Suzuki Ignis

Praise the packaging, not the performance

BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

REMEMBER the first Ignis from the turn of this century? This is less like that cheap and cheerless buzzbox, and more like a descendent of the closelyrelated, high-riding Holden Cruze AWD version also built by Suzuki between 2002 and 2006.

Now on an all-new platform, this second-gen, ground-up remake is thematically, as well as proportionally, similar to that GM-badged baby, but boasting a fresh and super-funky look.

Riding many millimetres higher (at 180mm) than your regular sublight car, which the Ignis matches dimensionally, this dinky 3.7m long five-door hatch spearheads the Japanese brand’s assault on the currently empty baby SUV class. The last entrant was Fiat’s failed Panda Trekking.

Suzuki, however, has priced its front-drive crossover to succeed.

From $15,990, the GL includes sat-nav, a reversing camera, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, cruise control with limiter and a leather wheel, though strangely no driver’s seat-height adjuster. But the $19K GLX does, along with 16-inch alloys and a useful two-part (and two occupant) sliding/reclining back seat instead of the GL’s single three-seater, boosting the 264-litre cargo area’s versatility.

Lofty seating and deep windows afford excellent vision, while there is adequate space for four upright adults… considering the Ignis’s diminutive length, that is.

Despite brandishing plenty of hard, scratchy plastics, the two-tone dash is one of Suzuki’s finest, offering an attractively simple fascia dominated by an LCD touchscreen, lovely analogue instrumentation, and – on the GLX – elegant climate control toggle switches. Nothing clangs or jars.

That well-constructed feeling flows through to the driving experience, though spending less definitely yields more.

For now, the sole powertrain choice is a new-to-Oz 1.2-litre fourpot ‘Dualjet’ atmo unit. Mated to the GL’s sweet-shifting five-speed manual gearbox, this is a smooth and punchy little pacemaker, pulling energetically once the revs start building. A typical Suzuki engine then, it feels unburstable, and is frugal to boot.

However we’d avoid the CVT alternative. It highlights the engine’s lack of torque by forever holding on to higher revs at speed, and pretty much everywhere except on the lightest throttle opening. Performance is lazy off the line, requiring planning for safe overtaking manoeuvres, while in Sport mode at 100km/h, the tacho hovers restlessly at a tiresome 3000rpm.

The bigger Baleno’s hearty 1.0- litre three-pot turbo/six-speed auto combo (rumoured eventually for the Ignis) would make for a far superior powertrain.

Just as dispiriting is the oddly tuned electric steering. Light and easy enough around town, with a brilliantly tight turning circle (yet an excessive 3.6 turns lock-to-lock), out along twisty bits the disappointingly muted helm goes from sleepy to edgy way too sharply, and in hard cornering the rack rattle is interminable.

Finally, on the GLX’s 175/60R16 tyres, the ride goes from firm one-up to punishing with more on board over bumpier roads, crashing over potholes with wearying regularity. Though not as supple as the cheaper Celerio, the GL’s 175/65R15 rubber is considerably more comfortable.

Striking inside and out, then, the endearing GL manual balances design, functionality and value with appealing verve and refinement like no previous Ignis ever has. But the buzzy auto, gloopy steering and rude ride make the disappointing GLX feel like a throwback to the original.

PLUS & MINUS

Inconsistent and low-geared steering; ropey CVT; no turbo three-pot Funky and cleverly packaged; generous equipment; competitive pricing Model Engine Max Power Max Torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Suzuki Ignis GLX 1242cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v 66kW @ 6000rpm 120Nm @ 4400rpm CVT automatic 865kg 12.5sec (estimated) 4.9L/100km $18,990 Now

The cost of individuality

The generous standard equipment in the Ignis means the options list is rather brief. However, Suzuki was excited to tout the changeable exterior and interior trimmings.

The colourful additions are a quick dealer-fit proposition and include mirror caps, wheel decals and headlight and grille accents, interior trims and centre console and door handle accents. Pricing was not available at launch, however Suzuki estimated that $500 for exterior, and $300 for interior bits was in the ballpark.

OR TRY THESE...

Skoda Fabia 81TSI Wagon $21,440

Skoda’s mid-spec Fabia Wagon is a bit pricier than the Suzuki, but it’s money well spent. It offers more space inside, a classier cabin and a torquier 1.2-litre turbo four that delivers similar economy.

Mazda CX-3 Neo $19,990

The base manual CX-3 is Mazda’s nearest Ignis competitor price-wise.

It will cost you an extra two grand for the auto, but the CX-3 is a polished dynamic package and among the most convincing small-SUV offerings, even at the entry level.