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Car reviews - Suzuki - Ignis - GL

Our Opinion

We like
Excellent cabin quality, impressive infotainment system, decent rear legroom and boot space, energetic four-cylinder
Room for improvement
Loose and sticky steering, lumpy ride quality, lacks refinement, pales alongside new Swift

Gallery

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Suzuki logo6 Nov 2017

By DANIEL DEGASPERI

Overview

MICRO hatchbacks might be miniscule business in Australia, but Suzuki is a master of the craft.

Having dropped the older Celerio from its line-up, the new Ignis joins the equally new Baleno and even-newer Swift in all being available in showrooms from under $20,000 driveaway. It is simply a force-by-numbers approach to stealing more of a diminished sales pie.

Suzuki will technically classify the Ignis as a small SUV, but it is best described as a slightly raised and mildly inflated micro hatchback. The pricing reflects that, too, with this entry GL automatic priced from $16,990 plus on-road costs, or $17,990 driveaway – just $1000 pricier than the manual.

Here, the Ignis GL must compete with high-specification micro hatchbacks and lower-end light hatchbacks … even within its own Suzuki stable.

Price and equipment

Consider that, with an auto, a Mazda2 Neo costs $19,200 driveaway, a Toyota Yaris YR asks $17,490 driveaway, and an auto-equipped Ignis GL falls in the ballpark at $17,990 driveaway.

Hubcaps mostly rule here, and the Suzuki is no exception with 15-inch steel wheels bested only by the auto-equipped Holden Barina LS at $15,990 driveaway, and the Hyundai Accent Sport at $17,490 driveaway.

The Ignis GL does, however, score foglights like only the Holden does, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel as with only the Hyundai. It delivers a reverse-view camera on its 7.0-inch touchscreen, plus Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone connectivity, then finds a firm advantage by being the only rival to feature voice control with integrated satellite navigation.

Otherwise everything falls on par, with manual air-conditioning, remote central locking, multi-function trip computer and power windows and mirrors all covered. The only exception is that autonomous emergency braking (AEB) is unavailable, though it only features in the Mazda2 Neo (which conversely lacks a touchscreen and camera).

Interior

Most light hatchbacks measure about four metres long, but the Ignis GL slides in at just 3700mm from its rounded nose to its upright, pert tail. Despite its parking friendliness, however, the Suzuki also appears brilliantly packaged, starting with an airy up-front feel.

The seats are surprisingly wide and comfortable, though they do lack decent bolstering. Further back and the impressively deep bench hardly intrudes on the significant legroom available, in addition to the plentiful headroom. Buyers will be forced to spend another $3000 on the auto-only Ignis GLX to score a sliding back bench, however, which even further improves boot volume.

With a luggage capacity of 271 litres, the Suzuki is up there with the roomiest in the light car class, despite being as short as some micro hatchbacks.

The dashboard design impresses most, though, blending nice dimpled plastics with two-tone colouring, chrome doorhandles, piano-black finishes and even optional coloured doorhandles. Along with terrific button tactility and general fit and finish, a bright and intuitive touchscreen, and excellent voice control for the navigation, and the Suzuki performs well above its station inside.

Engine and transmission

The Ignis only gets a 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, but then again it only has a kerb weight of 865kg and claims to slurp just 4.9 litres of regular unleaded per 100 kilometres.

Less delivers more (than several more powerful rivals) in this case. The 66kW of power produced at 6000rpm and 120Nm of torque delivered at 4400rpm are more than enough to help this front-wheel drive Suzuki feel energetic and spritely.

The engine even sounds growly, but refined when revved.

Unfortunately, the little four-cylinder is matched with an automatic continuously-variable transmission (CVT) that is more than a little lacking in smarts. It is tuned to deliver short, sharp response off the line, but that can make the GL difficult to drive smoothly. Lift the throttle sharply and the vehicle can surge forward ask for quick acceleration and it can take ages to ‘wind up’.

Without paddle shifters or a dedicated manual mode – which should not need to be used anyway – the auto CVT significantly detracts from driving enjoyment, although it did return reasonably decent on-test fuel consumption of 6.5L/100km. Even so, best save cash and stick with the manual.

Ride and handling

With the new Swift, a proper light car rival to the Mazda2 crew, Suzuki has shown it can deliver sweet steering, smooth ride quality and superb handling in its new generation of hatchbacks. The Ignis is, however, firmly BS in this regard – or, Before Swift.

On the road it feels more like a bouncy, older micro hatchback than the larger, newer hatches it is priced to compete against. Despite utilising sensible, broad tyres, its ride quality is constantly restless and occasionally abrupt, particularly at low speed around town. The suspension can feel modelled off a po-go stick, while plenty of road roar and wind rush enters the cabin.

The steering, likewise, is vague on the centre position and muddy in weight just off it, lacking the smoothness and linearity that after years of dud electric-assist tuning attempts, Suzuki has finally nailed in the latest Swift range.

Whether darting through city backstreets or threading down a tight mountain pass, the GL does offer basic agility and peppy dynamics, but it is all a bit wooden and sophistication-free.

Safety and servicing

Six airbags (including dual front, front-side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee protection), ABS, electronic stability control (ESC) and reverse-view camera come as standard.

ANCAP has not tested the Suzuki Ignis.

Capped-price servicing includes below-average bi-annual or 10,000km check-ups at a cost of $175 for each of the first seven dealer visits. Only the fourth deviates from the trend, asking $359 for a major check.

Verdict

Suzuki has sold almost 2000 units of the Ignis this year, with three months of 2017 still to go. That is about the same number of Baleno models sold, though half the number of Swift hatchbacks.

Frankly, the new Swift GL is a much better car than the Ignis GL. In its funky styling, finely finished interior, general fun and frisky performance, this micro hatchback-cum-SUV should score enough points to win over the declining number of buyers now shopping in the sub-$20,000 space.

Arguably, however, this Suzuki should be cheaper still. Its steering, ride and handling are all ousted by the dearly departed Volkswagen Up that came to market way back in 2012 and left soon after, while in the light hatch class only the Barina and Yaris are less finessed than this contender.

A manual transmission would solve part of the issue, and improve the value equation, but a swift (ahem) dynamic improvement is required for this otherwise talented little tike.

Rivals

Mazda2 Neo auto from $19,200 driveawaySmaller inside, more fun to drive, but expensive and lacks infotainment nous.

Toyota Yaris YR auto from $17,490 driveawayRides well, and great value in base spec, but drivetrain sorely dated.

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