Old-school COOL: 2017 Suzuki Ignis
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Although not quite in the same vein as the “never meet your heroes” maxim, awaiting an in-the-metal experience with a car you’ve been anticipating driving for some time can boast a similarly fraught build-up.
Will it look all wrong in person? Will the local distributor specify tiny wheels and the wrong engine? Above all else and despite the anticipation, will it simply prove catastrophically forgettable?
I’ve been looking forward to sampling the Suzuki Ignis since the wrapper first came off it at the Paris Motor Show last year.
I was instantly smitten with its styling; being an irreconcilable nostalgic, the obvious nods to the diminutive 1970s Cervo/Fronte coupe were undeniable and enough to make me proclaim it — tongue only slightly in cheek — “best in show”.
Fast forward to this week and I’ve finally had a go in Suzuki’s newly minted even smaller small car.
I won’t bury the headline any further in than this paragraph; especially in Limited-grade format, the new Ignis is fun to drive and satisfying to look at.
What’s more it presents a real alternative to the Swift; the model that has done so much heavy lifting for Suzuki as a brand, not just here but overseas.
The Ignis is a tall car, but it hides it well. In terms of ride height, you may be surprised to learn its 180mm ground clearance figure is only 5mm lower than a Vitara.
Photo / Cameron Officer
That height translates well inside though, with plenty of headroom on offer, but not at the gawky expense of the car’s overall looks.
No, it’s not a coupe like the forefathers from which its designers drew inspiration. But, as a result, it works better as a modern mode of city transport for all.
Those pretend air vents in the Ignis’ c-pillar are fantastic. They don’t do anything at all — in fact they’re just imprints in the metal, underlined with stripy decals — but they work well in giving the Ignis its own personality.
There are plenty of chrome accents up front around the grille, too (on the Limited grade model) that tip a shiny hat to Giugiaro’s original Cervo/Fronte coupe.
The interior of the Ignis Limited makes the perfectly fine Suzuki Swift cabin seem a bit dull in comparison.
About the only thing I’d like to change would be to have the Limited grade look with a manual gearbox.
There is one available (only a five-speeder, but still), although you must settle for the $18,990 entry-level Ignis GLX to get it, which comes with unflattering plastic wheel covers rather than the cool black discs seen on our Limited tester.
Photo / Cameron Officer
You don’t miss out on too much else with the GLX though, save for push-button start, satellite navigation, automatic LED headlights and (probably the biggest loss in the GLX) a reversing camera.
Also, I should point out the CVT auto in the Limited grade isn’t bad as such, it’s just this car feels immensely chuckable in a box-with-a-wheel-at-each-corner sort of way.
To get the most out of the 66kW available to you from the eager little 1.2-litre petrol engine, a manual box would provide for a much more satisfying drive.
Combined fuel economy for cars with the CVT transmission is a perfectly acceptable 4.9-litres/100km. The manual transmission ekes out slightly better economy at 4.7-litres/100km.
The Limited grade also features Apple Carplay and Android Auto mobile phone mirroring capabilities, accessed through a straightforward touchscreen unit in the centre console.
Climate air control, all the usual steering wheel buttons and contrast stitching in the seats completes the picture.
If you want to add to your Ignis Limited, you can opt for a black roof panel for an extra $490. Depending on your choice of exterior colour (the black roof can be affixed to only the white or red Ignis) it will seem churlish not to.
Suzuki’s Swift is probably an easy car to compare the Ignis with, and being at the tail end of its current model life makes it an easy target.
Photo / Cameron Officer
Finally, the brand has another car that has real potential in terms of audience share— an annual target of 800 Ignis sales.
If Suzuki could add all-wheel drive to the pot (something that is available overseas and that the local distributor is seriously investigating), then the Ignis would also start to resemble a funky, upmarket take on the perennial Jimny.
As for the competition, would you pay more for a Yaris or i20 over this?
Vitara aside, Suzuki likes to think of itself as the “small car specialist”. And this new small car is special indeed.
SUZUKI IGNIS LTD
ENGINES: 1242cc four-cylinder petrol (66kW/120Nm)
PRICES: $22,500 (or $22,990 for black roof panel)
PRO: A fun, straightforward steer with retro styling aplenty
CON: New Swift is on the horizon; will it conquer all Suzuki’s sales (again)?