Suzuki Ignis VS MG ZS
- 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
- Looks good
- First impressions of interior are good...
- Good value
- Four-star ANCAP
- No AEB
- Drives poorly
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|
We first published this story on 5 April 2018, and since then we have requested press loan cars to update our coverage - but to no avail.
However, there have been changes to the ZS range, and here’s what you need to know.
The brand has since revised its range line-up to kick off with the entry-level Excite (replacing the Soul trim) which retains the same 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with a four-speed automatic. This version is priced at $22,990 drive-away.
A new mid-range variant has been added, called the Excite Plus, which gets the more high-tech 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine with a six-speed automatic. It costs $24,990 drive-away.
The range-topping variant remains the Essence, and it still has the same drivetrain as before (the 1.0L turbo three-pot with six-speed auto). It is $26,990 drive-away, and has seen the addition of built-in sat nav as part of the 2019 range update.
There have been no additions made to the safety equipment, and the MG ZS still has a four-star ANCAP crash test rating. No changes have been made to the way it drives, either.
As originally published, 5 April 2018:
If ever there was a brand that has evolved to a point of being beyond recognition, MG could be it.
The British brand - Morris Garages - is now owned by a Chinese mega-company called SAIC Motor Corporation Limited, a business that managed almost seven million sales in 2017.
Where does MG fit into the portfolio? Well it’s a small player, by market standards, with 'just' 134,000 sales… which, if it sold that many in Australia, would make it the second-best selling brand here, behind only Toyota.
A while ago an SUV with an MG badge would have been the stuff of daydreams. But this is, in fact, the second SUV from the maker, slotting below the larger and more expensive MG GS.
If you have a good memory, you may remember that another MG wearing the ZS badge has been sold in Australia before… that was the remarkably unremarkable MG Rover ZS mid-sized sedan, and it didn’t sell in big numbers. In fact, only 31 units of the ZS sedan were sold - this more desirable small SUV is set to smash that.
As the starting point in the MG SUV range, it certainly stands out as quite a looker. But is there more to it than cosmetic charm?
|Engine Type||1.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular 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.
If you’re the sort of person who wants a nice looking small SUV that doesn’t cost too much and is more practical than some of its competitors, the MG ZS might be an option for you.
But there are many better alternatives, so it’s pretty hard to justify, especially with its unfortunate road manners and lack of safety equipment. The brand may have evolved, but the vehicles require some further development before they're good enough to compete against mainstream players.
Do you care about how your car drives, or is appearance more important? Let us know 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.
I think it’s one of the best looking small SUVs on the market. Do you agree with me?
There are bits of it that could be better; the 17-inch wheels appear too small, because there’s a decent amount of bulk above the wheelarches front and back. They could be a size bigger, and also considerably wider: the tyres fitted are just 215mm across - a set of 18s with 235mm rubber would definitely fill the arches more.
But other than that, it’s a nice looking vehicle.
I mean, you could confuse it for something from Mazda’s stable. There’s no doubt about that. The LED daytime running lights may well have been stolen straight from Mazda’s design department in Hiroshima, it’s that unmistakable. MG, however, being so obviously British (by way of China) labels the DRLs as 'London Eye'.
There are other elements that aren’t so much direct reinterpretations as generally good design cues: the wide grille, sculpted bumper, angular glasshouse, and slimline tail-lights combine to give it a conventionally attractive look.
The interior offers good perceived quality - meaning that when you look at it for the first time, you’re pretty impressed by what you see. But there are some actual quality questions raised, as you’ll read in the next section.
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.
As mentioned, you don’t feel as though you’re sitting in a ‘cheap’ SUV when you first slide into the cabin of the ZS, but the closer you look - or, perhaps more correctly, the more you use the car - the more you realise it isn’t at the same standard of quality as most competitors.
Little things, like the fact the door grab moves in your hand when you go to close the door (that’s the opposite of reassuring), and the USB port in our test car moved when I tried to insert my phone’s cable into it - not the panel at the front, but the actual bit behind it. It’s also really hard for anyone with normal-human-sized hands to slot the USB cable in.
But when you do, it connects up to the 8.0-inch touchscreen media system and will mirror your phone through Apple CarPlay, if you have an iPhone. There’s no Android Auto.
