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Sunday, July 23, 2023

Review: 2023 Suzuki S-Presso GL AGS


When Suzuki Philippines launched the S-Presso micro hatchback/crossover in 2020, it provided a bit of style in a segment known for no-frills, all-basic transportation. And with a P 518,000 launch price, it provided many the chance to buy a brand-new car; an opportune time given it was the middle of the COVID pandemic. Fast-forward about two years later, here’s the refreshed S-Presso. Packing new stuff, it also happens to be 30 percent more expensive. Not so entry-level now, is it? Is it still worth it?

Well, the thing is, you wouldn’t know by staring at it from the outside. It’s the very same S-Presso launched in 2020 save for the colored bumpers and the now standard 14-inch alloy wheels. Looking for fog lights or DRLs or a rear wiper? Sorry, they’re still not around. All things considered though, it looks more cheerful than cheap.



However, inside, the S-Presso experience is mixed. Ergonomics isn’t a strong suit given its fixed steering column and seats that only move four ways. It’s also quite odd that the seats are mounted so high off the floor that you’ll feel like sitting on child boosters. Hitting the ceiling when getting in or out will become a common occurrence. Once your’re inside, the headroom’s alright, but not roomy. As such, your view straight-ahead will almost be guaranteed to include the headliner. Put the sun visors down, and you’ll likely lose any sensible view of the road ahead. The centrally-placed gauge cluster isn’t angled or canted towards the driver, but at least all the important readouts are visible.

Welcome improvements in the 2022 update include power side view mirrors and a modernized touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. In all honesty, you’d think the smartphone mirroring was a spec error given the low-rent look of the 7-inch screen. But plug a compatible phone in, and it’s immediately recognized. Credit also goes to Suzuki for incorporating more functionalities into the head unit including a trip computer as well. Some vehicle settings are also adjusted using the screen. The only thing lacking now is a backup camera, but reverse sensors are standard.



Given the S-Presso’s price and positioning, hard plastics are commonplace, but to be honest, they’re well-textured and actually feel much more solid than those found in the Toyota Wigo—the new one, not the outgoing one.

Space-wise, don’t expect too much from this micro hatchback. Suzuki says you can fit five in here (based on the number of seatbelts), but unless you want people to mistake you for a clown car or something, the most sensible body count would be three or four adults max. Still, kudos to Suzuki for carving out as much interior space as possible thanks to clever packaging tricks. As for the cargo hold itself, it’s square-shaped meaning it to fit a couple of grocery bags, but only after you navigate a rather high load lip. The rear bench folds down as well to accommodate bulkier objects, but this reduces the maximum passenger count to just two.



The biggest chance to the S-Presso this year is down to the drivetrain. For starters, it gets a new engine. The K10B engine’s been swapped out for the K10C for the 2022 update. Outputs are close to its predecessor—67 horsepower and 90 Nm, so it’s not that transformative. Still, it’s fairly zippy in urban traffic because there’s not much weight to pull around. Also, it’s surprisingly refined for a 3-cylinder, beating out the Toyota Wigo in terms of overall NVH. Of course, the moment you add people or cargo, it can tax the powertrain quickly. If there’s a good reason for an S-Presso owner to go on a diet and stick to it, it’s this.

Suzuki also added an idle start-stop feature, but the engagement is just so painfully slow and rough that it’s best to turn the entire thing off altogether. And even if you do, fuel economy remains great: at 15.5 km/L (16.2 km/L with start-stop on), it beats out the manual gearbox-equipped S-Presso.



Accompanying the engine is Suzuki’s Auto Gear Shift or AGS system. It’s ingenious in that it uses the very same five-speed manual gearbox, but gets a robotic clutch. In theory, it should work, but reality, there’s a learning curve involved. It generally means having to unlearned well-grained driving behaviors associated with automatics. The biggest one is that if you want the S-Presso to shift smoothly, you’ll have to let go of the throttle momentarily and allow the actuator to clutch in and shift up or down. It’s counterintuitive and hard to get a rhythm of first, but once you get the hang of it, it gets easy. Sadly, on hilly terrain or anywhere it requires to squeeze out power, it still behaves like a beginner driver. The clutch engagement isn’t rough per se, but the shifting can be unpredictable. This can cause unwanted jerkiness that can catch a driver off-guard. The best way to enjoy this drivetrain combo is to set the gearbox to manual mode. With that, there’s no delay in shifting, and it extracts the most out of its modest engine.

Another thing working in the S-Presso’s favor is its nimble handling. It changes directions quickly and for as long as you’d get used to being bullied by just about anything else on the road, you can zip through all sort of spaces with ease and confidence. The generous ground clearance also means not having to worry about curbs. On the flip side, it also means any enthusiastic tug of the wheel will cause copious body roll. At times, it feels like it’s going to tip over. The feeling’s amplified by steering which may be quick around the center, but requires much more turns to stay responsive. At least the brakes are mighty good. Bumb absorption is run-of-the-mill too. It’s not exactly plush, but not exactly crashy either.



