Suzuki Ignis VS Fiat 500X
- Unique looks and charm
- Great ride for small car
- Excellent multimedia system
- May be too cute for some
- Misses out on key safety tech
- Underdone specs in base car
- Fun looks
- Good interior
- Great safety package
- Iffy transmission
- Oddball ride
You're right, the Suzuki Ignis has been sold in Australia before... between 2000 and 2008, to be exact. Interesting story – the first ever Holden Cruze was a redesigned Ignis, done in just 12 weeks in Melbourne, before it was given to the Yanks as a Chevrolet.
Anyway, I digress... the new generation of Ignis is very similar to the old one in concept and design; it's a lightweight, high-sided, small SUV five-door hatchback powered by a small engine driving the front wheels.
Even though it's by far the lightest, and one of the smallest in the category, the Japanese-built Ignis is classed as a small SUV, and competes against the likes of the bigger Mazda CX-3 and Mitsubishi ASX.
It's sold in two grades - the entry level GL, and the top-spec GLX - with a single 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine spec and the choice of a manual or continuously variable transmission (CVT) in the GL. The GLX is CVT only. Pricing kicks off at a keen $16,990 before on-road costs.
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Fiat's indomitable 500 is one of the great survivors - not even VW's recently deceased New Beetle could keep riding the nostalgia wave, partly because it made itself just that little bit out-of-touch by not being a car anyone can buy. The 500 avoided that, particularly in its home market, and is still going strong.
Fiat added the 500X compact SUV a few years ago and at first I thought it was a daft idea. It's a polarising car, partly because some people complain it's capitalising on the 500's history. Well, duh. It's worked out well for Mini, so why not?
I've driven one every year for the last couple so I was keen to see what's up and whether it's still one of the weirdest cars on the road.
|Engine Type||1.4L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
With striking looks that appeal to an incredibly wide array of people, honest simplicity, and comfort and functionality to back it up, Suzuki is on a winner with the little Ignis.
Lack of a digital speedo, a shortish warranty and frequent service requirements play against it, but it's still a worthy alternative in the small SUV category.
The Ignis is much more than a sum of its parts, and it's a terrific car for the cut and thrust of urban warfare.
The sweet spot of the range is probably the most expensive one, the GLX. With more flexible seating and better specs, the GLX adds enough to the overall experience to make it worth the extra coin.
Is the Suzuki Ignis hot... or not? Let us know in the comments below.
The 500X is a fun-looking alternative to the various options available from everyone else and is - overall - better to drive than its Renegade twin.
It packs a very good safety package which you can't ignore but does lose points on the warranty and servicing regime. But it's also built to take four adults in comfort, which not every car in the segment can boast.
Would you choose the Fiat 500X over one its better-known competitors? Tell us in the comments section below.
The exterior design of the Ignis is one of its key selling points. Suzuki can't be accused of having a corporate design language; every one of its cars is completely different to the others.
The 3700mm long Ignis uses a riot of straight lines, a wacky grille and headlight treatment and bulbous wheel arches in combination with minimalist overhangs and a bit of extra ride height to stand out from the crowd.
The GL uses a regular halogen headlight, while the GLX gets overtly styled LED headlights to further set it apart.
Interior photos show a similar theme, with clever use of colours and textures to play down the impact of swathes of hard plastics throughout the cabin.
Body-coloured pieces including the centre console and door handle grips combine with white plastic to lift the interior feel. It looks like someone who loves cars had a hand in designing the Ignis, and that's a great thing.
Look, I like the 500X, but I know why people don't. It's clearly a 500X in the way a Mini Countryman is a Mini. It looks like a 500, but get closer and you see the difference. It's chubby like a $10 weekend market Bhudda statue and has great big googly eyes like Mr Magoo. I find this endearing, my wife does not. The looks aren't the only thing she doesn't like.
The cabin is a bit more restrained and I quite like the band of colour stretching across the dash. The 500X is meant to be a bit more grown up than the 500, so there's a proper dash, more sensible design choices but it still has the big buttons, perfect for the meaty fingers of people who won't be buying this car.
So, how many seats does a Suzuki Ignis have? Five in the GL and four in the GLX.
