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Suzuki Ignis 2020 review: GLX auto

Normally at home in the cityscape of Tokyo, can the Ignis make sense in an Australian capital city?

Daily driver score

3.5/5

Urban score

3.5/5

Suzuki’s Ignis is an odd one.

It’s about as close you can get to a Japanese ‘kei’-class city car without turning to grey imports. The only trouble is… Australians just don’t buy mini city commuters like this, with the segment edging ever closer to extinction in our market.

It’s a shame though, because small cars like the Ignis are pretty practical around capital cities, and have a surprising amount to offer considering their diminutive dimensions.

We took the new ‘Series II’ Ignis for an urban spin to find out if Australia should be looking twice at the humble city car.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 7/10

If nothing else, the Ignis is affordable. Out of two specification levels, the GLX as tested here is the top variant, is automatic only, and wears a before on-road costs price tag of $19,990 (at the time of writing, you could get one drive-away for $20,990).

The Ignis is sized closely to the Kia Picanto, which in automatic form tops out at the GT-Line ($17,490), or perhaps the larger and more recently launched Hyundai Venue ($22,210 for the most affordable Go auto).

Outside of that, in terms of size and intended use you might also consider the Fiat 500 ($21,200 for the base Lounge auto) or maybe the much more expensive Mazda CX-3 Neo auto ($24,710).

You’ll note only the Fiat 500 and the Picanto are truly close to the Ignis’ dimensions though, with the other two SUVs being a bit larger.

See what I mean about this being a shrinking segment?

Not much has changed for the Ignis Series II either, with a new grille, and some other minor styling updates like the black cladding, perhaps to reinforce the idea of it being an SUV rather than a hatchback.

  • Our test car was finished in ‘Khaki Pearl Metallic’. Our test car was finished in ‘Khaki Pearl Metallic’.
  • The GLX wears 16-inch gunmetal alloy wheels. The GLX wears 16-inch gunmetal alloy wheels.
  • The 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
  • The GLX has single-zone climate control. The GLX has single-zone climate control.

Standard equipment includes 16-inch gunmetal alloy wheels, a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with built-in navigation, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, full LED front lighting, single-zone climate control, keyless entry, and push-button start.

There’s a pretty good reversing camera, too, but the Ignis is still missing the crucial safety updates which are now available on its popular Swift sibling as well as the aforementioned rivals. These will really hold it back from the forefront of this segment. We’ll explain more in the safety section of this review.

The Series II update also brings some new colour choices, one of which being the ‘Khaki Pearl Metallic’ shade worn by our car. All paints apart from ‘Pure White’ come at a $595 premium.

Is there anything interesting about its design? 8/10

The Ignis is unashamedly Japanese. Its compact SUV dimensions echo the odd proportions of other Japanese market hits which have made their way Down Under to mixed reception. Think Toyota’s Rukus, maybe even the last-generation Nissan Micra.

While it might look at home in the cyberpunk cityscape of Shibuya, it looks distinctly out of place in Australia, even in inner-city Sydney which is rapidly becoming the capital of planet dual-cab ute.

Still, the cool gunmetal wheels, contrasting colour palette and fun-sized details align the Ignis with the other vehicles in Suzuki’s line-up, like the Jimny for example, and will always give owners a real point of difference (for better or worse).

The Ignis is unashamedly Japanese. The Ignis is unashamedly Japanese.

Inside is pretty plain, but this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows Japanese city cars. In order to save weight, they’re usually pretty basic.

As you might expect, this means an abundance of hard, nasty, hollow plastics, but there are also a bunch of neat design points which you can’t help but smile at.

Things like the little colour inserts around the funky air vents, contrasting dash insert which is made of an odd rubber-like material (although is useless for putting objects in), and the picture-frame like fitting for the pride-of-place multimedia screen.

In order to save weight, the inside is pretty plain and basic. In order to save weight, the inside is pretty plain and basic.

I also like the less-is-more approach to the instrument cluster (again, very Japanese), and the almost Jimny-style tough-looking climate controls with novelty function buttons.

Safe to say, it looks on the inside exactly how you’d expect it to by looking at it from the outside.

How practical is the space inside? 7/10

You sit very upright in the Ignis, which gives you a surprisingly good view of the road, and you don’t necessarily feel dwarfed by every other vehicle, even though you are.

Owing to its SUV-like design, headroom is surprisingly good, although you won’t find much space for your arms and legs, especially if you intend on using the rear seats. It’s small, but I wouldn’t go so far to say it’s claustrophobic.

The seats are clad in a pretty basic synthetic material and have next to no contouring, but I found the spongy foam filler inside them to be surprisingly comfortable anyway, which came as a bit of a surprise. Visibility is great out the front and rear but seeing into your blind spot is hampered by the thick, design-focused C-pillar.

An odd quirk of the top-spec GLX is only having two seats for rear passengers. Again, the seats are basic, and I had to duck my head down quite low to avoid smacking it on the roof to clamber in.

