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First drive: Swift action for Ignis Sport

Plastic fantastic: A large amount of plastic panelling is used on Ignis Sport to create a more intimidating look to the standard Ignis three-door hatch.

Suzuki launches the Ignis Sport – spiritual successor to the Swift GTi

12 Aug 2003

IT sounds sterile, so new millennium, the title “Ignis Sport”. But make no mistake. This oven-baked Suzuki, launched this week some 18 months later than management first intended, does indeed deserve to be known as the spiritual successor to the Swift GTi.

We’re told that Volkswagen owns the rights to the GTi moniker. And knowing, well, a little about post-modern P-platers, we can understand how market research would show Forrest Gump having more influence over potential owners than forest stages.

But life is like … Life seems OK when an average little box like Ignis is lowered, strengthened, sharpened and toned. And given white wheels.

“The Swift GTi really created a unique niche in the Australian market because it was bought by people who wanted real performance credentials without the mega-price price tag,” said Suzuki Australia general manager automobiles, David Le Mottee.

Does Ignis Sport do the same?The Japanese manufacturer has trotted out all sorts of tenuous (two-wheeled) links from the past to strengthen its case, although its participation in the Super 1600 class of the FIA Junior World Rally Championship is being touted as the inspiration behind the Ignis Sport.

“The feedback received from motorsport engineers gave Suzuki the confidence and the ideas to develop the car,” Mr Le Mottee insisted.

“The design brief was quite simple – it was to develop a car with a distinct feeling of motorsport, yet it had to be practical, reliable and easy to drive because we know that’s what consumers are looking for.”

A 1600cc engine was expected to be the natural choice for the car, however a new-to-Australia 1490cc 16-valve four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing has emerged with as much torque and quite a good deal more power than the 1.6 found in the Liana.

Developing 83kW at 6500rpm and 143Nm at 4100rpm, the engine is claimed to catapult the 935kg Ignis from rest to 100km/h in 8.9 seconds, reaching the quarter mile in 16.5 seconds.

Note that it needs top-shelf unleaded to achieve these times, using the sole transmission available with the car – a five-speed manual with close ratios used between second and fifth. And in case the power and weight with this car has not sunk in, note another little detail: 89kW/tonne.

Fuel consumption is not all that frugal in micro-car terms, though 8.9L/100km urban and 5.8L/100km extra-urban suggest the 1.5 Ignis won’t break the bank with over-use at the bowser – even when it is driven like Suzuki intended.

Pricing starts from $19,990, with metallic paint adding $175 and large circular foglamps slotting in as a dealer-fit accessory

For these moments, the Japanese manufacturer has fitted a brace underneath the engine to improve torsional rigidity and included 14-inch disc brakes at the rear and bigger (14-inch) rotors at the front. Anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution are also fitted.

The chassis sits 20mm lower to the ground and damping rates are firmed up for the front strut and three-link beam axle rear suspension. Increases in front and rear track have also been achieved, in part through the use of fat 185/55R15 Yokohama Advan A-043 tyres. Those “Colgate” 15-inch alloy wheels are also standard.

An astonishing amount of plastic panelling is used to create a more intimidating look to the standard Ignis three-door hatch. Most notable are the blue-tinted headlight reflectors, beefed-up front and rear bumpers, flared wheel arches, sculpted side cladding and a large roof-mounted rear spoiler claimed to cut wind resistance and optimise rear-end stability at high speeds. Maximum speed is a claimed 185km/h.

The interior gets a makeover with black-trimmed Recaro bucket seats, white gauges (backlit in blue at night), fake carbon fibre around the dash and cowhide on the gear knob and three-spoke steering wheel.

Equipment runs to a four-speaker CD/radio (with MP3 playback), air-conditioning, electric windows/mirrors, remote central locking and dual airbags.

Pricing starts from $19,990, with metallic paint adding $175 and large circular foglamps slotting in as a dealer-fit accessory.

Despite an all-new Ignis set down for launch in September, 2004, Suzuki Australia has vowed to continue selling the Sport alongside the new three-door and five-door until a replacement arrives around 12 months later.

Sales expectations are 100 cars per month, with more in 2004 when allocations from Japan are understood to increase.


A SHORT slalom run and a quick blast around a small section of glass-smooth racing circuit was the extent to which Suzuki Australia offered us a first taste of the Ignis Sport. But in some important aspects, we’re impressed.

The engine is far from being a firecracker, however it provides good acceleration from a standing start, remains refined to its 6500rpm redline, has some genuine muscle through its mid-range – the short gearing through the less-than-slick manual gearbox helps keeps thing on the boil – and does not overwhelm the front end as power is transferred to the road.

Despite the big chrome exhaust tip looking out of place on the narrow-diameter “billiard cue” pipework, the exhaust itself is tuned for a racing note and sounds the business, too, when given the full boot.

The Sport maintains good poise through corners and the 15-inch Yokohamas provide excellent grip through tight corners before the car degenerates into predictable understeer. The steering is direct.

Much more consideration is needed for the driver. The position of the steering wheel cannot be altered, the Recaro bucket seat – despite providing good support – does not have full-seat adjustment (cushion angle is all there is) and more fore/aft seat travel is needed.

There’s no coolant temperature gauge or a driver’s footrest and the Clarion stereo has microscopic buttons. The centre rear position uses a lap belt, rear seat-fold functions are poor and a space-saver spare wheel is located under the cargo floor.

Recaros or not, the garish netting used in the headrests are also a sure bet to be hacked out with a kitchen knife whenever the car finds a home.

Of course, these are minor issues. Engine, brakes, wheels, stereo, looks, price – Suzuki has not forgotten the aspects which handed the Swift GTi cult status during the 1990s.

These modern times, this modern car, does not feel as decadent as those from last decade. But there’s no time like the present to start bucking the trend.

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