IAIN ROBERTSON 

Now into its second year of model life, reports Iain Robertson, the cutesy, compact Suzuki Ignis is a car possessing oodles of consumer appeal, thanks to its funky appearance, taut build quality, zesty performance and value-for-money stance.

The best marketing exercises are those that require no marketing at all. The hollow words and vacuous inventions that surround the vast majority of marketing exercises are as transparent as Izal toilet paper…the harsh, non-absorbent type. Yet, Suzuki could have endured a nightmare, when it relaunched the Ignis model name. After all, in its previous iteration, it was the consummate ‘blue-rinse special’, possessing negligible character, despite boasting decent space and moderate dynamic competence.

From the outset, the new Ignis was a different proposition altogether. In styling terms, it was a clean-sheet design, with some clever retrospective detailing that harked back to another Suzuki success story, the rear-engined SC100 of 1978, better known in the UK as ‘Whizzkid’. In technological terms, it would feature a choice of either the 1.2-litre DualJet four-cylinder engine, or for the SZ5 specification, the first application of a mild hybrid battery and integrated starter generator, under the guise of SHVS (Smart Hybrid Vehicle by Suzuki).

Its premise is honest and straight-forward. It is very light, which ensures that its 89bhp engine not only delivers a decent turn of performance but leaves a barely perceptible footprint behind it. The Ignis makes no pretence of being up-market, or even being much more than a ‘puddle-jumper’, most especially in its on-demand 4×4 guise, or when the optional two-pedal, automated-manual transmission is selected…but to dismiss it as such is a cardinal error, as I hope to explain.

I can recall my first-ever drive of the car in early-2017. My initial concern was that I might not fit, primarily because I stand two metres tall and skinny five-door constructions can demand a knowledge of calisthenics and extreme flexibility, neither of which I can allude to. Yet, I was wrong. Its cabin doors open wide and allow unbridled access to a ‘Tardis-like’ interior that surprised, as much as satisfied me, with its brave applications of lighter-coloured plastic trim and adult-size seating. Certainly not brimming with luxurious accoutrements, although not lacking on the equipment front either, the new Ignis was a smile-inducer, most especially when it was on the move.

While the intentions of Ignis are grounded in the provision of ‘bare bones’ transportation, the car is anything but basic and actually complies with the latest crossover category ideology. Yet, it is a tough wee car. The extensive use of ultra high-tensile steel and a determined weight-saving ethos means that it tips the scales at a modest 855kgs, without compromising integrity and crash resistance. However, the combination of light weight construction, a punchy engine and compact dimensions happen to equate to high levels of fuel economy, first-rate chassis dynamics and a surprisingly brisk performance envelope.

The blue test car is actually a value-added, special edition known as Adventure. It incorporates almost £2,000’s worth of options but Suzuki only charges £1,000 premium over the SZ-T (one from the top) specification, which lists it at £13,999 all-in. Its small capacity engine, driving the front wheels through a leggy five-speed manual gearbox, emits a buzzy but not over-wrought noise, when extended, to crack the 0-60mph benchmark in a zesty 11.7s, before topping out at around 107mph, a speed I can confirm it will attain. While it is not a torque-rich unit (88lbs ft at 4,400rpm suggests a need to stir the gears frequently), it does pull strongly in fifth gear at motorway speeds, without demanding a downshift (another benefit of the light weight).

Its Official Combined fuel return is given as 61.4mpg and, despite trying hard to consume more than 47mpg (on the on-board computer read-out), I struggled and settled on a week-long return of 55.6mpg. The engine emits 104g/km CO2, which means that its annual road tax is £140. However, none of these statistics can underscore the genuine pleasure attached to snicking its manual gearstick around the sweetest of gates, its zippiness in town, where the Ignis’s compact stature is no less than delightful, or its open-road prowess, where it can eat huge mileages, while scarcely deflecting the fuel gauge’s digital bars.

Extremely agile and directionally stable (although, if you want quite amazing handling, the AllGrip 4×4 version might be worth the investment), the compliant suspension of the Ignis shrugs off the majority of road surface imperfections. The damping can be a bit ‘sudden’, should you strike potholes, or transverse ridges inadvertently, but there are no severe reactions from the steering, which gifts the Ignis a very grown-up feel on the road. It also stops securely, the brake pedal possessing a lovely fluent progression.

Perhaps its most amazing aspect is the amount of space within its cockpit. Thanks to both driver’s seat and steering column adjustments, finding a comfortable and supportive driving position is easy. I used the car on a non-stop trip of 212 miles without experiencing backache, or ankle pains, which suggests that Suzuki’s current seat designs are among the best it has created.

Although the dashboard may look basic, it is not short on equipment, which includes air-con, a touch-screen infotainment system that includes sat-nav and a reversing camera, as well as full Bluetooth and MirrorLink connectivity and a comprehensive array of digital radio channels. Hooking-up an iPod is simple, which is useful, as there is no CD player availability. The rear seats offer a practical tilt and slide facility, to increase available boot space (267-litres), or they can be folded flat to more than treble the carrying capacity. There are also plenty of storage slots, drinks and bottle-holders around the cabin.

With a body length of just 3.7m, the tall outline is surprisingly well-proportioned and there are several little styling cues, like the ‘gills’ on the C-pillars, repeated on the sides of the centre console within the car, that are reminiscent of the original SC100 Whizzkid. In Adventure trim, the car sits on 16-inch, polished black alloys, clad in low-profile rubber.

Conclusion:    It is fair to describe the Ignis as funky and it possesses definitely a real sense of fun. Truly great to drive, thanks to long-legged gearing, the Suzuki Ignis is economical and inexpensive to live with. Yet, it lacks nothing in terms of practicality and occupant satisfaction. For putting a smile on your face, it deserves every plaudit it receives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Iain P W Robertson

Frequently being told to 'go forth and multiply', Iain P W Robertson's automotive wisdom is based on almost forty years in the business, across all aspects from sport to production, at the highest levels. He likes dogs and drives a Suzuki (not related).