The Maruti Suzuki S-Presso might start an entry-level SUV trend but this sub-4m vehicle was the first one

The Premier Rio was the first sub-4m SUV that came in as early as 2009 but left a bit too soon because of varied reasons including inefficacy of the maker.

By: | Published: October 7, 2019 1:06 PM

Maruti Suzuki may have built a polarising vehicle (look-wise) in the S-Presso. The truth be told, we are quite impressed with what they have achieved. A short spin revealed that the Maruti Suzuki S-Presso is a good entry level car and that jacked up ride height does have it benefits too. The engine too is a gem and given that it is future-proof, buyers may not have to worry about another price hike that the BS-IV versions will soon get. For that matter, the Kwid can claim to be the first SUV-inspired design. Note that we have only mentioned SUV-like here because Renault for that matter never called the car an SUV. It just resembled a mini-Duster with a hunkered stance.

In all this me-first scene, there is one vehicle which actually started this trend. No, it isn't the Ecosport. The dimunitive SUV from Ford was preceded by another Chinese re-badged product which many have conveniently forgotten. It is the Premier Rio. Premier, what? We expected these kind of reactions. However, the Premier Rio has been long gone but was one of the first proper sub-4m "SUVs" to adorn the Indian roads. Let's take a look at this harbinger.

The Premier Rio was launched in India in 2009. It kind of re-signaled Premier's intention to enter the passenger car segment here. Premier had a long standing association with Fiat, however the same was dissolved later. At entry, the Premier Rio was powered by a 1.2-litre petrol and 1.5-litre diesel engines. The former was borrowed from Fiat from its FIRE range and made 75hp/104Nm. The diesel was from Peugeot's TUD5 series and made a low 64hp and 152Nm. Both the engines could only be brought with a 5-speed manual. The first facelift that the vehicle received was at the 2012 Auto Expo. Fiat also used this opportunity to add ABS (those big stickers at the rear will not let you miss it) and a new colour palette. In addition to this, a new 1.3-litre Multijet diesel engine too was plonked. This engine was BS-IV compliant and eventually led to the demise of the other two motors in metros.

As we all are aware, the Fiat-derived 1.3-litre engine was good for 71hp and 183Nm. This engine was again mated to a 5-speed manual but boasted 23.5kmpl fuel efficiency. Premier saw a spike in its sales with this version as it had better sorted dynamics, thanks to the ABS on offer. The upholstery too saw a revision. As it is, Premier used to get kits of this SUV from China, after all the underpinning was from the Daihatsu Terios (first-gen) while the Rio itself was a rebadged Zotye Nomad.

The advent of fresher competition in the form of the Ford Ecosport and many others eventually sounded the death knell for Premier. Lesser number of dealers as well as a certain uncertainty with respect to the future didn't sound promising for many-a-customer. Moreover, the scarcity of spare parts (Premier used to import most of the parts) and the seemingly cramped interior wasn't to the liking of urban users. There were appreciable bits in the Premier Rio like the lower-than-hatchback entry level pricing of sub-Rs 5 lakh, the stance and 200mm ground clearance.

Coming back to the S-Presso, it is expected to bring a festive cheer and if you haven't checked our one-shot video review, here is the link.

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