In our 2017 Suzuki Ignis review, we find out what the SHVS mild hybrid is all about and whether a small crossover can cut it in the city car market that includes the VW Up and Seat Mii.
Disliking Suzuki is difficult. Not only does it make some of the world’s most exciting motorbikes, it has managed to stick around making half-decent, no-nonense small cars and off-roaders, the latest of which is the Ignis.
It could easily be mistaken for a purveyor of ginger beer, but the Suzuki Ignis is actually a city car with crossover styling that is based on the same platform as the Baleno. But in terms of size, think of it as the Swift’s more rugged cousin.
You get 180mm of ground clearance to enable driving over things and tougher styling for (trying to) intimidate other 4x4s, but at 3,700mm wide and 1,690mm long it ends up being cute more than anything.
Continuing the off-road theme is the option of all-wheel drive as opposed to front-wheel drive, just in case you want all the traction, Hill Hold Assist and Hill Descent Assist so you can drive up and down things with ease.
There is a choice of two petrol engines. Some countries have access to a diesel, but not the UK. Our test car was fitted with the four-cylinder 88bhp SHVS, which means it has a mild hybrid system that acts as a generator and starter motor to help reduce CO2 emissions and improve fuel economy.
It all sounds rather appetising, but would you actually want to choose Suzuki’s pint-sized off-roader over other city cars and, if so, why? We borrowed one for a week to find out.
2017 Suzuki Ignis review: Design and practicality?
You may remember the Suzuki SC100 Whizzkid. That little car, introduced to the UK in 1979, is the inspiration for the Ignis though only in styling because the engine sits at the front, unlike in its spiritual predecessor.
Though rather ugly from the back, the rest of the Ignis design is funky and tastefully brash, particularly in the brighter paint jobs (the £495 pearl white we had is too boring). You may even think it’s adorable, which we would be inclined to agree.
It has four doors and none of them are too big so it is easy to get into, while the varous cabin buttons are laid out fairly sensibly. Compared with some older Suzukis, the step-up in quality is night and day.
Our test car’s white interior with orange accents looks the part, but it is the exterior that deserves the most praise. You may not appreciate the look, but few other city cars are as loud – and that will be a big draw for younger and typically trendier motorists.
In terms of space, the Ignis offers generous head and leg room, even for those above six-foot. You also get a sizable 260-litre boot and 60:40 split-folding rear seats in case you want to load one item and keep one or two seats up, which makes it even more versatile.
Fold the rear seats down (but sadly not entirely flat) and you end up with up to 1,086 litres of Ikea-filling potential. Nothing else really comes close to the interior space of the Ignis to the point where it feels like a Tardis.
Although most crossovers are gimped, the relatively short body and higher ground clearance, coupled with all-wheel drive if you pay extra for it, also means the Suzuki can be quite an effective off-roader, which country folk may appreciate.
The Ignis is hard to miss and we mean that in a good way.
The back end could be a little less clunky.
2017 Suzuki Ignis review: What about handling and performance?
You may be thinking the Suzuki Ignis is fun to drive but fundamentally flawed. The opposite is actually closer to the truth because there is something grown-up about it, as if the engineers focussed on comfort, but it is a little unexciting to drive.
City cars can be somewhat rough around the edges and there is an element of that with the Ignis, but it is a surprisingly smooth and refined car that manages to tip the scales at 1,330kg.
A lack of steering feedback is bad for involvement, but it is light enough to make manoeuvres easy, even though you need quite a few rotations for lock. Keeping it in a straight line on dual carriageways and motorways, meanwhile, is as hassle-free.
Suzuki’s tried and tested 1.2-litre engine is noisy at high revs but you can make reasonable progress without having to push too hard, especially as the five-speed manual is unobtrusive to use. It can even go quite fast round corners despite having ridiculously thin wheels.
In SHVS guise, the hybrid system proves useful but takes more of a backseat than in your typical hybrid. The two lithium ion batteries add a mere 7kg of weight, emphasising the fact they are rather small, but do enhance acceleration and reduce the strain on the engine when pulling away.
The suspension, though unsophisicated, keeps things fairly civilised until you hit the bigger pot holes, which can cause it to bottom out particularly when you have multiple heavy passengers onboard.
The seats are comfortable throughout the car, although lack much in the way of lateral support, while the adjustability of the front seats and steering wheel help ensure you can sit how you want.
You get a reasonably lofty view of the road, though it is by no means as high as that of a proper SUV or bigger crossover and the price you pay is a reduced sensation of speed. If such a think bothers you.
At 70mph, the lack of a sixth gear makes itself known. The din is never annoying, but it does mean cranking up the Pioneer stereo that little bit louder to overcome engine and road noise. Wind noise is, however, never really an issue and that is surprising given its boxy nature.
Rivals from Seat and VW are a little smoother and will invoke more of a smile when driving, but there is something plucky-ish about the Ignis. It is just about fast enough for a countryside blast and you get some reward for making the effort.
Nippy enough for all types of driving and more refined than some of its competitors.
A little more driving involvement would have been nice.
2017 Suzuki Ignis review: Equipment, price and running costs?
Going for all-wheel drive and the Z35 spec bumps up the price, as does getting the hybrid, which makes the base spec and bog-standard petrol the must sensible choice. Even then you get lots of goodies, including a rather functional Pioneer sound system with DAB digital radio and Bluetooth.
If you did, however, go all out we doubt you would be too upset because the difference is minimal and the Ignis is a cheap car to begin with that, according to depreciation experts, will hold up to 42 per cent of its value after three years.
The Ignis Z35 Suzuki sent to us came in at £14,964, thanks to the addition of a white paint job and nothing else. Six airbags, Hill Hold Control, Hill Descent Control, ISOFIX anchorages, twin-USB socket, 16-inch alloys, keyless entry and start and silver roof rails were all standard fixtures.
Not only that, it came with a pretty decent four-speaker sound system, navigation that works without too much of a palava, LED daytime running lights, cruise control with speed limiter, air-conditioning, electric windows all-round and even a rear parking camera.
Over a week of mixed driving conditions and various trips, we averaged 52mpg. That is impressive given little effort on our part to boost our efficiency. No doubt the 60,1mpg would be nigh-on achievable if you tried, making it a cheap car to run – even around town.
Not only that, the CO2 output of 109g/km is respectable for its class so you can sleep peacefully knowing you are helping keep sea level from rising quite as fast. As for insuring the thing, it sits in group 18E.
You get a whole lot of car for the money, even at the base level.
Rival offerings have more prestige and may prove easier to sell on.
2017 Suzuki Ignis review: Should I buy one, then?
If you are in the market for a city car that is practical, cheap to buy, good on fuel, easy to park and can go off-road from time to time, the Suzuki Ignis has to be considered. There really is nothing else in its class quite as versatile, nor as quirky.
A slightly more competent ride would have been nice, as would a reduction in the number of cheaper plastics in the cabin, but the overall package is actually less rough and ready than some of its supposedly more premium competitors.
The fact you have to tell people you own a Suzuki may put some punters off, but push your badge snobbery to one side for a second because the Ignis is a sensible and enjoyable little motor that you will inevitably grow rather fond of.