Gareth Butterfield spends a week in the fun and funky new Suzuki Ignis
I WAS chatting to motoring journalist friends of mine and they told me I had to try the new Suzuki Ignis. I knew of it, and I thought it looked pretty cool, but I feared it would be another modern rehash of old ideas, like Fiat’s 500 and 4×4. And retro is becoming so old-fashioned.
Then Suzuki suggested I should test one for a week. And as soon as I got my first close-up look round the Ignis I realised I had been too quick to judge it.
Firstly, it’s as much SUV as it is supermini-city car. Combinations like this don’t happen very often and I admire a bold step.
It’s also ridiculously cool to look at. I love the slightly aggressive nose, with the horseshoe-shaped LEDs and I love the way the window line flicks up into the C-pillar.
I also love the “impression” of bonnet vents. It’s paying a half-arsed tribute to one of Suzuki’s old models from the 1970s, the Whizzkid. Remember that? No, me neither, but small Suzukis are always cool and this one was rear-engined so it sounds great to me.
I THINK what I like most about the exterior is the fact it looks like designers have gone for a form-over-function look, but seem to have accidentally made a cracking-looking car. Inside, the same accident hasn’t happened. But it’s still quite cool, in a Suzukiish, utilitarian kind-of-way.
For such a small car it feels rugged and purposeful, but it’s still quite comfortable, even in the back. It’s a good design. The only fly in the ointment is infotainment system , which looks like something they bought from those big plastic display cases in Aldi and plonked in the dash.
It must be said though, the Ignis feels light, responsive and fun. I’ve only done a few miles in it so far because I’ve been busy doing grown-up things, but I’m very impressed.
I’VE got a long journey today, with a bit of motorway thrown in and anyone will tell you you that trying to take a mini-SUV on a long motorway journey is a bit like playing beach volleyball in wellingtons. But the Ignis manages the fish-out-of-water thing really well.
Its 1.2-litre petrol engine is peppy and enthuisastic, and only harsh when you’re working it really hard, and the driving position, surprisingly, feels quite grown up and accomodating.
The last small Suzuki SUV I drove was the Jimny, and as good as that was at scaling steep, muddy hills, I’d have rather taken a horse and cart north on the M1. In the Ignis though, I’m thoroughly impressed. I still hate the infotainment system, but it’s a terrific little mile-muncher nonetheless.
I’M told the Ingis could cope rather well if taken off-road, but I’m not going to test it. Instead, I’m going to put it through the paces nearly every SUV buyer limits themselves to and take it around town for a bit. Its smattering of off-road gadgets will stay off, for now. Incidentally, you can opt for a four-wheel-drive version, but there seems little point.
Interestingly, the Ignis feels brilliantly suited to the urban sprawl. A lofty driving position thanks to its slightly jacked-up suspension and good visibility from the front seat helps and, because it’s small, it’s easy to nip in and out of spaces.
It also has a hybrid system bolted in somewhere. Don’t think of it like a Prius, it’s not as complicated (or effective) as that, it’s just a motor and some batteries that give the engine a little shove every now and again, or take the pressure off when pootling.
It means the Ignis has been good for anything up to 60mpg during my test and that’s impressive. It also means it feels much quicker than the 90bhp offered up might suggest. I like that.
I’VE realised the only thing I’ve not tried in the Ignis is throwing it around a bit. The wife’s at work all day, dog’s asleep, sun’s out, so it’s time to see if I can have some fun.
For starters, the steering is good. The gearbox changes ratios nicely and without any silly notchiness and, although the suspension is a bit harsh on some bumps, it does seem to have some give in the corners. In fact, the only criticism I would give the Ignis is that it does roll a little too much. I guess that’s the raised ride height and it’s doesn’t ruin a sporty drive, because the Ignis feels fun. That lovely litte engine is the icing on the cake.
THE Ignis goes back tomorrow and I’m happy to admit I was wrong about it. I thought it would be another dull cliche car, but it’s actually one of the more interesting cars I’ve driven this year. And, funnily enough, it’s also one of the best.
It’s good to drive, reasonably practical, very versatile, looks great, and it’s fantastically economical.
It’s also keenly-priced. The basic SZ3 comes with air-conditioning, DAB radio, USB connectivity and Bluetooth. The SZ-T doesn’t cost a lot more and adds alloy wheels, that touchscreen system with navigation, reversing camera and slightly chunkier styling, thanks to roof rails.
Top models gain luxuries like keyless entry, climate control and cruise control, along with active safety technlogy.
I think what I like most about the Ignis is it has character. It might be a surprisingly good car but that’s just an evaluation of a piece of metal. As something you’d choose to live with every day I think there should be more to it than that.
It’s as if the Ignis has an attitude, but can be charming at the same time. And while it does have some competition in the market, it still feels like it carves out a unique and interesting niche.
And as a complete package, it’s not just good, it’s actually quite brilliant.