Welcome to one of the world’s tiniest SUVs, as well as amongst Australia’s cheapest – Suzuki’s diminutive Ignis.
There’s an Aussie connection. Holden designer Peter Hughes styled the original YG Cruze based on the first (FH) Ignis of 2000, with both models sharing most components underneath; but the latter was not well received, prompting Suzuki to change tack for its reborn Swift replacement of 2004. Yet the name and concept were revived 11 years later (without GMH) for the retro-themed high-riding hatch/crossover you see here today.
The point? This quick history lesson serves to remind us how similar both Ignis generations are, as well as how devoted Suzuki is in its pursuit of owning the light SUV space.
In June 2020, a facelifted MF arrived, brandishing a revised grille, bumpers and trim to give it a chunkier appearance, along with minor spec changes.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?
The cheapest Ignis is the GL (what is this? 1982?) manual from $18,740 before on-road costs (ORC). Auto adds $1000 while the auto-only GLX starts from $21,740.
The series has endured two big price hikes since mid-last year, totalling a hefty $2750 in the latter grade. This places the light SUV hard up against the marginally-bigger base Hyundai Venue auto ($22,960 before ORC) and larger-still MG ZS Excite ($21,990 driveaway).
Let’s get to the bad news first.
The auto-only GLX starts from $21,740.
Even as a flagship grade, the GLX lacks key driver-assist safety kit like automatic emergency braking (AEB) as found in most other competitors, along with lane keeping assistance, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. Not even as an option. That’s a black mark. You will find six airbags (dual front, front side and curtain items), stability control, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, and traction control.
The GLX scores LED headlights with daytime running lights.
The GLX wears 16-inch alloy wheels.
The speedometer is placed in the centre of the instrument cluster.
The 7.0-inch touchscreen features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Interestingly, the GLX swaps the GL’s fixed three-seater rear bench seat for a sliding (and reclining) 50/50 split-fold two-seater item, trading practicality for luggage-lugging versatility. More on that below.
Adding premium/metallic paint costs $595.
Is there anything interesting about its design?
Sometimes facelifts do really improve the look of a vehicle, as is the case here with the MF Series II.
Maybe it’s the Suzuki Jimny 4x4-inspired quad-nostril grille or chunkier rear bumper inserts, but they somehow make the Japanese-built crossover seem less narrow and tippy-toed.
The facelift has improved the looks of the Ignis.
The styling – first seen in 2016 – actually references classic Suzukis of old like the late 1970s Cervo SC100 (as per the C-pillar slit inserts and angular silhouette) that were never offered in Australia anyway.
A good thing, then, that the Ignis’ handsome proportions, flared wheel arches, deep glass area, anthropomorphic grille and pushed-out wheelbase and tracks give it a purposeful look and stance that also stands as an attractive and individualistic 21st Century design in its own right.
The Ignis features a Jimny-inspired quad-nostril grille.
Measuring in at 3700mm in length, 1660mm in width and 1595mm in height, the Ignis is substantially stubbier and narrower (though slightly taller) than the Hyundai Venue, whose corresponding numbers are 4040mm, 1770mm and 1592mm, respectively. The Suzuki’s 2435mm wheelbase is also 85mm shy of the Hyundai.
Still, the result doesn’t mean the Ignis’ cabin seems overly tight or cramped in any shape or form.
How practical is the space inside?
Thinking about it, the Ignis is uniquely suited to city life.
Forget its diminutive proportions for a moment, and consider instead that it has extraordinarily high seating positions and a tall turret. Perfect for stepping inside the car with some degree of dignity.
Once sat on the big, comfy and lofty front seats, you’re immediately struck by how confidence-building the commanding driving position, assisted by the excellent all-round vision afforded by the deep glass area and upright pillars and a pleasant leather-like steering wheel cover.
The front buckets themselves are comfy and enveloping, even though there is no lumbar adjustment support fitted; there is a height lever on the driver’s side, ample rearward travel for taller folk and side bolstering to help hug you through corners, while the soft cloth material feels good to the touch.
The front bucket seats are comfy.