While its external dimensions are relatively small for the category, the Ignis really opens up on the inside. There is plenty of room for four people aboard thanks to clever packaging and a high roofline, while a fifth passenger can be crammed into the middle of the (60/40 split fold) second row of the GL.
The GLX offers only two second-row seats but adds a clever system that allows the two seats to slide fore and aft separately as well as to recline. Seat comfort is good in both cars, and rear head, toe and knee room is impressive for such a small hatch.
Because there's no centre console bin for the front, there are no vents for the rear, nor are there USB chargers. There is a pair of ISOFIX baby seat mounts, though, and a single USB port up front.
A clear dash readout does miss out on a digital speedo. There are two cup holders side by side in front of the gear shifter, along with a sizeable mobile phone pocket beneath the air con controls. A third cup holder is provided for rear seaters to share, and there are bottle holders in each of the four doors.
It's worth mentioning its extra ground clearance – it sits 180mm above the ground – plus wide door apertures and minimal overhangs front and rear. It's easy to hop in and out of and an absolute pleasure to park.
At just 4.25 metres, the 500X isn't big, but makes the most of what it's got. The boot impresses at 350 litres and with the seats down, I think you could reasonably expect to triple that figure, though Fiat doesn't have an official number that I can find. For added Italian feel, you can tip the passenger seat forward to get really long things in, like a Billy bookshelf flat pack from Ikea.
Rear seat passengers sit high and upright meaning leg and kneeroom are maximised and with that tall roof, you won't scrape your head.
The doors each have a small bottle holder for a total of four and Fiat has got serious about cupholders - the 500X now has four.
Price and features
So, how much is a Suzuki Ignis? The GL and GLX are pretty closely related, running the same 1.2-litre, 66kW four-cylinder petrol engine driving the front wheels.
The GLX only comes in CVT guise, and at a price of $19,990 RRP before on-roads.
While the vibrant colour palette of the Ignis is one of its strong points, the price also goes up accordingly. Metallic colours like orange, grey, blue and red are $500 extra, while adding a black roof will set you back $500.
If you want to mix things up with a bit of colour, optional internal pieces will set you back $630.
Specs are pretty basic in the GL, with 15-inch steel wheels, halogen lights, electric windows and mirrors, an analog-dial air conditioning system and a small tablet-style touchscreen multimedia system the highlights of a pretty short list.
Lights and wipers are manual, for example, and there are few other toys like digital radio or even a CD player. The standard speakers are fine, and the GLX gains a pair of tweeters over the four standard items.
The multimedia system is a good one, though, offering Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, sat nav, Bluetooth streaming and phone connectivity and radio functions. A single USB port and 12V socket are also included.
The GLX adds automatic headlights, digital-style air con (but not dual zone climate control), 16-inch alloy rims and upgraded seats throughout, along with LED headlights. It gets nothing fancy like park assist or a sunroof.
I drove the Pop Star, which is the second of the now-two model "regular" range, the other being the, er, Pop. I drove a Special Edition in 2018 and it's not clear if it is Special as there's also an Amalfi Special edition. Anyway.
The $30,990 (plus on-road costs) Pop Star has 17-inch alloys, six-speaker Beats-branded stereo, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, active cruise control, sat nav, auto headlights and wipers, leather shifter and steering wheel and a space-saver spare.
The Beats-branded stereo speakers are supplied with noise from FCA's UConnect on a 7.0-inch touchscreen. The same system is in a Maserati, don't you know. Offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, UConnect loses points by shrinking the Apple interface into a lurid red frame. Android Auto properly fills the screen, for some reason which is ironic given Apple owns the Beats brand.
Engine & trans
The Ignis ships with a naturally aspirated 1.2 litre engine with specifications of 66kW of power at a high 6000rpm and 120Nm of torque at 4400rpm, matched to a six-speed manual or a CVT driving the front wheels.
The 16-valve unit features dual injectors on each piston with a higher compression ratio and a timing chain to provide rev-happy performance. It's not a high horsepower unit but it gets the job done.
The CVT offers a 'Low Range' option, which seems to do little other than rev the engine to no great affect, as well as a 'Sport' button that again just lets the engine rev higher.
The only drivetrain on offer in Australia is a front-wheel drive, even though all-wheel drive is offered in overseas markets, along with a diesel and petrol/electric hybrid.
Of note; Suzuki do not offer any stats on towing for the Ignis.
