“But can it go up to Baguio” (Kaya ba nyan umakyat ng Baguio?) is a question often asked when talking about cars, especially smaller ones, as if it’s a badge of honor. But as cliché, as it may sound, there is some wisdom in the question because (1.) Baguio is a substantial distance (from Metro Manila), and (2.) the climb and getting around the city really is punishing, especially for vehicles with smaller displacements and less experienced drivers.
Part of the Suzuki S-Presso AGS’ marketing materials is the 25.32 km/L rating the vehicle received during the fuel economy tests conducted by the Automobile Association Philippines (AAP). This, of course, was done under ideal circumstances, and hard to replicate in real-world conditions, let alone achieve while climbing mountains. So when it was announced during the briefing that prizes were up for grabs for the team with the best fuel economy, we decided we were just going to have fun and enjoy the drive.
The new S-Presso AGS is a looker. Love it or hate it, you have to admit that it’s an attention-getter with its quirky design and bright colors (it’s also available in a nice, gray, BTW). Have you seen those movies with car chases using tiny European cars? Lots of fun can be had with small cars. But think Asian setting, with more fuel-efficient engines, and a few modern essentials added.
During the briefing, we were given a route to follow that basically led us to experience all sorts of traffic conditions. Being the first driver, I took the leg that brought us from Suzuki Auto Taguig, thru C5, Lawton, up the Skyway 3 onramp at NAIAX, and on to NLEX. Driving the S-Presso is simple enough. Needless to say, its size makes it easy to maneuver in traffic, but also quite intimidating to drive on the highways, especially if one is used to bigger vehicles. My partner Randy Peregrino took the more intense half of the journey that traversed SCTEX, TPLEX, the Aspiras-Palispis Highway (AKA Marcos Highway), and Baguio Proper where his driving skills were put to good use when we encountered heavy rain and almost zero-visibility fog.
Truth be told, the gear shifting of the S-Presso AGS was not as smooth as I would have liked it to be. However, my partner reminded me that it didn’t have a belt-driven CVT nor a conventional A/T, but an automated manual transmission that uses an intelligent shift control actuator to operate the clutch and switch gears. So despite having only two pedals, it still had a 5-speed manual box. The AGS in its moniker stands for Auto Gear Shift and it is Suzuki’s way of making the convenience of an A/T system more affordable. Exclusive to the AGS variant are Hill Hold Control, which is a life-saver up in the mountains, and Engine Auto Start System (EASS) which automatically switches off the engine at stops to further lessen fuel consumption and help limit exhaust fumes. Not being a fan of this feature in any vehicle, it was a relief to know that it can easily be switched off with a push of a button located on the left side of the steering wheel.
Since the S-Presso is a tiny car, the entire dash is literally at your fingertips. The speedometer is located in the center stack, together with the head unit, AC controls, ports, and front door power window switches making it equally accessible to the front passenger. The interior is all black, giving it a neat, yet sporty appearance. The dash and side panels are made of hard plastics, but this makes it easy to wipe down and is expected at this price point. The back seat is amply cushioned, and those sitting in front have a good view of the road because of its surprisingly thick padding. Suzuki’s new generation Display Audio was a revelation as it’s actually better than some head units found on higher-classed vehicles. The 7-inch display was easy to read, intuitive, and easy to connect to. The system is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and that just makes life so much better as it simplifies the process of bringing my driving essentials – navigation, music, and hands-free calls – along with me.
Because we didn’t attempt to take part in the fuel economy run, it was no surprise that our convoy of two cars that broke away from the pack was the first to arrive at our designated Upper Session Road checkpoint. What surprised us, though, was that we only had to top up 17.06 liters despite our spirited driving. We could have sworn we had all but emptied the 27-liter gas tank with our shenanigans. But what was even more surprising was that the eventual winner, fuel eco-run veteran Ron de los Reyes and partner Davein Madrid, only had to top-up 13.727 liters. Covering roughly 300 kilometers, we traveled approximately 17.58 kilometers per liter, while the winners did an astounding 21.85. With petrol prices rising daily, these are real-world numbers a lot of us would be willing to make some compromises for.
All in all, the trip to Baguio in the tiny S-Presso was an enjoyable one. Despite its small size, it was able to cover all the basics – AC that’s powerful enough to cool the cabin; an above-average sound system (although if I owned one, I would probably add some speakers); ample space and relative comfort; and hands-free navigation, music, and hands-free calls courtesy of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. And to be fair, while we were in Baguio, we didn’t encounter a steep climb that the S-Presso and my experienced driver couldn’t handle.
Would I consider going back to Baguio in an S-Presso? It wouldn’t be my first choice of ride, but sure. Would I recommend it as an economical ride for the city? Most definitely.
The Suzuki S-Presso AGS is priced at Php 660,000 and is available in 4 colors: Sizzle Orange, White, Fire Red, and Metallic Granite Gray.