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First drive: Suzuki Ignis Hybrid. Image by Suzuki.

First drive: Suzuki Ignis Hybrid
Phasers on funky, as Flight of the Conchords might sing: this is the cheeky new Suzuki Ignis crossover.

 



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Suzuki Ignis

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Suzuki is targeting the youthful, fashion-conscious sort of buyers who might look at a Fiat 500 or a MINI with its new, super-compact Ignis crossover. The exterior design is ramped up to cute factor ten, the interior looks special and - despite it weighing next to nothing - the Ignis drives in a mature, appealing manner. Add in a starting price that's going to seriously undercut a decent-spec Fiesta, never mind the relatively exorbitant 500 and MINI, and it's clear that Suzuki could be on the cusp of a big sales upswing thanks to this excellent little machine.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Suzuki Ignis 1.2 SHVS SZ5
Pricing: expected to start from around 10,500
Engine: 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol with 2.3kW Integrated Starter Generator (ISG) and lithium-ion battery
Transmission: front-wheel drive, five-speed manual
Body style: five-door SUV
CO2 emissions: 97g/km (VED Band A, 0 annually)
Combined economy: 65.7mpg
Top speed: 106mph
0-62mph: 11.4 seconds
Power: petrol 90hp at 6,000rpm, electric motor 3hp, maximum quoted output 90hp
Torque: petrol 120Nm at 4,400rpm, electric motor 50Nm, no system maximum quoted

What's this?

A reborn Suzuki Ignis, which looks nothing like the boxy, humdrum hatchback that this vehicle was in its first incarnation from 2000-2008. Instead, the Japanese company has made good on one of its striking concept cars, in this instance the iM-4, and launched it onto the market almost unchanged with the Ignis badge proudly displayed on its rump. Mind you, it's not a totally unexpected move as Suzuki has previous in this department in recent years - both the iV-4 and the iK-2 concepts became, with very little alteration, the Vitara and Baleno respectively.

Moving back to the Ignis, what we have is a teensy-tiny crossover (or SUV, but we'll come back to this point later) that is almost unspeakably adorable in terms of looks. Seriously, think about why the 500 and the MINI have been such showroom successes and you can surely see the Ignis is going to be a smash hit, short of being hobbled by rampant badge snobbery on the part of potential buyers. It couldn't be much cuter if it tried; personally speaking, the chunky rear-end design - that wears lots of nods to the SC100 'Whizzkid' of the 1970s, such as three strakes on the C-pillar, a raked rear screen, a glasshouse three-quarter light of similar shape to the old boy and four-piece taillights - needs a few views before you fully accept it's not too bad, but from the front it's like a gigantic smiling face on wheels.

Slather it in some of the funky metallic paints offered - Flame Orange, Neon Blue or Helios Gold are good examples - give it a contrast black roof and 16-inch alloys and, hey presto, you have something with huge kerb appeal; appeal that isn't diminished once you step inside, thanks to an interior that's visually interesting. Strong horizontal lines are emphasised by a bisected black-and-white scheme, splashes of colour can be found on the door grab handles and on the sides of the transmission tunnel (spot the three SC100 slashes again...) and there's a nice, seven-inch touchscreen that stands proud of the dash, without looking aftermarket. The climate control 'cylinder' is a neat touch, too, and we like all of the displays and dials. It's also spacious with a decent 260-litre boot at the back, with rear seats that individually slide on higher-grade models, but if you have those clever chairs then the Ignis becomes a strict four-seater. Although cramming three adults across the back bench looks like it would be pure fantasy anyway, so that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Start poking and prodding the interior and yes, you'll find quite a few materials are pretty, um, basic, but nothing stands out as being appalling and for the expected prices of the Ignis range, it's conscientiously stylish and also, crucially, perfectly functional; there's nothing too wacky in there. So we'd give the car a huge thumbs-up on the aesthetics inside and out. For buyers of this type of city run-around, that's pretty much job done. No wonder Suzuki's proud of the Ignis.

The UK range at launch will feature one engine with two variants, a choice of front- or four-wheel drive, three trim grades (running SZ3, SZ-T and SZ5, with the latter featuring everything up to and including satnav, cruise control, keyless entry and go, climate control, electric windows all round, a rear-view camera and more) and two gearboxes. Suzuki's 1.2 Dualjet four-cylinder petrol engine is utilised in 90hp/120Nm format, which you can have as an SZ3 manual or as an SZ-T with either of the five-speed manual or Auto Gear Shift (AGS) transmissions - or as an SZ5 with the AGS only.