Fiat's rather excellent 1.4-litre turbo MultiAir does duty under the stubby bonnet, making 103kW and 230Nm. Rather less excellent is the six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which sends power through the front wheels only.
Against a claimed average of 4.9 litres per 100km for the CVT equipped versions of the Ignis, we recorded a dash indicated fuel economy figure of 5.4L/100km in the GL and 6.4 in the GLX.
The fuel consumption of the manual is rated at 4.7L/100km. The Ignis has a relatively small 32-litre fuel tank capacity and can use 91RON petrol.
Fiat rather optimistically suggest you'll get a combined cycle figure of 5.7L/100km but try as I might, I couldn't do better than 11.2L/100km. What's worse, it demands 98RON fuel, so it's not the cheapest car to run. This figure us consistent with past weeks in the 500X and no, I wasn't thrashing it.
Thanks to its lack of mass – it weighs just 865kg at the kerb, and the manual is 45kg lighter again - the Ignis is a surprisingly fun little car to drive, though its 0-100 km/h performance figures won't worry anyone.
It's lively and easy to handle, it steers perfectly adequately and turns and stops with confidence. The whine and flare of the CVT are more prominent when you start to drive the car, as well as an odd notchy feeling when it's cold, but it becomes less intrusive the more you drive it.
The ride in particular is a real standout. Most small cars have a brittle, sharp edged ride as a result of essentially smaller suspension packaging; there's just not enough travel to give the car any sort of comfortable ride.
The higher profile 15-inch tyres on the GL also iron out the bumps a little bit better than the 16s on the GLX, but the smaller tyres don't feel as nice or work as well as the larger items.
There's a bit of tyre roar on rougher tarmac but it all but disappears again when the going smooths out. For a small car that weighs less than 900kg, though, its ability to filter out noise is excellent.
Again, I shouldn't like the 500X but I really don't mind it. It's flawed, which might be why.
The dual-clutch transmission is dumber than a box of loose cogs, lurching from start and looking the other way when you expect it to shift. We know the engine is a good one and I think part of the reason it's so thirsty is the confused way the transmission goes about its business. I'd love to drive a manual to see what it's like.
The 500X initially feels worse than its Jeep Renegade sibling-under-the-skin, which is quite an achievement. Part of that is to do with the ride, which is very choppy below 60km/h. The first 500X I drove wallowed about but this one is a bit tauter, which would be good if you weren't punished with this bounciness.
The seats themselves comfortable and the interior is a good place to hang out. It's reasonably quiet, too, which is at odds with the old-school silliness of its conduct. It feels like Labrador let out of after day kept inside.
And that's where the car I shouldn't like is a car I do like - I really like that it feels like you're on Roman cobblestones, the type that make your knees hurt when you walk on them for a day. The steering wheel is too fat and is at a weird angle, but you kind of square up to it and drive the car like your life depends on it. You have to take it by the scruff, correct the shifts with the paddles and show it who's boss.
Obviously, that's not for everyone. If you drive it really gently, it's a very different experience, but that means going slowly everywhere, which is no fun at all and not at all Italian.
No electronic safety features are offered on Australian-spec cars, either, even though there is an optional safety pack available in overseas markets.
Standard safety gear runs to six airbags - including curtain bags and thorax bags for front row occupants - EBD, ABS and hill-hold assist.
Out of the box, you get seven airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, forward collision warning, high and low speed AEB, active cruise control, rollover stability, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, blind spot sensor and rear cross traffic alert. That's not bad for a $30,000 car full stop, let alone a Fiat.
There are two ISOFIX points and three top-tether anchors for baby seats.
The 500X scored a five-star ANCAP rating in December 2016.
Suzuki offers a standard three-year/100,000km warranty on the Ignis, which lags behind offers from rivals like Kia of up to seven years and unlimited kilometres.
Servicing is recommended at 10,000km or six-month intervals, which is again shorter than intervals suggested by competitors like Mazda and Toyota. A five-year capped price service program means service costs of $2207 in total.
When it comes to clutch problems or a transmission problem, the new Ignis has yet to show fault. It's too early in the car's life to see any problems, complaints, issues or common faults arise.
Service intervals arrive once a year or 15,000km. There is no fixed or capped-price servicing program for the 500X.