Suzuki’s thought about storage, as demonstrated by the big glovebox, bottle-holding door pockets up front, deep lower-console shelf and trio of cupholders, though there is no central armrest or bin, even in this up-spec grade.
Suzuki’s gone for a somewhat old-school off-roader theme inside, evidenced by the chunky heater/air-con controls, toggle switchgear and 4x4-look pared-back dash, while there’s plenty of hardy, hollow-sounding plastics to remind you that this is built down to a price. One lovely retro detail is the ‘60s pull-out bonnet release.
Operating the GLX’s climate control is child’s play, and the same applies to the ageing but still effective multimedia system, with its colourful display, easy connectivity and handy sat-nav. Note that the virtual volume slider on the screen is slow, fiddly and ultimately needlessly distracting. Give us a proper knob any day of the week. And what about a digital radio receiver, please, Suzuki?
Suzuki’s gone for an old-school off-roader theme inside.
We’re also less fond of the tilt-only non-telescopic steering column, as some drivers found it difficult to find the perfect position as a result, while the lack of digital speedo when there is room for it in the instrumentation’s LCD window smacks of penny pinching. Otherwise, the Ignis’ layout and design generally really hit the mark.
The rear doors open at nearly 90 degrees, aiding entry to and egress from the back seat. Although the front passenger seat lacks a height adjuster, it is still set up high, so big feet can tuck in underneath for taller occupants behind.
Being a GLX, the bench is split 50/50, is designed to only carry two people (so there’s no centre belt but ample width as a consequence) and the backrest reclines in 10 (narrow) positions for added comfort. Both also slide forward by a significant amount, boosting cargo space. Parents and guardians of smaller children might find this helpful as they can be positioned closer to the front seats for access that’s within arm’s reach.
Only two people can sit in the back.
The backrests themselves are… OK and clearly intended for smaller folk. Your 178cm tester found a distinct lack of under-thigh support due to the short squab and the backrest doesn’t reline far enough back for true comfort. And except for the aforementioned third cupholder nestled right at the rear of the front-seat lower-console area, door-pull recess that might hold an upright smartphone as well as a small bottle receptacle built into the door card, storage is non-existent back there. Yes, there is one map pocket, but that’s your lot. You’ll also search in vain for overhead grab handles (only the front passenger gets one), reading lights and rear-seat centre armrest – a wasted opportunity given this car’s four-seater status.
On the other hand, there’s space galore in every direction due to that very status, excellent vision and windows that wind (electrically of course) all the way down for a light and airy feel. Fido will be pleased. Just remember to bring your ear plugs if constant road noise bothers you.
Further back, you’ll marvel at the versatility of the cargo area, thanks to the sliding split bench that increases cargo capacity from 264 litres in normal four-seat mode to 515L with the backrests folded and 1104L in “maximum volume” mode. Note the five-seater GL’s ranges from 271L to 505L to 1101L respectively.
In normal "four-seat mode", boot space is rated at 264 litres.
Fold the seats flat and cargo capacity grows to 1104L.
Underneath the boot floor is a space saver spare.
It’s properly long and deep in this setting. There’s a deep floor (with a space-saver spare underneath) and a light, but not much else. The fit and finish is fine but the floor seems flimsy and the parcel shelf lightweight. At least it isn’t mesh as per the Honda HR-V’s.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?
Nearing 10 years in production, Suzuki’s K12C 1242cc 1.2-litre twin-cam 16-valve four-cylinder petrol engine is a tried and tested naturally-aspirated unit, revving strongly and effortlessly all the way to its red line. Peak power is 66kW at 6000rpm and the torque top is rated at 120Nm at 4400rpm.
With a kerb weight of just 865kg – a Suzuki specialty – the Ignis boasts a power-to-weight ratio of a healthy 76.3kW/per tonne.
The 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine produces 66kW/120Nm.
Suzuki’s weight-loss obsession is great news for people wanting a high-economy urban crossover.
Tuned to run on 91 RON standard unleaded petrol, our Ignis GLX returned an efficient 6.2 litres per 100km at the pump. And while that is somewhat off the 4.9L/100km Suzuki claims, much of that was in heavy peak-hour traffic with the air-con on, or during performance testing out on the open road.