Going back to the question we posted earlier: is the S-Presso AGS still a good bargain at P 660,000? Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but at those prices, the competition just got tougher not just because of the Wigo (P 684,000), but there are pretty oddball choices such as the Changan Alsvin (P 689,000) and Chevrolet Spark (P 694,888) if you want an automatic and the MG 5 (P 698,888) and Volkswagen Santana (P 686,000), if you’re willing to drive stick. The much-needed improvements to the S-Presso will no doubt increase its potential market, particularly because of that automatic variant, but it will also make it much more vulnerable to the competition.

2023 Suzuki S-Presso GL AGS

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Bottom Line
Pros Characterful exterior, zippy in traffic, fuel efficient, added safety.
Cons Cramped interior, tippy handling, much more expensive now.
TL;DR Adds much needed improvements S-Presso buyers were looking for, but at a big price penalty.
Ownership
Year Introduced 2020 (Refreshed: 2023)
Warranty 3 years / 100,000 kilometers
The Basics
Body Type Sub-compact Hatchback
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/F
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 1.0
Aspiration Normally Aspirated
Fuel Delivery EFI
Layout / # of Cylinders I3
Maximum Output (PS @ rpm) 66 @ 5,500
Maximum Torque (Nm @ rpm) 89 @ 3,500
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / ~91
Transmission 5 AMT
Cruise Control No
Fuel Economy (km/L) @ Ave. Speed (km/h) 16.2 km/L @ 17 km/h
Fuel Tank Size (L) 27
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 3,565
Width (mm) 1,520
Height (mm) 1,567
Wheelbase (mm) 2,380
Curb Weight (kg) 770
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Torsion Beam Axle
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Drum
Parking Brake Hand-Type
Tires MRF ZVTV EcoTred 165/70 R 14 S (f & r)
Recommended Tire Pressure (PSI) 32 (all)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 2
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Yes, Rear
Parking Camera No
Front Seatbelts 3-pt ELR w/ pre-tensioners x 2
Rear Seatbelts 3-pt ELR x 2,
2-pt Lap Belt x 1
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchor Yes
Other Safety Features Hill Start Assist
Exterior Features
Headlights Halogen
Fog Lamps None
Light Operation Manual
Wiper Operation Fixed Intermittent
Tailgate Manual
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Fixed
Steering Wheel Material Urethane
Seating Adjustment (driver) Manual, 4-way
Seating Adjustment (front passenger) Manual, 4-way
Seating Surface Vinyl/Fabric
2nd Row Foldable
3rd Row None
Sunroof None
Multi-Information Display / Size Yes, Line-Type
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes (Front)
Power Mirrors Yes
Rear View Mirror Day/Night
Proximity Key No
Climate Control Manual
Audio System Stereo
USB
Bluetooth
Smartphone Connectivity Apple CarPlay
Android Auto
# of Speakers 2
Steering Controls Yes

13 comments:

  1. Uly, I wish that we still have the Picanto (I think Ayala/KIA thinks that it's done selling small cars and wanted to focus on larger vehicles instead.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah. Besides, the Picanto will undoubtedly get more expensive since it's a Euro-centric car. If only Kia would design a small car for developing markets...

      Delete
    2. Kia Sonet enters the chat @Ulysses Ang (though Ayala wants to push Kia upmarket hence they haven't moved mountains to bring the Carens and that car to our market and is focusing instead on EVs)

      Delete
    3. Ali, it's highly unlikely that Kia will bring the India-sourced cars. They already have made their roadmaps clear, that is, to move upmarket (like what Mazda's doing.)

      So they brought up EVs here in un our country, and also in line with the news of China-sourced Stonic and Soluto halting production.

      Delete
    4. Hoping for kia to bring in the u2 1.6l diesel-powered seltos din kaso mukang suntok sa buwan. ๐Ÿ˜ฉ

      Delete
  2. It's a nice city car but the crash test results can make others worry in case an accident happens on the highway.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't bring it on the highway ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

      Delete
  3. That infotainment looks like a Suzuki OEM unit over in India, not a cheap AVT unit that they place on their models. That's a good sign for Suzuki PH moving forward.

    Also, Sir Uly, what do you think is the best A-segment car in the segment right now? Would you give it to the all-new Wigo based on first impressions (though you haven't done a full review yet) or another vehicle? Where would you rank the S-Presso within the class as well?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Is it really a Suzuki OEM unit? then why it doesn't have the "Smartplay" OS in the head unit found on the Indian variant?

      Delete
    2. It's probably an older generation Suzuki unit and it wouldn't be likely to have the Smartplay OS given that the S-Presso is an entry level car (you only see this in their more expensive products for now). Look at the interior pics of the Indian-spec S-Presso and you can see that the infotainment has the same button layout as ours. Plus, our AVT units have a different button layout and a cheaper looking interface vs this one.

      Delete
  4. That transmission. I'm not sure how reliable that's gonna be jn the long run.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. From what i've read from previous Spresso users, the manual units still work like a charm.

      The AGS units I can't speak for it, however there's few problems for the AGS units un the Dzire already reported. (and the AGS repair kit will cost you an arm and both your legs.)

      Delete
    2. Also, the AGS units tend to get really jerky especially if you think of it as an auto tranny, and they say it's best left in manual shift mode. Learning curve is steeper compared to a traditional auto.

      Delete

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