It’s been nearly 10 years since the last of the previous generation Ignis rolled out of Suzuki’s UK showrooms, and what a difference a decade has made.
While the old car managed to whip up a (relatively) decent number of loyal customers over the seven years it was on sale, it’d be fair to say that it was a dull-but-worthy creation – well priced and equipped, but hardly the first word in desirability.
Suzuki is hoping that this distinctive-looking new car – revealed at the Paris motor show earlier this year and already on sale in Japan – can succeed where the old car didn’t, and provide a properly desirable alternative to European rivals from the likes of Vauxhall and Fiat.
On looks alone, the Ignis is off to a cracking start already. It borrows much of its design cues from Suzuki’s IM-4 concept unveiled at last year’s Geneva motor show, and manages to pull off the chunky-yet-cute vibe very well indeed.
There’s no doubt it’s a small car, but thanks to a squat stance and puffed-out wheel arches, the Ignis looks far more miniature-crossover than jumped-up city car – particularly compared to its rivals.
The SZ-T and SZ5 cars pull off the look the most convincingly, with roof bars and bigger alloys that complete the illusion nicely, and the latter trim level’s fog lamps and LED headlights make Ignis’s front end look downright premium. The nod to a model of Suzuki’s past – the Whizzkid – in the triangular motif on the rear pillar is a neat touch too.
The interior is similarly impressive. Materials are what you’d expect from a Japanese city car – which is to say general hard to the touch and a bit flimsy here and there – but all the crucial elements like door handles and electric window switches feel pretty solid.
More importantly, the design is spot on, with brightly-coloured details and a two-tone dashboard lifting the ambience inside the Ignis considerably. Put simply, it’d be a far more pleasant place to spend a grey Tuesday morning than any of its rivals.
The Ignis is a comparatively tiny car – it’s more than 20cm shorter than a Ford Ka+, for example – but practicality is still surprisingly good. All cars get five doors, and rear passengers will find a surprising amount of head and leg room – enough for two adults to sit comfortably, particularly on SZ-T and SZ5 cars with their sliding rear seats.
Boot space isn’t huge by any means at 260 litres with seats in position, but that’s only 10 litres behind the larger Ka+’s. Selecting the optional four-wheel-drive system will knock that back to 204, however, and it’s worth bearing in mind that only the entry-level SZ3 trim can seat five.
Safety is relatively good too, with the Ignis boasting a five star EuroNCAP rating for models equipped with Dual Camera Brake Support. Models without the feature get a three star rating, however.
There’s just the one engine option: a 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol borrowed from the Swift. It’s not as perky as the 1.0-litre turbocharged ‘Boosterjet’ unit you’ll find in the Baleno, but it’s more than enough to propel the sub-one tonne Ignis along with ease. As in the Swift, it needs some revving to really get going, but if anything that adds to the Ignis’s honest appeal.
Some cars get an SHVS ‘mild’ hybrid system too – effectively a way of regenerating the power used when you brake. Fitting this not only improves the Ignis’s fuel economy a smidge, but knocks a few fractions of a second off the 0-60mph figure too.
You sit deliberately high in the Ignis, so visibility from the front and sides is excellent and jumping in and out is an ease. The steering wheel adjusts for rake but not reach, though it’s still easy to get comfortable regardless. Buttons and switches are logically laid out in front of you too, and although the touch screen navigation system isn’t the most responsive around, it’s easy enough to use.
To drive, the Ignis has undeniably been set up for comfort rather than outright sportiness – and that seems about right for a car of this type. The steering, clutch and gearbox are all light to the touch, and make herding the Ignis around city traffic a piece of cake. Ride quality is good even on the larger 16-inch alloys, and things are remarkably stable at motorway speeds too.
Take things off the beaten path and things are similarly impressive. The Ignis’s optional four-wheel-drive system isn’t a particularly sophisticated one, but should be more than enough to get it across a muddy field or up a rutted track with ease – particularly combined with the car’s featherlight 920kg kerb weight.
It’s hard to fault the Ignis on value for money – even entry-level SZ3 cars get plenty of toys. Air conditioning, front electric windows and a DAB radio with USB and Bluetooth connectivity are all thrown in. SZ-T cars get some added street cred thanks to 16-inch alloy wheels, roof bars and a touchscreen sat nav with reversing camera, while top-of-the-range SZ5 trim brings LED headlights, keyless entry, climate control and more.
When you consider that barely any other cars at this price point can be fitted with four-wheel-drive too, the Ignis makes all the more sense – despite the fact that it’s only available as an option on the top-spec SZ5 trim level.
Servicing is at 12,500 mile intervals, and thanks to uncomplicated mechanical parts it should be inexpensive to keep on the road too.
Suzuki reckons the Ignis is in something of a segment of its own – the ‘ultra compact SUV’. Think of it as more of an city car-sized crossover and you’d be bang on the money.
Typical city car buyers are likely to love its roughed-up, brawnier-than-average looks combined with low running costs and compact dimensions – the Ignis is just as easy to drive as any of its A-segment rivals, and has a design that stands out against them well.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, countryside-dwellers should like its four-wheel-drive capability without the compromise – this is a car that won’t break a sweat crossing a Dale in winter, but won’t make parallel parking a nightmare either.
Model: Suzuki Ignis (£11,000)
Engine: 1.2-litre ‘Dualjet’ petrol
Transmission: Five-speed manual
Performance: 0-60mph: 11.2s, top speed: 106mph
Power: 88bhp, 120Nm
Economy: 65.7 (combined cycle)