When I tell you that myYorkshire-born wife’s most frequent comment on the cars I bring home is ‘how much?!’, you will appreciate just how far behind the times she is when it comes to pricing new vehicles. In her mind, a Ford Focus is still £10,000, and a new Fiesta can be bought with the small change we find down the back of the sofa.
For various reasons (well, just the one, actually; I away in Iceland…) Mrs Boyce drove the Ignis before me, and our daily long-distance phone calls were full of praise for the little Suzuki; she loved its compact dimensions, nippy performance, and cutesy looks. She even noticed that it is a (mild) hybrid, a fact that has always hitherto escaped her in other cars.
Even the chap at the local farm stores, a man not usually known for his loquaciousness, commented long and hard on how attractive it is. Which means he was either very impressed with the Suzuki’s scaled-down SUV looks, or knew I was a safely stranded a thousand miles away on a frozen lump of rock and ice in the middle of the North Atlantic and thus no impediment to his wooing, at least in the short-term…
Beth even started to hint about the possibility of actually buying one. (An Ignis, that is, not a chap from the local farm store.) But the real shock came when she guessed its price: ‘twenty thousand’, she confidently proclaimed. Her reply, when I told her that the Ignis range prices actually started at half that amount, is unprintable.
Our test car actually weighed in at the mid-point, costing a weekend away less than £15,000 thanks to its top-of-the-range SZ5 specification, four-wheel-drive chassis, and SHVS (Smart Hybrid Vehicle by Suzuki) electronic trickery.
While we appreciated all the bells and whistles - and would no doubt come to appreciate the four-wheel-drive in the winter - I can’t help thinking that a base-spec SZ3 for ten grand would have been just as much fun. If you could bring yourself to splash out a couple of hundred pounds on winter tyres, it would be almost as capable as the 4x4 in the winter too.
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A high degree of practicality
Cute looks aside – and it is very, very cute – the Ignis offers a surprisingly high degree of practicality for such a small car.
I wouldn’t want to cross Europe in one with the whole family and their luggage, but I’d drive to Scotland with them in one in a heartbeat because the interior is more spacious than you’d imagine, and the little boot can be extended (slightly) by a split rear seat (on the mid- and top models only) that slides fore and aft by more than six inches, enabling you to juggle leg-room and boot space to better suit that journey’s needs.
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An honest yet slightly playful appeal
There are some interesting contrasting colours and textures in there too, and while the Ignis isn’t at the top of the class for the quality of its interior, what there is is ultra-functional, which gives it an honest yet slightly playful appeal. (It’s also nice to see something that isn’t either overly-retro or designed by Fisher-Price.)
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A more than adequate performance
The 1.2-litre engine is a willing little thing too, and while the on-paper power doesn’t look that impressive, the delivery is beyond reproach and given the car’s low weight, performance is more than adequate.
Which is partly a function of the SHVS moniker; the Ignis is billed as a ‘mild hybrid’, which means that a small starter/generator gives it a boost under acceleration while recouping lost energy under braking and deceleration.
Initial cost aside, it’s free energy, which is always nice to have and almost undetectable in use, which is all the praise it needs. The only drawback is that it is only available on the top-spec model, so frugal buyers will miss out.
Perfect for city driving
The five-speed gearbox is light and slick to use, and the steering lock is unrivalled; I can’t remember driving a car with a tighter turning circle since the Renault Twingo came to stay.
Add it all up, and you quickly come to the conclusion that few cars are better suited to city driving than the Ignis.
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Probably all the SUV most of us need
Rural dwellers that occasionally venture off the beaten track will appreciate the reassurance that the Ignis’s 180mm ground clearance and Suzuki’s proven ALLGRIP four-wheel-drive system gives.
I didn’t get a chance to test it on this platform, but can vouch for the seamless way in which it shuffles power to the rear axle when the front starts to lose grip on other models.
The switchable Grip Control further enhances traction at speeds of up to 18mph by braking the spinning wheel. Clever stuff, and probably all the SUV most of us really need.
The top-of-the-range SZ5 does have some interesting safety features on it, including autonomous emergency braking and a lane departure warning system that also incorporates a ‘weaving alert’ function to detect when the driver has dozed off or is otherwise not paying attention.
All of which reinforced my opinion that Suzuki is the most under-rated brand in the United Kingdom today, and the Ignis is a very welcome addition to what is already a very strong offering, usurping my previous class favourites, the Skoda Citigo/VW up!/SEAT Mii triumvirate.
Just don’t let your better half drive it to the local farm store when you’re away, eh?
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Power – 89bhp
Torque – 88lb ft
0-62mph – 11.1 seconds
Top speed – 103mph
Kerb weight – 920kgs
Official average fuel consumption – 60.1mpg
CO2 emissions – 106g/km
VED class – Band B
Towing capacity (braked) – 1,000kgs
Towing capacity (unbraked) – 400kgs
Warranty – 3 yrs/60,000 miles
Price – £12,999
Price as tested - £14,464
The Suzuki Ignis is the new class leader.
The best of the rest
The Skoda Citigo/VW up!/SEAT Mii are still highly competitive and should be at the top of your shopping list if a premium interior is important to you. They’re all but identical, so buy on price and customer service rather than badge.
If you want a car with super-compact dimensions but a higher level of off-road ability, the aging Suzuki Jimny would suit you very well.
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