The seats are clad in a pretty basic synthetic material and have next to no contouring. The seats are clad in a pretty basic synthetic material and have next to no contouring.

Once you’re in though, space is pretty good provided whoever is in the front seats isn’t too tall. Behind my own (182cm tall) driving position I had enough room for my knees and was surprised to find my head didn’t touch the roof. The rear occupant space is made significantly more claustrophobic by the GLX’ rear privacy tint and thicker-in-the-rear roof pillars though…

The dual-seat layout does have the benefit of sitting on rails, though, allowing you to maximise boot space. You won’t have much room for this if you plan on putting adults in the back seat, but it’s a neat feature to have regardless.

Boot space is officially a tiny 264 litres (slightly larger than the Kia Picanto), although it appears this is with the seats set all the way back. It’s a narrow but tall space, meaning almost all of it was taken up by our largest (124L) CarsGuide travel case. Potential for airport runs, then, might be a bit limited.

  • Boot space is rated at 264 litres. Boot space is rated at 264 litres.
  • It’s a narrow but tall space, meaning almost all of it was taken up by our largest CarsGuide suitcase. It’s a narrow but tall space, meaning almost all of it was taken up by our largest CarsGuide suitcase.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission? 6/10

The Ignis is powered by a 1.2-litre four-cylinder non-turbo petrol engine, which produces a modest 66kW/120Nm.

You could argue power isn’t really a requirement for this segment, although the Ignis does pale in comparison to Kia’s Picanto which is quite happy to throw around turbocharged three-cylinders and ‘GT’ bodykits and badging.

The 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine produces 66kW/120Nm. The 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine produces 66kW/120Nm.

In the case of the top-spec GLX there is no option for a manual transmission, so you will be stuck with the so-so continuously variable automatic transmission.

Annoyingly, the Ignis can be had as a hybrid in its home market of Japan, which we think would suit our market well (depending on price), but there’s no word if this powertrain will ever make it to Australia.

How much fuel does it consume? 7/10

The Ignis’ claimed/combined fuel consumption figure is 4.9L/100km for the auto, which is (and should be) low.

Our week of testing overshot that number by 1.3L/100km, with a dash-reported figure of 6.2L/100km still coming in as a surprise given how hard I was driving it.

The Ignis happily drinks base-grade 91RON unleaded petrol and has a 32-litre tank for a theoretical range of 653km.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 6/10

Now here’s something frustrating. Despite receiving a safety overhaul in Japan, the Ignis is still not available with essential active safety tech like auto emergency braking, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, or active cruise control.

The Ignis is not yet rated by ANCAP (and would not be able to receive the maximum five stars with its current safety complement).

It does have the expected suite of six airbags and today’s required brake, stability, and traction controls, but that’s about it.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered? 7/10

The Ignis is covered by Suzuki’s competitive five year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is on-par with most rivals, though behind its Picanto competitor which offers seven years of warranty coverage.

The Ignis needs to be serviced once every 12 months or 15,000km whichever occurs first, and is covered by a capped-price servicing program for the life of the warranty or 150,000km.

Each service costs between $239 and $499 for a yearly average spend of $392.80. A little more than expected given the Ignis’ relative simplicity, but not outrageously expensive either.

What's it like to drive around town? 7/10

Sure, on its dimensions alone, the Ignis is designed entirely around city living. But, I discovered it could actually be a lot of fun zipping around in it.

Turns out in this case, the Ignis’ lack of power credentials are actually an advantage, because you can just drive it flat-out everywhere. The wheezy engine roars trying to keep up with your accelerator inputs and the surprisingly direct steering makes pushing it into corners far more enjoyable than it should be.

The Ignis feels light and springy, but reasonably confident in the corners. It’s not very quiet though, and the ride can be firm but never too harsh (perhaps owing to a bit of extra travel compared to a hatch) over corrugations and potholes.

The Ignis Series II gets a new grille, and some other minor styling updates. The Ignis Series II gets a new grille, and some other minor styling updates.

Its narrow frame makes navigating tiny alleyways and car parks easy, and its lack of length makes sure you’ll fit in most street-side spots with space to spare.

I was also happy to find it behaved well on freeways, but the high-speed world is hardly its forte, as at cruising speeds there simply isn’t much power left in reserve for a nimble overtake.

The Ignis’ city practicality though could really be improved with a few simple tweaks. The introduction of city-speed emergency braking (front and rear) would be a real plus, as would the Japanese hybrid option, which could make it a fuel-sipping hero for stop-start commuting.

The Ignis is a great little city commuter which is fun to look at, sit in, and surprisingly, to drive too.

It’s a shame it has fallen behind on the technology front, as a hybrid variant could really set it apart from its main rival, the Picanto, which also has the addition of active safety items on its side, as well as better performance at the same price.

For that reason alone, I can see why many Aussies would rather spend an extra few thousand to get into something a size up.

$18,990

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3.5/5

Urban score

3.5/5
Price Guide

$18,990

Based on new car retail price