That 4.9L/100km published average figure translates to a carbon-dioxide emissions rating of just 114 grams per kilometre. Even with the Ignis’ tiny 32-litre tank, over 650km between refills is possible.
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?
However, a 2016 Series 1 model that aligns closely with the Australian one scored just three stars in the European NCAP ratings, against five stars for the equivalent with AEB. Now, as neither Ignis grades offer AEB, it should be concluded that only a three-star rating is achievable with our 2021 GLX auto.
Safety features that available are six airbags (dual front, side and curtain), stability control, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, traction control, hill-hold control, a pedal breakaway system to reduce driver foot/leg injury in a severe impact and reverse camera.
Brakes are ventilated discs up front and drums out back.
Two rear-seat ISOFIX points as well as two top tethers for straps are included for younger passengers in the GLX, or three top tethers in the five-seat GL.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?
Service intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km, while published basic capped-price servicing is available. Prices start at $239 (years one and five) and reach as high as $329 (year three). Total cost is $1465, averaging out to $293 annually over five years at the time of publishing.
Vehicles under five-years old but with higher mileages up to 90,000km can expect to be charged $499, according to Suzuki’s website.
What's it like to drive around town?
Comparatively conventional in mechanical layout it may be, but the Ignis feels especially at home around town.
A strong and revvy 1.2-litre engine, coupled to a flexible CVT, provides eager off-the-line acceleration, though the accompanying loud exhaust drone may get tiresome for some. Aided by the Suzuki’s light mass, luckily there’s sufficient low-down response for most drivers to experience healthy performance without having to assault all occupants’ ear drums.
What this means is that the Ignis will accelerate quite vigorously once on the move, with plenty of oomph available as the revs rise towards the 6000rpm peak power point. Yes, the CVT will elicit an endless moan from the engine, but speed does build up quickly and before you know it.
We weren’t expecting to find a ‘Sport’ mode button located on the side of the auto’s shifter; locking out the highest ratios, it keeps the tacho needle within a pre-determined power band that’s useful if noticeably stronger throttle response is required. Otherwise, in Normal mode, the powertrain is tuned to upshift to top gear in the interest of efficiency. It’s good that the Suzuki at least gives the keener driver some choice in the matter.
This is also the best Ignis we’ve driven yet when it comes to steering. Around town, the turning circle is smaller than federal funding for the arts, environment and education portfolios come budget time, providing stupendously easy parking, effortless manoeuvrability and pin-point handling accuracy, especially when weaving in and out of traffic.
Yet the helm also works out on the highway as well, or through tight and twisty turns, with a blend of sporty precision and reassuring control. Keener drivers can scoot around corners at speed and – perhaps surprisingly – not experience excessive body lean, despite the Ignis’ height and narrow track. It instead just knuckles down and gets the job done, with confidence. The Ignis sticks to the road.
We expected scrappy handling but instead received no-drama agility. The chassis feels it can handle a whole lot more power than what the GLX offers. We were also pleased by how comfy the ride is on smooth roads.
However, though mid-corner bumps do not upset the Ignis’ composure, they certainly make themselves felt through inside the cabin. Indeed, around town, in the ‘burbs or out on the highway, the suspension’s inherent firmness that no doubt enhances the Suzuki’s dynamics means sharp, sudden jolts aren’t absorbed as well as we’d like, making for a hard ride at times. There’s less wheel travel from the MacPherson strut-style front and torsion beam rear end set-up than the 1.6-metre height and 180mm ground clearance suggest.
Reducing the amount of road and tyre noise piping through inside would substantially increase the Ignis’ overall appeal. That and level of driver-assist safety tech.
With statement styling, inherent agility, excellent efficiency, proven reliability, high equipment levels and low entry pricing, the 2021 Ignis GLX is in danger of becoming a mandatory short-list proposition for people seeking fun and affordable motoring.
But undermining all that is a distinct lack of driver-assist safety tech that can’t be – and shouldn’t be – ignored. At least give buyers the option of paying more for essentials like AEB.
If Suzuki can address this shortfall, the Ignis would join its excellent Swift supermini stablemate in being a very compelling and enjoyable compact urban runabout. We hope this happens sooner rather than later.
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