Then there's a mild hybrid, which we've tested here, called the Smart Hybrid Vehicle by Suzuki (SHVS). This, like the drivetrain in the Baleno, adds an Integrated Starter Generator (ISG) rated at 2.3kW and a lithium-ion battery to power it, on top of the 1.2-litre engine and the manual gearbox; 2.3kW equates to a mere 3hp, so it is an extremely mild form of electrical assistance, but Suzuki says it produces an additional 50Nm to the plain Dualjet, so 2.1 seconds comes off the 0-62mph time (down to 11.4 seconds as a front-wheel drive), it's the only Ignis to get below 100g/km for CO2 (97g/km) and it has the best economy at 65.7mpg. You can also specify the SHVS with Allgrip Auto 'torque-on-demand' four-wheel drive, so in essence this isn't exclusively a crossover, but also an SUV - and therefore the smallest, lightest SUV in the world. Will other manufacturers follow Suzuki's suit and launch some equally diminutive rivals to counter it?

How does it drive?

On the new generation Suzuki platform, measuring just 3,700mm long, 1,690mm wide and 1,595mm high, the Ignis' real USP is its lightness. It can tip the scales by as little as a quoted 810kg (although, with fluids on board, it's more like 855kg) and even the SHVS 4x4 is well beneath the tonne. That's an incredible effort from Suzuki and it translates into an efficient, perky little machine that makes the absolute most of its 90hp output.

The SHVS system is utterly unobtrusive in operation because it is such a mild set-up, so aside from a little energy flow graphic in the instrument cluster you'll never know it's there, other than the Ignis really does benefit from its extra torque. It's not a quick car per se, but it feels zippy and willing lower down the rev range, if a little coarse and strained once you venture up to and beyond 5,000rpm - curious, as peak power doesn't kick in until 6,000rpm, although torque is all done at 4,400pm. The five-speed gearbox is slick and precise, the steering is bizarrely heavy yet direct and the brakes are fine, if possessed of that strange initial-travel slushiness underfoot thanks to their regenerative capabilities. Nevertheless, all these controls allow you to punt the featherweight Ignis around with real verve, as long as you factor in a fair amount of body roll during harder cornering. Thankfully, there's not a lot of understeer on the thin 16-inch alloys, so it's an enjoyable machine in terms of the handling.

More pertinently, it drives in a properly grown-up and likeable fashion when you're not frenetically chucking it around like a warm hatch. On motorways, it refuses to be buffeted about by crosswinds or cambers in the road, with the steering not requiring much in the way of corrective inputs to keep it in a straight line. It has good gearing and noise suppression to make high-speed cruising feel well within its comfort zone, while the ride is largely excellent. It's only when really big, hefty indentations in the road surface are encountered that you're reminded of the sub-tonne weight and the 2,435mm wheelbase, yet for the rest of the time it's incredibly refined for such a small machine. That means it's a breeze to thread it through urban areas, which is surely where you'll see the UK Ignis population more often than not. Dynamically, it's a hearty recommendation for the Suzuki from us.

Verdict

Suzuki UK says the latest Vitara has been a huge success for the company, with 12,000 out of its 38,000 sales in 2016 made up by the impressive compact SUV. So the Ignis, cheaper again and even more alluring in the visual department, is surely going to ramp things up another notch for a marque that has always been on the fringes of the automotive mainstream. However, it's brilliant little products like the Ignis that will help change public perception and we can see no reason why buyers who are drawn into the showroom purely by the crossover's appearance will then be put off by the way it drives - because it's a perfectly sweet, nicely sorted vehicle.

On the basis of this first acquaintance with the Ignis, what we really want to see is whether Suzuki goes all-in on the newcomer and gives us a Sport model with a turbocharged BoosterJet engine; either of the 1.0-litre triple from the Baleno or the 140hp/220Nm 1.4 out of the Vitara S would do nicely, we reckon.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Driving Dynamics

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 1 Dec 2016









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2017 Suzuki Ignis. Image by Suzuki.2017 Suzuki Ignis. Image by Suzuki.2017 Suzuki Ignis. Image by Suzuki.2017 Suzuki Ignis. Image by Suzuki.2017 Suzuki Ignis. Image by Suzuki.








 

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