Car reviews - Suzuki - Ignis - range
Unique Japanese retro styling, excellent cabin NVH, lofty interior space, fun customisation options, razor-sharp price, generous standard tech
Room for improvement
CVT not quite there yet, 1.0-litre turbo version would be an instant classic
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17 Jan 2017
AESTHETICS are such a subjective area of any given vehicle that we often don’t spend much time appraising them as part of a review, but when it comes to the affordable end of the compact crossover segment, the way a car looks is arguably more critical, so oblige us with the Suzuki Ignis.
It is fair to say there is nothing else quite like it on the road for a whole catalogue of reasons its stance is wide and tough at the front but slender and Bambi-legged at the back, its combination of vibrant colours with optional trims are fabulously playful and it shrieks Japanese retro.
Then there are some clever nods to various models in Suzuki’s rich past of unorthodox vehicles. Picking them out is as addictive as a game of spot-the-difference but to get you started, look for the Vitara bonnet and Swift A-pillars, while the grille and entire tail section could have been lifted from the late 1970s Cervo.
For young drivers looking for something that does not conform to conventional car design, we are certain the new Ignis will appeal.
Looking back through the various concepts and design studies that led to the production Ignis reveals how honest the design is to its evolution, and we challenge you to stare into the LED horseshoe-accented LED headlights of the GLX and not feel like you are looking at a showcar. The 2015 Geneva show iM-4 concept is virtually unchanged.
The same unorthodox approach continues on the inside with more optional trims that can be mixed and matched to either complement the exterior theme or completely colour-block it like a rebellious teen.
Its tiny exterior proportions belie the interior space which is surprisingly generous for both front and rear occupants with lots of headroom and plenty of second-row leg-room thanks to the sliding bench in top-spec GLX variants. The GL has a fixed rear seat.
Driving position in a diminutive compact hatch is ordinarily a matter of sitting bolt upright with a more commercial vehicle layout, but the Ignis manages a more laid-back position with lots of support from the heavily side-bolstered seats.
In the back, it is just as comfortable, although the unusual rear window line does limit visibility for passengers.
We love the daring white plastics that feel like they would never yield to abuse, contrasting bright metallic door handles and centre console, and the well-designed dashboard.
As a centrepiece, Suzuki has fitted both GL and GLX Ignisses? Ignis? Igni? with an attractive 7.0-inch touchscreen for accessing some impressive standard technology. Navigation, reversing camera, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and iPod/Bluetooth connectivity are all included in the priceA few too many blanked switch posts made us feel like we were in a cheap version even when aboard the GLX, but that was the only disappointing thing to be found in the cabin. Yes, the plastics are harder than you would forgive many cars, but every element of the Ignis has to be considered in the context of its asking price.
While Mazda cleans up in the two-wheel-drive compact crossover segment with a price range of $19,990 to $31,290 before on-road costs for its CX-3, the little Suzuki confidently weighs in with a $16,990 driveaway price. Wow.
Even if you jump to the GLX auto you still won’t pay more than the base CX-3, which we think is a pretty compelling equation, particularly in such a price-driven segment.
We didn’t get an opportunity to sample the entry GL with its five-speed manual gearbox and instead jumped straight to the GLX auto which had been dressed up in our favourite combination of metallic Mineral Grey paint with optional metallic orange trims around the grille, fog-lights, mirror caps and wheels.
Out on the road, the Ignis sits high like a begging puppy and offers a good view of surroundings rather than stooping below other road-user’s eye-level as many compact cars are susceptible to.
Regardless of the variant, the Ignis is powered by a 1.2-litre Dualjet four-cylinder petrol engine, and while 66kW and 120Nm of torque might not sound like enough to overcome a light breeze, the Ignis’ secret weapon is weight.
With just 865kg under its belt, the Suzuki is one of the lightest new cars money can buy and that translates to a frivolous character and acceleration not quite as tiresome as you might expect.
Its naturally aspirated engine is a little too present when revved hard but delivers adequate performance for a car in this segment. However, a 1.0-litre turbo three-cylinder transplanted from the Baleno would turn the Ignis from loveable and amusing to downright hilarious.
Suzuki has not confirmed if it is considering the sporty 82kW/160Nm version but if it were ever made available, Australia would have the closest thing to its own cult Kei car.
Car manufacturers are getting better at the art of continuously variable transmissions (CVT) and the one bolted into the Ignis is certainly not the most abrasive we have encountered with fixed-ratio steps engineered in for a more user-friendly experience, but it still has the tendency to drone under hard acceleration.
In corners, the Ignis’ playful nature continues like a roller skate, negotiating bends with little body-roll and changing direction effortlessly. It won’t smash any lap records but in the real world of urban traffic, the Ignis would get you places faster than some significantly more powerful cars.
When we had calmed down and settled into a stretch of freeway cruising, we could appreciate one of the Ignis’ most impressive attributes and its surprisingly low cabin noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels.
We had come prepared to forgive the baby Ignis some clatter from stones in the wheel-arches, wind noise and tyre roar – and would allow any small, light car the same dispensation – but it was not necessary at all.
Even on rough surfaces and loose gravel, the Ignis offers a cabin serenity to match (and even better) many larger and more expensive models from brands you would never think could be compared to a tiny, reasonably-priced Japanese town-terrier.
Australia will not be offered a four-wheel drive version for now, but a 180mm ground clearance and generous approach and departure angles will allow adventurous drivers to explore more tracks and trails than a regular hatchback, as well as negotiating bigger urban challenges.
With such a serene cabin, plenty of space and comfort, occupants can relax and enjoy the excellent tech features such as the Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatible services, 7.0-inch touchscreen and versatile connectivity. Nav is also thrown in as standard for all variants.
Suzuki has already proved that it can respond well to Australia’s SUV demands with the popular Vitara, but the smashing little Ignis takes all of its bigger sibling’s likeable features and enhances them.
It may be one of Australia’s tiniest contenders, but the Ignis has huge personality and a value proposition that is hard to ignore.
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