By Sala Masindane
Ever since Suzuki entered the fray in South Africa back in 2008, it has been on an upward trajectory. Suzuki has become one of the household’s favorite local car brands. In that time, Suzuki has sold approximately 75,000 vehicles in the country, which is no mean feat considering the competitive landscape in South Africa. The success was not accidental considering the size of one of its parent companies’, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd (affectionately known as MSIL), success outside of South Africa. Truly speaking, it was only a matter of time before that success translated into South Africa.
The local arm of Suzuki, MSIL, is so big in India that the locals refer to the cars via the local name, Maruti. A bit of history on MSIL, the company was founded in 1987 through a partnership between Maruti and Suzuki. As they say the rest is history. Ever since the turn of the previous decade MSIL has been pushing astronomical numbers there. MSIL holds seven spots in the top 10 vehicles sold monthly in the country. Five of the top 10 spots are MSIL vehicles. MSIL also sells more than 1.7million units annually in India and holds more than 50 percent of the market share there. Not resting on their laurels, MSIL have now entered another vehicle in the market – the new Suzuki S-Presso – that will be a direct competitor to the likes of Renault KWID and Datsun Go. We recently visited the Asian country to experience the S-Presso and the cultures.
We traveled over 18 hours via Dubai and busy Delhi to reach our destination located in the North of India, Jaisalmer. Jaisalmer is a former medieval center that has dunes, architecture and colours that are unmatched. It also provided a less daunting driving route to test the S-Presso, with less bikes and motorists that you would typically find in the main business hubs such as Delhi for instance. True to authentic Indian hosting culture, our first evening was made up of flavored cuisine, fireworks and traditional Rajasthan song and dance. It all happened at the recently built palace which houses the Suryagarh Hotel that was our base for the first night. Seeing as we had traveled for over 18 hours, we had an easy night so we could rest for the test drive of the S-Presso the next morning.
Day2 / The Drive
On the second day, we were introduced to the new S-Presso. On approach, the S-Presso resembles a mini-SUV and dimensions put the S-Presso at 3565mm in length, 1520mm in width and 1564mm in height with a wheel base of 2380mm. Upfront, the S-Presso has a slim grille that’s fitted with angular chrome elements and a Suzuki emblem in the middle. The prominent grille merges well into the uniquely designed headlamps whilst lower bumper is blackened out. The strong lines of the wheel arches give the S-Presso an SUV stance. This is further underscored by the 14-inch wheels it rolls on and a ground clearance that stands at a respectable 150mm. This will come in handy in sketchy roads. Inside, the instrument cluster is uniquely built and resembles a sports watch and is located in the middle of the dash.
In terms of power, the S-Presso will boast a similar engine found in its sibling, the Celario, i.e. the 1.0L K 10B engine that pushes out 50kW of power and 90Nm of torque.
At launch in South Africa, the S-Presso will be available in manual transmission, manual plus transmission and automatic plus transmission. Plus, models will come with a touchscreen infotainment system with similar features (such as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay) that we have become accustomed to in the latest Suzuki GLX models. Other technological conveniences include a steering wheel with audio and voice controls.
On the safety front, the S-Presso will come standard with ABS, EBD, dual airbags, driver/co-driver seat belt reminder, high speed warning alert and parking sensors. Details about crash tests are yet to be announced.
First impressions of the S-Presso are that it’s quite stable on the road, both at low and moderately high speeds. Having pushed the car quite a bit at the international launch in India, we can report that the engine is quite compliant and emits moderate sound in the interior. Potential buyers will appreciate the S-Presso’s relatively high seating position that offers a commanding driving position for the driver. In fact, those opting for the car can also expect comfortable seats all round, decent legroom and headroom in the rear. Pricing should be compelling and be aligned to competitors like the Kwid and Go.
The S-Presso did not occupy our whole day and following the test drive, we were privileged to visit the Jaisalmer Fort as well as one of its ancient temples. Built nearly 900 years ago, it still stands firm and remains beautiful. Over and above the beauty, it remains one of the few forts that houses people and shops in the region or country. Once that was done, the activities started, and they included camel rides in the desert and a unique and intimate dinner on the dunes under the stars.
Day three was filled with traveling from Jaisalmer to Delhi via Ahmedabad. During the two hours layover we managed to fit a small tour of the city on the tuk tuk. The focal point of the tour was an ancient water well. This was used 500 years ago to contain water during rainy seasons and the entire community of the city had access to it. The day culminated with a flight to Dehli where we would be spending two nights at the Pulman Hotel located at the International Airport and directly facing the runway.
The last day in the capital was spent visiting the famous Manesar Plant, where the S-Presso will be solely assembled from the ground up. Other vehicles that are assembled at the plant include the Celario, Ciaz and Dzire. The plant can store up to 30,000 vehicles that are awaiting transfer to their respective destinations. The plant is fully automated meaning all dangerous and heavy-duty jobs are done by robotics, while humans focus on the other parts of the manufacturing process. The kaizen business philosophy is implemented at the plant, so there’s a continuous improvement of working practices and personal efficiency. After the plant, we moved to the Akshardham temple. The complex is described as displaying a “millennia of traditional Hindu and Indian culture, spirituality, and architecture.” The highlight of our trip was spending the evening over dinner with the MD of MSIL, Mr Kenichi Ayukawa.
The S-Presso will be official launched in the South Africa market in March 2020. Local pricing is yet to be announced.
We would like to thank Suzuki South Africa, MSIL, Toni-san, Ashish-san and Vikas-san for a wonderful time and experience in India.
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