What is it? The Suzuki Ignis is a compact crossover, providing an alternative to the regular small car choices
Key features: Distinctive styling, clever use of interior space
Our view: A clever small car that scores on its combination of distinctive styling and deceptive interior space
Review type: First drive
It is not often that one drives a new car and then struggles to pigeonhole it against direct rivals. The new Suzuki Ignis is just such a car, however.
While reviving a name last used by Suzuki a decade or so ago, the new Ignis is a world away from the odd, jacked-up supermini that was its predecessor. This is a small crossover, with lots of style and surprising interior space.
Suzuki’s reputation for effective small cars is well established and the Ignis looks to take this on a step. It is the second car, after the Baleno hatch, to use the new platform unveiled under the brand’s ‘Suzuki Next 100’ strategy in 2015. The architecture achieves the twin goals of increased rigidity, up by 10 per cent on previous Suzuki models, and reduced weight, the lightest Ignis weighing in at a mere 810kg.
The exterior styling is funky, looking purposeful and muscular as crossovers are expected to.
The car has a very strong face, with sharp lines in the grille providing a frame for the LED headlamps, while retaining Suzuki signature elements, such as the blacked-out windscreen and door pillars and the clamshell bonnet. And several previous Suzuki models are referenced in the detailing, such as the vents in the rear screen pillars, taken straight from a long-forgotten car called the SC100.
That bonnet is short on length, the Suzuki platform strategy aiming to minimise the size of the engine bay to create more interior space. And boy does it do so. Front seat room is generous, but it is equally so in the rear – there really is room to carry four full-size adults in comfort in this car, which cannot be said of so many rivals of similar size.
A big help to this is offered in second-tier SZ-T models and above, which replace the rear bench seat with two individual ones that can slide back and forth by a total of 165mm. Even with these slid right back a usable boot remains – quoted capacity of the boot is a competitive 267 litres, though this drops to 204 litres if one chooses the all-wheel-drive version with its rear differential. Fold the seats down and that capacity climbs to 514 litres, or 1,100 litres loaded to the roof.
Interior finish is to familiar Suzuki standards – while not exactly plush, it’s practical, though the bright colour detailing that is applied to the base of the centre console with certain exterior finishes will not be to everyone’s taste. The infotainment touchscreen looks a bit of an afterthought, stuck atop the centre console, but it works effectively enough.
Ignis engine and drivetrain choices
Currently there is only one engine option, Suzuki’s 1.2-litre Dualjet petrol unit of 90hp, but this is offered in two distinct forms. The standard variant promises a 0-62mph time of 13.5 seconds, 61.4mpg combined cycle fuel economy and emissions of 104g/km, whether one chooses it with a five-speed manual or the five-speed Auto Gear Shift (AGS) transmission.
The unit can also be had, however, with Suzuki’s SHVS mild hybrid system, effectively a starter motor generator that provides some extra potency under acceleration and generates electricity under braking. It makes a big difference to the 0-62mph sprint time, cutting it by 2.1 seconds, while adding more than four miles to the mpg, and dropping CO2 emissions under the magic 100g/km marker.
Choose your Ignis with Suzuki’s All-Grip all-wheel-drive system, that is only available combined with SHVS, and the car goes four-tenths quicker still! Fuel economy of 60.1mpg and emissions of 106g/km are still impressive considering the extra capability of traction through every wheel.
On the road
Times have long gone when 90hp meant sluggish performance, and the Ignis bowls along the road quite happily, especially with the hybrid assistance fitted on our test car. Like most petrol engines it’s at its best further up the rev range, and stiff gradients do need swift work down the gears. But the powertrain is responsive and refined, even at the Autostrada limits of the Rome launch event route.
The Ignis rides well on good road surfaces, and copes manfully on less than perfect tarmac. A series of bumps and dips will unsettle the chassis, but not alarmingly so, while the steering feels a little divorced from the wheels when cornering enthusiastically, but generally it’s an comfortable car to travel in.
Price and specification
Ignis buyers will have a choice of Suzuki’s usual three grades, with entry-level SZ3 versions boasting a strong standard equipment list stretching to air conditioning, DAB radio with Bluetooth and electric front windows.
SZ-T versions add satellite navigation, a parking camera, larger 16-inch alloy wheels, extended roof rails and those rear sliding seats.
Cars with SHVS and if required the All-Grip are only available in top SZ5 specification, which gains auto air conditioning, keyless entry and start, rear electric windows, LED headlamps with daytime running lights and front foglamps.
Suzuki has an extra weapon in its Ignis armoury – highly competitive prices. The Ignis will start from £9,999 for SZ3 models, £11,499 for SZ-T and £12,999 for the range-topping SZ5 in 2WD form – 4WD adds and extra £1,000.
Ignis safety rating(s)
Just in time for the launch, the Ignis has earned a five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP, but only if fitted with the Dual Camera Brake support system, which is standard on SZ5 versions and optional on the rest of the range. This system warns the driver of a likely collision and applies the brakes if needed, while it also includes lane departure warning and sounds an alert if the car begins to weave, such as if the driver suffers from drowsiness. If the Ignis is not fitted with this pack, the car only scores three stars.
The Suzuki Ignis summary
In terms of target market, the Ignis is probably closest to the Fiat Panda 4×4 or Panda Cross – but it ticks so many boxes that it is worthy of consideration by people buying across the small car line-up. Its looks may well appeal for those wanting something different to the pack, while its rear seat space will even bring it onto the radar of those buying in the next segment up.
The Ignis has already proven itself in Suzuki’s home market on Japan – available there since February 2016, it had clocked up almost 18,000 sales by November. European audiences first saw it at the Paris Motor Show in September and it will be in UK showrooms in January 2017.
Suzuki UK management says it hopes to sell 6,000 examples of the Ignis a year, mostly to people who have not bought from the brand before. On the strength of our first drive those figures look easily achievable.
Suzuki Ignis – key specification
Model Tested: Suzuki Ignis SZ5 SHVS 5-speed manual.
On Sale: January 2017
Range price: £9,999-£13,999
Insurance groups: TBA
Engines: 1.2 petrol.
Power (hp): 90
Torque (Nm): 120
0-62mph (sec): 13.5, 11.4*, 11.1**
Top speed (mph): 106, 106*, 103**
Fuel economy (combined, mpg): 61.4, 65.7*, 60.1**
CO2 emissions (g/km): 104, 97*, 106**
Key rivals: Fiat Panda, Volkswagen up!, Renault Captur
Test Date: December 2016
* = with SHVS mild hybrid. ** = with SHVS and AWD