It’s a new small Suzuki. No, not like the Swift. Smaller than that.
The Ignis arrives at my office mid-way through the working day. A few of us go out to the car park to have a poke around it. In pictures it looks quite big and chunky thanks to its fake off-roader styling shenanigans; in real life it’s comically microscopic. The front is claimed to take inspiration from the first Vitara while the back is an homage to the old Whizzkid of the 1970s. The overall effect is unusual and quite handsome, especially since the wheels are at the corners giving the whole thing what car designers would call ‘a good stance’. More design has happened on the inside with the pod for the heater controls and the body colour centre bits and door pulls but it’s not quite as successful as the outside and some of the plastics are a bit Poundland. Also, there’s a Pioneer touch screen nav and stereo unit crudely integrated with a bespoke surround, like a cheap iPad knock-off in a posh sleeve. In general, though, they’ve made an effort and that’s always nice.
First driving impressions are of incredibly light controls and a nice zingy engine. This looks like the sort of car that should have three cylinders but it doesn’t. It’s a four. You might also think the engine is at the back because that’s where it was in the Whizzkid. But the vents stamped on the rear panel of the Ignis are fake and the motor sits at the front. I go to collect my wife. ‘What’s this little guy?’ she asks as she gets in. Interesting that on first encounter she’s anthropomorphised it. You wouldn’t get that with an Up.
In the morning light, I’m not sure about the Ignis’s arse. It ends abruptly and those retro fake slats are a bit contrived. Although Euro car makers are happy to plunder their back catalogues for design ideas so why shouldn’t Japanese ones? My mate Jim comes over. He likes the Ignis. ‘Oh, I like that,’ he says. So maybe I’m wrong about the arse. The rest of it’s quite sweet. This particular press demonstrator is an orangey colour that Suzuki says was inspired by the colour of molten metal. Ooooooh-kayyyyyy.
I put my little boy in the Ignis today. He’s almost three. Do you like the funny little orange car? He starts giggling. Later he asks if we can go in the orange car again. In the afternoon I stick a towel on the back seat and invite my dog to get in. The dog hates going in cars. There’s not a make or model I’ve found that I can get her into without some undignified lifting and shoving and quite often a bit where I hiss, ‘Just get in the car you furry prick’ at the precise moment a stranger walks past. But as soon as I open the back door on the Ignis, she jumps in. Amazing. So there you go, the Suzuki Ignis; popular with children and animals.
Zooming about London, I realise the Ignis is making me drive like a bit of a tit, simply because it’s very amusing to rag it everywhere. A lot of this is down to the engine, which is very excellent. It’s smooth and quiet unless you really hammer it, it’s got guts even from quite low down, and according to the car’s own computer it seems determined to do at least 50mpg everywhere, even when operated with a heavy foot. Also, the uncommon lightness of the gearchange means you can flick it between gears with delicate fingers and minimal effort. It’s another thing that helps the Ignis feel lively. Although I suspect the main thing that makes it feel lively is that it’s not very heavy, being just 855 kilos where the lightest Up is 926 kilos and the slimmest Panda 940kg.
There’s a chance for some light helmsmanship today and the Ignis turns out to be rather good fun. The ride is very good for a small car, but it doesn’t roll comically in bends and there’s plenty of grip. The steering’s a bit dead eyed in the usual electro-assistance way but that doesn’t detract from the general amusement of fanging about in this thing, banging up and down that slick gearbox, revving that hearty engine, and quietly smiling to yourself inside a bright orange flea. The Suzuki Swift Sport is one of my very favourite cars and I found myself wondering what an Ignis Sport would feel like. With some tighter damping, a bit more crispness to the controls, a snadge more horsepower I think it could be tremendous.
Back to everyday practicalities, today’s being the need to get an adult human in the back alongside the excited toddler who wants to go everywhere in the ‘orange car’. Normally in a titchy hatch like this I’d have to move my seat forward to allow someone to sit behind, and then drive along pressed into the wheel like one of those myopic buffoons in a Corsa who will one day receive an airbag to the throat. But in the Ignis, this is not so. I can leave the front seat set right for 6’3” of me, and a person can sit behind in surprising comfort. This is very impressive, and acheived in part because the back seat slides back and forth by about six inches. So you can have decent rear space or a bit more boot room. And the bench is split 50/50 so you can opt for one side back and one forward. This is all very smart thinking.
The Ignis has to go back. Which is a shame. My wife likes it. My son likes it. Even my dog likes it. And I like it too. You know what it is? It’s likeable. On a practical note, it’s also roomy and economical. And it’s really rather amusing to drive, making you feel nippy and cheeky as you dart about urban areas, as all good small cars should do. It’s not perfect of course. The interior plastics aren’t amazing, the stereo/nav system is aftermarket shonky, and it’s not quite as cheap as you might expect but in every other respect it’s terrific, being more jaunty than an Up and more lively than a Panda. I think I’d have it over either.
The car talked about here is a Suzuki Ignis 1.2 SZT. It has a 1.2-litre petrol engine making 89 horsepower. It can go from 0-62 in 11.8 seconds and on to 106mph. In this trim it costs £11,499.