You’ll need to use your iPhone for sat nav or maps, because the built-in system doesn’t have it. It’s a bright and colourful screen to run AM/FM radio or your Bluetooth connected smartphone, though, and there’s a six-speaker sound system - apparently with Yamaha 3D sound. It didn’t offer anything mind-blowing in terms of an audio experience, however.
The seats are comfortable, offering a decent driving position, but there’s no reach adjustment to the steering, only height adjustment - that’s really annoying if you have long legs but short arms. And while you get a digital driver info display, there’s no digital speedometer.
There’s no covered centre storage between the front seats (bad) but there are two cupholders and the front door pockets are big enough for bottles (good).
The back seat lacks any form of cupholders (bad), and there’s no fold down armrest, either (bad). And while there are rear door pockets, they’re too small to fit a bottle (bad). At least it has twin map pockets (good).
And the other (good) thing about the back seat is the amount of passenger space. With the driver’s seat set for my 183cm frame, I was easily able to sit behind with enough legroom to keep me comfortable for a while.
Headroom is good, too, even with the very large glass roof in this spec of the ZS. The sunroof isn’t just for show, the front part opens up, too. But on the downside, there are no rear lights, which makes it really hard to see what you’re doing at nighttime.
If your passengers are smaller, there are dual ISOFIX child-seat anchor points and three top-tether attachments.
The boot of the MG ZS is decent, with 359 litres of cargo capacity to the cargo cover when the rear seats are in place, or 1166L with the 60/40 back seats folded down (measured to the window line) - though they don’t fold flat. The boot itself is deep, but the load lip is a touch higher than some others - and the VW-like boot badge opener is a nice piece of copycatsmanship, too. I guess it’s okay because the brands both have two letters.
Those cargo space figures are good for the class. The best seller in the segment, the Mazda CX-3, has just 264L with the seats up (1174L seats down).
The MG ZS is one of the larger small SUVs out there, spanning 4314mm long, 1809mm wide and 1611mm tall. Ground clearance is 164mm.
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.
The MG ZS range has two models to choose from - both of which are competitively priced in order to gain some traction in the tough-fought small SUV market.
There’s the entry-level ZS Soul model, which lists at $20,990 plus on-road costs.
Standard equipment for the ZS Soul includes an 8.0-inch touchscreen media system with Apple CarPlay as standard, as well as Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, USB connectivity, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors (with a centimetre distance measurement display, which is very nice), and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Leather trim, a leather steering wheel and leather gear selector are standard, too, as well as auto headlights, front fog-lights and there are roof rails (perfect to fit roof racks to).
The next model up the range is the one you see in the images here - it’s the Essence, which lists at $23,990 plus on-road costs.
The Essence adds desirable bits like a ‘Stargazer’ panoramic glass roof with sunshade, and keyless entry with push-button start.
If you’re shopping in this segment, some other options you could consider at this sub-$25k price point include the Mazda CX-3, Suzuki Vitara, Honda HR-V, Hyundai Kona, Ford EcoSport, Holden Trax, Mitsubishi ASX or Renault Captur. You’re spoilt for choice, in other words, though none have niceties like leather trim and a big sunroof at this price point.
You’ll have to check out the safety section for the main omissions from the MG ZS range.
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.
The MG ZS is available with two different drivetrains.
The entry-level Soul model comes with a 1.5-litre non-turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine with 84kW of power (at 6000rpm) and 150Nm of torque (at 4500rpm). It has a four-speed auto and is front-wheel drive.
The high-spec Essence model we had is powered by a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine with a little less power, 82kW (at 5200rpm), but a touch more torque, with 160Nm (from 1800-4700rpm).
Those outputs are close to what’s expected in the scheme of small SUVs: the Ford EcoSport, probably the most direct rival to the ZS in terms of size, has a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo with 92kW and 170Nm in the top two specs, or an entry-grade 1.5-litre three-cylinder non-turbo with 90KW and 150Nm. Another three-pot competitor is the Peugeot 2008, which has a 1.2-litre turbo engine in all models, and zesty outputs of 81kW and 205Nm.
In operation, the drivetrain leaves a bit to be desired. Read the driving section below for more.
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.
