The first generation Suzuki Ignis appeared on Australian roads in 2000, and would later morph into the first generation Holden Cruze. Neither car set the world on fire, and are now lost in the sands of time.

However, after exiting the market in 2008, the Ignis nameplate is back with a striking new design closely resembling Suzuki’s iM-4 concept from the 2015 Geneva motor show.

Do the looks alone make the Ignis worth buying? Or is it just another forgettable mini-SUV? I put the GL model through its paces over the Easter weekend to find out.

Saturday

Before setting off on my first ever trip to the Blue Mountains (west of Sydney), I sat down, gave the car a careful once over, and gave Suzuki a thumbs up for putting a car into production that looks almost identical to the concept that inspired it.

It’s too common for brands to pull out all the stops and create gorgeous show cars, seemingly close to production-ready, and then not build them.

In the process of taking the iM-4 concept and turning it into the Ignis, Suzuki has successfully created one of the most polarising cars currently for sale.

Some people hate it, and others love it. I’m with those who appreciate the unique styling. Like the Kia Soul from a few weeks back, this SUV stands out from a crowd and draws strange stares from people, much like a streaker does.

Some people hate it, and others love the styling of the Ignis. (image credit: Mitchell Tulk) Some people hate it, and others love the styling of the Ignis. (image credit: Mitchell Tulk)

While the ‘Neon Blue' metallic paint isn’t the most striking colour on offer, you can personalize the car however you want, with a range of exterior colour highlights to make the Ignis your own. 

You can also get similarly 'bold' highlights for the interior. Our test car had ‘Titanium’ trim which is probably the more sensible option.

The ‘Titanium’ trim goes well with the white and black plastics. (image credit: Mitchell Tulk) The ‘Titanium’ trim goes well with the white and black plastics. (image credit: Mitchell Tulk)

While it goes well with the white and black plastics, sadly, it does nothing to improve the look and feel of the cheap quality materials used.

However, when you’re spending $17,000 on a entry-level car you can’t expect perfection, although flexing door panels is something you won’t see in other cars in this price bracket.

The 7.0-inch touchscreen also appears to be a last minute tack on and isn’t the slickest unit. Yet, the fact it comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, sat nav and a clear reversing camera is enough for me to forgive it.

The 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. (image credit: Mitchell Tulk) The 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. (image credit: Mitchell Tulk)

On my hour and a half trip from Sydney to the Blue Mountains, I found the front seats flat and lacking support. I was left with a sore back and not looking forward to driving back.

I wouldn’t want to be stuck in the rear seats on those long road trips, either. I can only imagine how uncomfortable the equally hard seats would get, especially if you’re sharing the tight rear space with two other adults.

Although, once in the mountains the little Suzuki revealed its fun side. Combining a weight of 865kg and ‘pizza cutter’, 15-inch wheels, it was easy to explore the limits of the Ignis at completely legal speeds.

The Ignis GL comes with 15-inch steel wheels. (image credit: Mitchell Tulk) The Ignis GL comes with 15-inch steel wheels. (image credit: Mitchell Tulk)

Through the tight and twisty roads, you’re holding on for dear life at 60km/h (which feels twice as fast), even around suburban streets.

Disagree with me all you want, but the Ignis is like a Toyota 86 in that respect, if you disregard the front-wheel drive layout and CVT auto.

Sunday

Sunday was perfect for a day at the beach but not the likes of Bondi where there are usually more people than grains of sand. Instead, we headed to the more exclusive beaches of Kiama (south of Sydney).

Facing another hour and a half trip, I spent the drive thinking about rivals for the Suzuki Ignis, to keep me distracted from the stiff seats.

I found the front seats flat and lacking support. (image credit: Mitchell Tulk) I found the front seats flat and lacking support. (image credit: Mitchell Tulk)

Suzuki classifies the Ignis as a mini SUV but this doesn’t mean it is a competitor for the likes of the Mazda CX-3.

For starters, the dimensions of the Ignis are more in line with city-sized hatchbacks, as is the price.

The Ignis starts off at $15,990 before on-road costs ($16,990 for our test car) and the cheapest small SUV on the market is the Ford EcoSport which starts at $20,790.

For that low price, the GL model does miss out on some safety equipment like Auto Emergency Braking (AEB) and blind spot monitoring. Even the GLX only boasts modest safety features.

In terms of boot space the GL has 271 litres on offer with the seats up, and 1101 litres with the seats down. Suzuki doesn’t use VDA so it’s hard to judge how these numbers compare with other hatches and SUVs.

Considering all this, my conclusion is the Ignis doesn’t have any direct rivals. Instead, it’s in a category of its own that slots below the compact SUV segment.

Mechanically, the Ignis falls short in two areas: the engine and gearbox. Power comes from a 1.2-litre four-cylinder unit that produces 66kW/120Nm; nothing to brag about.

The 1.2-litre four-cylinder unit produces 66kW/120Nm. (image credit: Mitchell Tulk) The 1.2-litre four-cylinder unit produces 66kW/120Nm. (image credit: Mitchell Tulk)

To get the most out of the engine it needs to be revved hard, especially given peak power isn’t delivered until 6000rpm, which is a pain when it comes to overtaking.

In the Swift and Baleno GLX there is a turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder, producing 82kW/160Nm. This unit would be ideally suited to the Ignis, as the much needed grunt would turn the fun factor up to 11.

The other issue is the CVT. The GL can be had with a five-speed manual and other than being $1000 cheaper, it also offers a more engaging drive. 

Sure the CVT has a ‘Sport’ mode, but that’s no replacement for changing gears yourself and hitting 6000rpm to deliver ‘peak’ performance.

However, the CVT does help with fuel economy and Suzuki claims 4.9L/100km for the combined (urban, extra-urban) cycle.

By Sunday afternoon I had travelled over 500km with a quarter of a tank left and had also hit the brand's official numbers.

While the weekend mainly consisted of highways, I wasn't exactly driving like a granny, but once again you don't have to drive like a madman to get the most out of the Ignis. Still, the fact I was able to hit 4.9L/100km after some 'enthusiastic' driving is impressive.