If shopping for a light hatchback is like doing the groceries, then the 2017 Suzuki Ignis GL resolutely confirms that its maker now dominates the aisles.
Perhaps Suzuki remains the outsider’s choice in terms of popularity compared with Mazda and Toyota, the automotive equivalents of Uncle Toby’s and Kellogg’s.
However, the addition of the Ignis means the Japanese brand now has its shelves stocked with four options priced under $20,000 – adding to its basket of micro celery (sorry, Celerio) and light/small Baleno, with the light Swift to come. Toyota offers only one option below that tag; Mazda a duo by a whisker (namely the $19,990 CX-3).
Suzuki wants you to believe the Ignis is a light SUV. Smaller (and cheaper) than a CX-3 it may be, but take that with the grain of salt available in aisle five.
Vehicle Style: Light SUV
Price: $16,990 plus on-road costs or $17,990 driveaway
Engine/trans: 66kW/120Nm 1.2 petrol four-cylinder | automatic CVT
Fuel Economy Claimed: 4.5 l/100km | Tested: 6.5 l/100km
How much do you value 40mm? That’s right, there is just four centimetres difference in ground clearance between the lower Swift hatchback and taller ‘SUV’ Ignis.
Don’t expect to venture off-road in the latter, either, as it’s a front-wheel-drive proposition. However you classify it, the Ignis’ body leaves it larger than Celerio but smaller than Swift. Yet it’s also cleverly packaged beyond counting millimetres.
At 3700mm long it stretches 100mm further than a Celerio but stops 150mm before the Swift. Width of 1660mm leaves Ignis 60mm broader than the smallest Suzuki but 35mm narrower than the latter, larger one. It’s 55mm and 85mm taller than each, respectively, but weighs in at 865kg – just 5kg heavier than Celerio but a huge 170kg lighter than Swift. And it has a larger boot than both.
It all sounds like fine efficiency, although the as-tested Ignis GL with automatic continuously-variable transmission (CVT) is also $4000 pricier than Celerio and at $16,990 plus on-road costs, or $17,990 driveaway, it runs well into Swift territory.
- Standard Equipment: keyless entry, power windows and mirrors, leather-wrapped steering wheel, multi-function trip computer, manual air-conditioning and cruise control
- Infotainment: 7.0-inch colour touchscreen with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, USB input, satellite navigation and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity and voice control
- Options Fitted: None
- Cargo Volume: 271 litres (minimum), 1101L (maximum)
Fit and finish is a Suzuki specialty and the Japanese-built Ignis is no exception to that expectation. This entry-level model may only have basic, manual air-conditioning controls and simple switchgear, but they all press and rotate with slick damping that some cars – such as the twice-the-price Renault Megane GT tested in the same week – struggle to match.
While the cabin plastics are hard, they are also nicely textured and blended with a two-tone dashboard featuring multi-colour console and doorhandle highlights.
Our test car had metallic beige highlights that are not really in keeping with the vibrant personality of the Ignis, but orange and aqua are also available to match – or contrast with – the multi-colour grille, foglight bezel and mirror caps available outside.
Neither the Celerio nor Swift offer this level of customisation first pioneered among the smallest cars with the reborn Mini Cooper.
In terms of non-hue-related highlights, the standard 7.0-inch colour touchscreen soars to prime position.
Even beyond the micro hatchback (nee SUV) segment the inclusion of integrated satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring technology and a reverse-view camera is impressive for an entry-level model.
Even better, the display is of the high-resolution variety, the ‘quadrant’ design of the main menu is as intuitive as the entry of phone numbers and street addresses while the alternative voice control system is among the most accurate around – again, more so than the Megane GT tested in the same week.
About the only missing feature is a digital radio.
By contrast the biggest downside with the Ignis is that its clangy doors, driving position and seat comfort all can’t quite match the more ‘grown up’ Swift. Despite a similar pricetag, in some ways this Suzuki feels more like an expensive micro hatch.
The otherwise broad front seats lack side support, while rear passengers will be most exposed to cost-cutting measures reflected in the lack of plastic trim around the door apertures and missing roof grab handles.
Thanks to a tall rear seating position, however, rear legroom and headroom are both competitive with larger vehicles, and there are at least door bottle holders to match those in the front.