Claimed fuel consumption for the entry-level model is rated at 7.1 litres per 100 kilometres, which is thirsty for the segment.
The turbo version we had is a little better on paper, with a claim of 6.7L/100km. If you’re interested, Peugeot claims 4.8L/100km for its 2008 models - but Ford claims 6.9L/100km for its turbo three-cylinder EcoSports.
After our time testing the MG ZS we saw a return of 8.0L/100km, which is not terrific for a car of this size.
Both versions of the MG ZS require 95RON premium unleaded fuel, adding cost at the pump.
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.
There was so much promise to this car, but driving it was the least enjoyable thing about it.
If you don’t care about how a car drives, you might be able to overlook the criticisms I’m about to level at the MG. But it’s my job to tell you how it stacks up in the segment, and I’m comfortably suggesting it’s in the bottom three in terms of road manners, drivetrain capability, and refinement. Remember, this is a segment with about 20 vehicles in it, and I’ve driven all of them.
Let’s start with, er, starting the engine. The push-button system works fine, but the engine on my test vehicle hummed and shook itself to life while also letting out quite a noise (it’s a bit alarming when you’re standing outside the car). I know, three-cylinder engines aren’t the most loveable sounds to all ears, and they’re prone to vibration, but the lack of refinement from this vehicle is notable.
Then, when I reversed out of my driveway on a 12-degree-Celsius morning (so, not extremely cold), the engine acted in a way that I could only describe as dangerously sluggish. There was very little progress on offer for a good 10-15 seconds after I drove off. If you live on a busy street, then you really ought to prepare yourself.
Once things are warm you’ll notice the engine is actually relatively hushed from in the cabin, but it also really likes to rev.
From a standstill it will take a blink or two before the turbocharger gets huffing, and then it’ll happily rev out to 5500rpm - and that’s not even when you’re wringing its neck, just when you’re driving it normally.
In fact, the transmission does a reasonable job of changing gears to make the most of the outputs of the engine, despite the drivetrain’s apparent preference to hold on to first gear like a kid with a candy cane.
I found the brake pedal to be squishy underfoot, not overly reassuring in its action, with sub-par response on offer from its disc brakes.
Plus the underdone braking is exacerbated by the softness of the suspension - the body isn’t as controlled as most other vehicles in the segment, meaning it can wobble and shift its weight in an ungainly way. Its softly set chassis (MacPherson style front suspension, torsion beam rear suspension) can make for stumbles over bumpy sections of road, and you can feel the springs and dampers compress so much at high speeds that there’s a ‘bottoming out’ sensation.
The steering doesn’t do it any favours, either: it’s as aloof as Tom Cruise’s real personality - very hard to judge at high and low speeds, with odd weighting and inconsistency to the way it reacts. The tyres are too narrow to fully explore its handling capability - not that you’d really want to.
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.
The MG ZS was submitted for an ANCAP crash-test score in 2017, and it managed four stars. According to the crash testers, the ZS exhibited “sub-par” performance in the head-on crash test. That’s not good enough, really, and it’s below the standard set by the larger MG GS, which was the first Chinese vehicle to score five stars locally.
The ZS comes with an array of safety kit that we appreciate, though, like six airbags (dual front, front side, full-length curtain), a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, a torque-vectoring by braking system (that helps in corners).
But further emphasising the safety score we’ve given it, the ZS isn’t available with auto emergency braking (AEB), even as an option, and there’s no lane-keeping assist or other smart tech like blind-spot monitoring or rear cross-traffic alert, either.
Where is the MG ZS built? Not the UK, as the Morris Garages badge may lead you to believe. Nah, it’s built in China - and a low crash test rating, plus a low standard of safety kit, does little to push the case for Chinese-built models in Australia.
It’s a fail on the safety front, then.
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.
There’s one thing that can be said of MG’s effort in Australia - they’re giving it a go when it comes to ownership.
The company backs the SUV models in its range with a seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and the same cover for roadside assistance. That’s as good as you’ll get at Kia, straight off the bat.
Actually finding an MG dealership might be the next big challenge. There are just a dozen showrooms for the company at the time of writing, which means getting it serviced could be a pain if you’re away on holidays or if you move house.
And all the good work of the warranty is undone by very short service intervals - it needs maintenance every six months or 10,000km, whichever occurs first.