Sparky Suzuki Ignis wins appeal for likeability, practicality and affordability
It is the ‘Holy Trinity’ of automotive desires, states Iain Robertson, at which Suzuki’s car division is surprisingly adept but, despite the impact of the pandemic, at just over three years of age, Ignis’s customary mid-life ‘refresher’ exercise has now occurred.
Much praised by critics and much adored by owners, a multitude of the world’s more renowned products are held to ransom by their respective manufacturers’ marketing departments, which insist frequently on a ‘change for change’s sake’ stance. In some respects, these upgrades allow technological advancements to be introduced but, regardless of the state of the economy, they also enable price hikes to take place and, as we all know, invariably, they never decrease!
Yet, without marketing departments, manufacturers and consumers would have little about which to complain and nobody to rail against. Thus, they have their uses beyond the fabrications, fibs and falsehoods. While the three-year term is now common around the motor industry, with six years being the average optimum life of a specific model, prior to a comprehensive redesign taking place, I have always wondered about the psychological sub-plot that sets us up for the next best thing, notably when acquiring something newer than before.
Much like registration plates that carry a notional snob value, with each six-monthly advancement, while very little will have altered apart from a March shift from ‘19’ to ‘20’ (or ‘59’ to ‘60’, later in the year), to some people the aging process is a sledgehammer blow to their on-road confidence, especially when spotting an identical model at least one plate number greater than their own. It is all to do with the power of marketing and determines (to a certain extent) the vibrancy of that specific market, while also highlighting the relative ‘myopia’ of the consumer and applies equally to the private, as well as company-funded sector.
However, when affirmed excellence is accorded to a specific make and model, is there really anything wrong about not heralding production line alterations, perhaps adopting an attitude of continuous change, or (appropriately) Japanese ‘Kaizen’ principles instead? It might remove that cardinal sin of jealousy/envy and make us better people overall. It is worth consideration.
The ever-so-cute Suzuki Ignis is a prime example. Introduced to significant acclaim in January 2017, with its pertinent style references to Suzukis’ past, it marked a major shift away from prior influences, without resorting to a change of model nomenclature. Its sub-compact dimensions but Tardis-like accommodation were immediate attractions, especially in a world of parking space reductions. Yet, its oriental ‘kei-class’ influences (less obvious at the front-end, than at the rear of the hatchback model) gifted it a city-car relevance that would supplement its intended place in the new car scene.
Suzuki is a past master of product packaging. Believe me, I know from first-hand experience, being two metres tall, with size 13.5 feet! Even the company’s diminutive Cappuccino roadster (1991) was not off-limits to me, unlike the dimensionally bigger Mazda MX-5. Following over 20 years of VW-sponsored Skoda ownership, another king of automotive packaging, making the shift to Suzuki was extremely easy. Yet, there is another Suzuki advantage at play: lightweight construction. Carrying less bulk infers a better power-to-weight ratio, a factor that is important, when the K12 (1.2-litre, four cylinder) petrol engine develops a non-turbocharged 80bhp.
It has been upgraded from a ‘C’ to ‘D’ suffix but retains its Dualjet fuel injection feature and variable valve technology that helps it to feel lively, without being punchy. Its maximum torque of almost 80lbs ft weighs in usefully from around 2,800rpm, boosted subtly by Suzuki’s latest version of 12v mild hybrid technology. With its belt-driven ISG (Integrated Starter Generator), the uprated but still compact 10Ah lithium-ion battery that is located beneath the front passenger seat weighs only 6.2kgs but provides a useful 36lbs ft of energy to enable swifter overtaking and smarter acceleration from standstill.
Standard fitment across the Ignis range, in stock 2WD form, a WLTP CO2 exhaust emissions figure of 114g/km results, with a potential of 55.7mpg on the official combined fuel cycle. Even on the 4×4 version, the figures remain impressive and ensure a modest road tax penalty. Of course, the AllGrip Auto drivetrain is another Ignis attraction. A viscous coupling drives the rear axle only when traction conditions demand it and it features both hill descent control and advanced grip potential, as long as off-road speeds do not exceed 18mph. Again, thanks to lightweight construction, the Ignis proves to be as capable in the rough as any other purpose-designed 4×4; the ultimate puddle-jumper!
Another more intriguing addition, or replacement, lies in the transmission option. The two-pedal, automated clutch manual gearbox has been dropped and replaced by a gearless CVT option that features six, electronically engineered step-off points (to give the impression of seven ratios), complete with paddle shifters located behind the steering wheel cross-spokes. It works very well indeed and maintains good fuel economy, allied to the relative relaxation of two-pedal operation. For city users, it is a boon.
While the AllGrip system is a manual option only on the top SZ5 trim level, the range starts at £13,999 (£750 costlier than before) in SZ3 trim, moving to the better equipped SZ-T mid-range variant. Each version comes standard with air-con, LED headlamps, privacy glazing and both Apple and Android connectivity. SZ-T includes sliding rear seats, rear-view camera, an increase from 15.0 to 16.0-inch diameter alloy wheels and plastic body addenda, while the SZ5 incorporates sat-nav, cruise control, keyless entry/start and the full complement of ADAS electronic driving aids.
To help boost initial sales, Suzuki is offering a zero deposit, or 0% APR on finance deals, until the end of September 2020. You might need it, with the all-singing and dancing Ignis topping £17,500, which I personally believe is an exercise in cutting off the nose to spite Suzuki’s pretty face!
Conclusion: Fortunately, the heart of the Ignis has not been corrupted by this round of mid-life alterations. It remains a cheery, funky and engaging small car that will continue to grab Suzuki sales in a far from overcrowded market segment.