A sizeable 271-litre boot volume also eclipses that of the Celerio (254L) and Swift (210L), although buyers will need to choose the Ignis GLX to score a sliding rear seat to enhance boot space and decrease rear legroom, or vice versa.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 66kW/120Nm 1.2 4cyl petrol
- Transmission: automatic continuously-variable transmission (CVT), FWD
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front and torsion bar rear
- Brake: ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes
- Steering: electrically assisted mechanical steering
In recent times kerb weight has become key to distinguishing new generations of micro, light and small cars from older generations that may soon be due for replacement. Shedding the kilograms has become key to maximising performance and economy – and meeting global emissions standards – as the Ignis shows.
Comparing the new-for-2016 Ignis with the soon-replaced 2011-era Swift, the micro SUV tested here weighs 865kg and claims to drink 4.9 litres of regular unleaded per 100 kilometres. The older Suzuki? 1035kg and 6.2L/100km.
Suzuki further spruiks that the 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine underneath the petite Ignis bonnet reaps greater rewards from just 66kW of power at 6000rpm and 120Nm of torque at 4400rpm, than the 1.4-litre Swift does from its greater 70kW/130Nm.
It’s true, the front-wheel-drive Ignis is an extremely peppy performer when tied to its automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT). Sharp throttle response results in it leaping off the line, although it’s almost too keen for smooth driving in traffic.
The CVT also suffers from the ‘elastic band’ response found with some of the more poorly tuned versions of this gearbox type; accelerate quickly then release the throttle and it surges forward for a second thereafter before snapping to lower revs.
Yet this CVT is especially dour because it permits engine revs to drop almost to idle when cruising, which is fine given the pursuit of economy, but it also takes seconds to wind back up when throttle is quickly added to overtake.
Not only is the $1000-cheaper five-speed manual the smarter bet, but even the old four-speed automatic used in the Swift is slicker and smarter in operation.
In a similar light, the Ignis can’t match the suspension maturity of the Swift.
Despite its added ride height and sensible, small tyres, this Suzuki provides only a basic level of absorbency on the road. The initial impression is that it rides well, because it remains fairly silken over small bumps and doesn’t jiggle over ostensibly smooth surfaces. But over larger irregularities it can jolt and crash, while it jerks the body harshly on rebound over speed humps.
It handles decently, with a solid feel through corners and reasonable grip, but it shares the Swift’s more unfortunate electric power steering system traits; it’s vague on the centre position, yet during quick parking manoeuvres it turns heavy.
On a basic level the Ignis is adept and it can be zippy and fun. But previous micro hatchbacks such as the – sadly now discontinued – Volkswagen Up! proved that a tiny size and pricetag were no barriers to genuine polish and poise. Particularly given that the Ignis wears a pricetag similar to the Swift, more is expected.
The Suzuki Ignis has not been tested by ANCAP.
Safety Features: Dual front, front-side and full-length curtain airbags, ABS and ESC, and reverse-view camera.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km.
Servicing: Capped-price servicing program includes average six-month/10,000km checks at a reasonably affordable cost of $175 for each of the first seven dealer visits except for the fourth priced at $359.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Spark may not have SUV-like ground clearance, but it is very mature and eclipses the Ignis for on-road polish if not rear legroom and boot space. The Celerio and Picanto are dirt cheap, with the Kia the pick between them, while the older Swift still arguably has the edge over the newer Ignis overall.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
In term of its showroom appeal and overall efficiency, the Suzuki Ignis presents buyers with a mostly winning blend of virtues. To park it is smaller than the average light hatchback (like Mazda2 and Swift) yet it is no tighter for passengers inside.
Likewise, its light weight endows it with excellent economy without sacrificing performance or space, and its cabin quality and infotainment are first rate.
Polish for the price most lets this hatch-cum-SUV down. In elements of its on-road refinement, it feels decidedly like a sub-$15,000 micro hatchback – although its score could improve here if the flawed CVT was swapped for the cheaper manual gearbox.
Either way, Suzuki may have to shuffle around the products on its shelves to accommodate the new Swift on its way, a hatchback that has been for the last decade consistently been its best product. The Ignis isn’t quite that.
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