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The thrifty (and speedy) mini-SUV

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I have always liked the way the Suzuki S-Presso drove. That was what impressed me the most when I had it for a week just after its first launch a couple of years ago. So, it is not a surprise that it is one of the marque’s top three best-selling models in the country, beating the Jimny, XL7, Ertiga, and even entry-level units like the Celerio and Ciaz.

Suzuki wasted no time and updated the S-Presso for 2023 with several new features to enhance safety, efficiency, and overall driving experience. Naturally, it deserved another test drive to see the effect of the improvements.

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You won’t notice any of the changes from the outside. It still uses multi-reflector halogen headlamps and the same C-shaped taillights, and despite adding an inch to the lighter wheels (it now uses new 14-inch alloys), it still looks the same. The design makes it unique, but that is not a compliment. There is only so much you can do to a compact hatchback’s body before it starts to look funny, and that is right where Suzuki stopped. It is passable as a mini-SUV because of its height and 180 mm ground clearance, and it may even look macho in an empty parking lot, but its diminutive size becomes apparent when other cars start rolling in. Regardless of its it-will-grow-on-you styling, the S-Presso’s height gave me the confidence to go over puddles/potholes and made ingress/egress easier.

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I wish Suzuki would give a top-of-the-line variant like this a Start/Stop button. It has a keyless entry but a key-in ignition system, which feels outdated in 2023 for a passenger vehicle. Today (and moving forward), it should only be trucks and commercial vehicles that use keys to start the engine.

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Cabin space is another one of the S-Presso’s strong suits. Despite its lack of exterior heft, it is a comfortable five-seater with enough trunk space for tools, groceries, and takeout. If you are going on a trip, it takes in carry-on-sized luggage for five people. The seats use a leather-fabric combo with a more space-saving upright orientation that gives the front and second-row compact sedan levels of legroom, which is very impressive for a vehicle this size.

The plastic dashboard does not look cheap despite its plain, basic layout. The large icons and size of the buttons/switches make everything easy to see and operate, but the position of the power windows controls (located on the center stack) takes a little getting used to. One gripe I have is the instrument panel that was moved to the middle, which means the central air vents shift outward, so the air hits the front-row passengers more than it gets to the back. Fortunately, the manual climate control system is good enough to cool down the compact cabin. The new feature here is the seven-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and after seven days with it, no glitches.

Under the hood is a new engine. It still has the same 1.0-liter displacement but now has an auto start/stop system that helps fuel economy. It turns on when you are idling and stepping on the brakes. The only problem is it also turns off the compressor, so you might want to shift to neutral (instead of staying on Drive and stepping on the brakes) so the system does not kick in and the cabin stays cool. But, on a positive note, it returned 15.6 km/l in mixed driving conditions and without any hypermiling techniques.

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Another new feature is the Auto Gear Shift (AGS) gearbox. I do not know if there were enhancements to this AGS compared to the older version, but its operation feels much smoother than the AGS in the Dzire I drove several years ago. The shift shock was much milder and barely perceptible. I had to tune in to feel (a bit of) it.

Noise, vibration, and harshness levels are not bad for P660,000, but there is room for improvement. Cornering is pretty good for a mini-SUV. The drive felt sporty, and the response was quick to throttle input despite the meager output of 66-PS and 89-Nm of torque. What I loved the most was the weighted steering, which felt great on the expressway. It had a bit of play at the center position, but otherwise, it felt great to handle while cruising or overtaking at 100 km/h. It was great on SLEX, which made me think of it as a city car designed for the highway.

Other additions to this updated model include Electronic Stability Program, dual front airbags, and Hill Hold Control (AGS variant only).

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The strong points of the 2023 Suzuki S-Presso GL AGS are its drive (fuel efficiency) and space. It is a fun-loving, versatile mini-SUV that will surprise Filipinos with its functionality. You will miss creature comforts like a visor mirror (passenger side), drop-down center armrest, etc., but some things you have to give up at this price point.

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Credit belongs to : www.mb.com.ph

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