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Car reviews - Suzuki - Ignis - 5-dr hatch

Our Opinion

We like
Willing, economical engine
Room for improvement
Packaging is disappointing, handling dynamics uninspiring

Suzuki logo21 Dec 2001

By TIM BRITTEN

SUZUKI'S Ignis is perhaps the most pseudo of the current crop of off-road look-alikes. With its tall-boy stance and slightly macho body sculpting, it looks like a sort of scaling-down (if that's possible) of mini soft-roaders like Daihatsu's Terios. Except that, unlike even the Terios, it is only a two-wheel drive and has no more off-road ability than a three-cylinder Daewoo Matiz.

The Ignis can be had with a 4WD system elsewhere though, and the suggestive looks is expected to be capitalised on a little more when the rebadged 4WD Holden Cruze version arrives here in 2002 - although at the time of writing Holden and Suzuki were still haggling over pricing and its introduction had been delayed.

But for now, the Ignis is the Suzuki you buy where once you would have made your down payment on a Swift. You can have it in either three or five-door form, both with the same wheelbase and with the same 1.3-litre 60kW engine, but varying slightly in specification.

If you were expecting the car's tallish height-to-width ratio to produce a fairly large interior for its relatively modest external dimensions (it's exactly the same length as a Toyota Echo, quite a bit narrower and substantially taller), be prepared for some disappointment.

The tall body fails to produce the anticipated legroom and the boot - protected from prying eyes by the flimsiest and silliest of cargo covers - is almost pitifully small, while shoulder room brings to mind the original VW Beetle.

To be fair, there is room enough up front, but in the back - in either three or five-door - there's a disturbing shortage of legroom. Considering what Toyota has managed to achieve with the Echo, one wonders where all the longitudinal millimetres have gone - although the tallness of the body means most passengers will at least have sufficient headroom.

So if the Ignis fails to produce even the modest interior space - and boot space - so valued by customers buying in this category, how does it rate in terms of equipment?

Well, the five-door version is obviously the more tarted-up of the two, adding air-conditioning, remote central locking, electric front windows and exterior mirrors, driver's seat height and lumbar adjustment and roof rails to the dual front airbags, power steering, CD player/radio stereo sound system and split/folding rear seat seen in the three-door. Of course all that costs, upping the bill by around $2500 without offering anything extra in terms of passenger comfort other than easier entry into the tight back seat.

From a practicality viewpoint, the five-door's roof rails supplement the meagre capacity of the boot. Disappointingly, there is no double fold for the 50-50 split rear seats, although the seatback angle can be adjusted. There is a removable tray in the boot, as well as two secret under-floor storage areas for smaller items. On either side of the dash, handy trays supplement the glovebox and door bins.

From a safety viewpoint, the Ignis looks okay with two front airbags standard on both models, as well as front seatbelt pretensioners and a "safety cell" body that collapses progressively and protectively in front, rear and side accidents.

The Ignis might be all new but there are some familiarities in the suspension, with MacPherson struts at the front and a Suzuki-patented three-link "Isolated Trailing Link" beam axle design at the back.

The engine is a redeeming feature, producing 60kW at 6000rpm from its 1.3-litres, along with 106Nm of torque at a highish 4500rpm. It is an all-alloy design, with the usual twin camshaft, multi-valve heads and multi-point electronic fuel injection.

The highway fuel figure of 4.88-litres/100km is bettered only by cars like the Honda Insight and helps extend the range offered by the 41-litre fuel tank. The engine also complies with both EURO 3 and D4 emission standards.

In the end though, the Ignis package tends to equal less than the sum of its parts.

Although the engine performs well - due in part to the fact that the five-door comes in at just 915kg - the handling dynamics are not especially confidence inspiring as the seemingly top-heavy body rolls around when pushed through a corner.

Suzuki never said it was a sports car and the Ignis verifies this by being a little under tyred and soft in the suspension. That means while the ride is okay, the steering (the wheel is non-adjustable) is more than a little numb and lacks some linearity of power assistance, seeming almost stiff when lock is being applied. Short-wheelbase fore-aft pitch is also evident and, on rough roads, some disturbing rattling and squeaking emanates from the interior.

As already noted, the 1.3-litre engine does a sterling job, both in its ability to shift the car along swiftly, while consuming precious little fuel at the same time. But there is a vague, disconnected feel to the gearshift, requiring a little time for driver adaptation. The four-speed auto, as expected, is easy to live with although it does inhibit the accelerative potential of the Ignis package.

But perhaps the biggest disappointment is that the Ignis does not offer the packaging advantages usually expected in a car of these proportions. About the only thing you get that is noticeably different is exceptional headroom.

A small rear seat might be acceptable in a car of this size, but when that's combined with a tiny boot as well, the search for justification becomes increasingly futile.

The Ignis is big on promise - it tends to stand out among other light cars with its suggestive looks - but is small on what it actually delivers.

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