, and produces pedestrian sound quality at best. But these aren’t really deal breakers, are they?

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Not at all, because what makes this car an interesting proposition is how it provides the essentials. There’s ample legroom for all passengers, and generous luggage space out back. You get readouts for fuel consumption and range, plus a light-off key, and seatbelt reminders. There’s also the sweet bonus of reverse parking sensors—not vital in a car as small as this one, but still a welcome addition.

It doesn’t look like much, but it has everything you need. PHOTO: Kleo Hernandez

That capable powertrain and the significant amount of ground clearance are wins in my book, too. And the manual transmission greatly helps fuel economy. Despite my heavy foot, the S-Presso did about 15km/L in mixed conditions. As for its performance in Metro Manila’s dreaded traffic, that’s something we’ve yet to determine after this pandemic.

But perhaps of all the good things I can say about this vehicle, what I consider most noteworthy is that it possesses character. That’s one particular trait I look for in every car I drive, and the S-Presso’s got a lot of it. That is its true edge over the competition, because not a lot of new cars have character these days, especially in the budget segment. It’s by no means a car you can call beautiful without any reservations, but it’s a quirky little hatch that demands attention. 

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That color just pops. PHOTO: Kleo Hernandez

Suzuki has done a superb job of bringing together a collection of seemingly mediocre parts and turning it into a package that’s exciting enough to stand out in a crowd. Frankly, I was skeptical about where this vehicle would fit in the Japanese carmaker’s local lineup, but after spending some time with it, I understand its main purpose: It takes aim at the people—specifically first-time car buyers and newbie drivers—who want something right in between the Celerio and the Swift in terms of practicality and flair.

Will this little hatch ever amaze gearheads? Not a chance. But does it have all the essentials to make it a viable option in a country like ours? Absolutely. And more often than not, that’s enough for a car to succeed in our market. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles, but it does its job. More important, it’s affordable. Best of all, it manages to not be ordinary.

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There’s really something special about it—something you won’t quite be able to wrap your finger around until you actually get to experience it firsthand. And once you do, you’ll understand what I mean when I say it’s more than just your average cup of joe. It hits you like a shot of espresso that exhilarates the soul.

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PHOTO: Kleo Hernandez
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