With stylish SUV looks, a roomy interior, hybrid tech and the option of all-wheel drive, can this new city car make its mark?
What do we have here?
The migration of buyers into SUVs and crossovers shows no signs of abating. It is after all the largest growing sector of the car market. A sector that, however (for now at least) does still comes in second to the small car market.
Well, the boffs over in Japan have seen this and have launched an all-new city car that’s cloned with rugged crossover-SUV looks. Introducing the five-door Ignis.
It arrives with head-turning looks that set it well apart from its competition, with large headlights and u-shaped LED daytime running lights, to its thick rear pillars, the Ignis is certainly one of a kind.
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Available in three trim levels, SZ3, SZ-T and range-topping SZ-5, you can pick from two powertrains, two transmissions and two or four-wheel drive.
The Ignis gets a 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol engine as standard while the range-topping trim is available with a mild hybrid system bolted-on, featuring a lithium-ion battery. As standard, it gets a five-speed manual gearbox with a five-speed automatic being a £800 option.
The all-wheel drive system activates as and when required, so the Ignis predominantly remains front-wheel drive until a loss of traction is detected, then the rear wheels are set into action. This is a £1000 option and is only available on the range-topping SZ-5 trim.
Adding to the abilities of the Ignis for when the terrain is trickier than Ikea’s car park after a sprinkling of drizzle is hill descent control and Grip Control. The later sends torque to the wheels that need it most and then brakes the wheels that are spinning, working at speeds up to 18 mph.
Despite being the entry level version, and steel wheels aside, the SZ-3 gets an impressive amount of standard kit including; DAB radio; Bluetooth; air conditioning; and rear privacy glass.
SZ-T (T for technology) adds; sat nav; a rearview camera; a sliding rear and 50/50 splitting seats (only seats 4 rather than five in the SZ3); roof rails; wheel arch extensions; and 16in alloy wheels.
The full pint SZ5 version further adds; LED headlights; front fog lamps; electric rear windows; leather steering wheel; keyless entry and start; automatic air con; and cruise control.
We’re testing the all singing all dancing SZ5 with the hybrid engine and ALLGRIP which costs £13,999.
How does it drive?
The hybrid system is barely noticeable. Only a small light on the instrument cluster which illuminates when regeneration is occurring gives the game away.
It goes from 0-62mph in 11.1 seconds but doesn’t feel that slow. It has a nippy character to it, perfect for a city car with a zesty exhaust note as you rev it hard. And it’s here where the engine’s peak performance says hello. At 4,000-5,000rpm you feel the car push a little harder than before.
Thankfully, the five-speed manual is an absolute delight. It’s light to use, has a short throw and is accurate, twin that with a clutch that’s so light it feels like you’re pushing the pedal through skimmed milk, the Ignis becomes a truly easy car to drive making it perfect for stop-start city traffic.
A problem often associated with city cars is a firm ride, something the Ford KA+ managed to eradicate when launched late in 2016. It’s due to the cars having less room for larger suspension components to fully soak up bigger bumps.
Well, the Ignis has joined the KA+ club, at low to medium speeds at least. It soaks up most lumps and bumps around town dealing with potholes, speed humps and storm drains with aplomb. On a bumpy A-road at national speed limit pace the extent of its talent is reached and it becomes a little firmer with larger bumps making their presence felt, although it’s not terrible.
For a tall, narrow car, you might expect the Ignis to corner with the same amount of composure as an earthquake proof Japanese skyscraper. Forget it, yes there’s an initial lean into the corner but the Ignis stays remarkably composed and actually handles with gusto.
The final piece of the puzzle for this to be a fun to drive car is completed with a well-judged steering setup. It has a light feel but is consistently weighted and accurate, turns in keenly (in the dry) and goes where you want it to. It also has a small turning circle of 9.4m.
There is a downside to the Ignis, when entering a winter prepared slippery corner the Ignis does understeer, thankfully the all-wheel drive system is quick to reign it in and gets you back on the right line.
Refinement levels suffer at lower speeds with some suspension noise and on the motorways with wind noise around the windscreen pillars, although neither are overbearing or massively concerning.
Visibility is good to the side and front while the over the shoulder view is obscured by the thick rear roof pillar. A reversing camera on this model certainly helps when maneuvering, though.
What's it like inside?
You sit high-up, a position that reflects the crossover/SUV nature of the Ignis. Saying that though, there’s plenty of seat height adjustment and even in the higher setting, there’s loads of head room.
You pump a lever to change the seat height while a second lever adjusts the backrest. There’s enough adjustment to get comfortable, although, the steering wheel only adjusts for tilt and not reach, which is disappointing.
Peering through the steering wheel you’ll be treated to a simple, clean and easy to read instrument panel, complete with a trip computer.
The dash has been split in two by a change in colour. The top half is dark plastic while the lower half is a light colour. That may show up boot marks at a later date but it works wonders for lifting the ambience. As does the light coloured headlining on the roof.
In terms of design, the dash has enough styling details to keep you interested. The automatic air con controls look good yet it’s the freestanding 7.0in touchscreen that takes much of the focus. It’s a Pioneer system and is simple enough, although sometimes there’s a little too much going on. Apple Carplay and Mirrorlink certainly help add some smartphone familiarity.
Storage is ok. The front doors have a long and narrow pocket that widen to take a bottle of refreshment. Between the seats, there’s a bottle holder, ahead of the gear lever you’ll find two cupholders and a small angled tray with two USB ports. The Ignis’ glovebox is decent, split level and will take more than a pair of fluffy hand warmers.
In the rear, this model gets just two seats. They are reasonably comfortable and for a car this size there’s a decent amount headroom and very good knee and leg room. The reason for the two seats is the flexible seating that is standard on the SZ-T and SZ5. It allows you to slide the seats individually back and forth as well as adjusting backrest tilt. This means you can prioritise more boot space or rear leg room. The seats also split and fold 50/50.
The boot is well sized with a clean opening while the lip isn’t too high for when you’re loading the weekly groceries. It has 260-litre of capacity, which is only 10l less than the spacious Ford Ka+ but 9l more than a VW Up!
Under the floor is a tyre inflation kit.
On a combined cycle the Ignis hybrid is claimed to achieve 60.1mpg even with the four-wheel drive system fitted. And it’s a plausible claim as on our test route, driving enthusiastically, our test car nudged over 50mpg.
CO2 emissions of 106g/km equates to an annual road tax of £20 while if you get this as a company car it’ll qualify for an 18% BIK tax banding.
Insurance costs won’t break the bank either with the whole range falling between bands 15E and 18E, which might be enough to encourage younger drivers, something Suzuki is hopeful of.
In fact, go with Suzuki’s PCP package with a £0 deposit over four-years at £189 per month and if you’re aged between 21-79 the first-year insurance is free.
Servicing is due every 12,500 miles or 12 months, whichever comes first.
The Ignis gets a standard three-year 60,000-mile warranty.
It’s hard not to like the Ignis. It’s a good-looking car that’s fun to drive, is well priced, efficient and gives you all-wheel drive reassurance. While low to mid-speed ride comfort is good, it does fall away at higher speeds.
A Ford KA+ is a little roomier, the Hyundai i10 a better all-rounder, while the Fiat 500 retains the icon appeal, all-in-all the Ignis is a terrific addition to the city car class and should prove highly popular if you want to stand out from the crowd.
This ALLGRIP version is perfect if you live in the countryside however the front-wheel drive is a better buy if you rarely venture out of town. (REVIEW COMING SOON)