IF you’re reading this piece, the chances are that you also read other articles on automotive matters, many of which will justifiably be rather complimentary about the Suzuki Ignis. Just like the deserving but now late-lamented gen 2 Suzuki Swift Sport, the Ignis has many journos in a state of near-euphoria which suggests this is one of those models that hits all the sweet spots.
So, let me add my tuppence-worth and I’ll start with a bit of a dampener because my week-long tenure simply reaffirmed a weak link I noted on the Ignis launch in 2017. That concerns the power steering which I can only describe as verging on awful. Suzuki SA responded to my earlier criticism of this feature, suggesting that I may have been out on a limb in raising the red flag about the steering.
Given that I have been driving (with a licence!!) for 53 years, I was worried that my assessment skills may be withering so I consulted Inspector Google to find out what the Brit pen pushers have to say as this bunch is known, for the most part, for telling things exactly as they are.
Reassuringly for me, but not for Suzuki, there was near-unanimity that the steering is indeed an Ignis bugbear. So, in an obvious attempt to vindicate my assessment, I sent the UK findings to Suzuki SA who agreed that something was clearly amiss in terms of calibration and the comments would be passed on to those who might be able to do something about it.
Well they haven’t done anything about it -yet – as the steering at town speeds remains too light – and feels disconnected – but it’s as the speed rises that things go awry to an extent that sullies driving pleasure. Either side of centre, the steering feels as though it has been restrained with a very strong elastic band, so much so that it’s possible to move the wheel a few degrees and it will remain in exactly that position with hands removed.
Changing lanes on the motorway involves getting past this artificial obstruction – doubtless applied to create a false impression of feel – and then deliberately having to return the wheel to the straight-ahead position because there’s a marked reluctance to self-centre. Further, that off-centre stiffness means there’s no linearity in feel from lock to lock when travelling at anything above parking speeds.
I may have gone overboard about this perceived flaw but remember the steering wheel is your permanent connection to the road unless you’re one of those who “texts” while driving. The good news is that it’s really the only non-subjective issue to afflict this otherwise charming mini SUV. Looks definitely fall into the realms of subjectivity so the fact that my eyes see a rather jacked-up dumpy design marked out by very heavy rear pillars and wheels that are too small for the arches is not nearly as relevant as any comment about steering dynamics.
Where the Ignis scores is in what it hasn’t got – surplus mass. Somehow, the designers have kept this down to a flea-weight 850kg which helps the otherwise unremarkable 1.2 litre normally-aspirated four to scoot along with a touch of panache, but I do fear for it at Reef altitudes as torque is understandably not present in overly-generous quantities.
That translates into 113Nm only available from a rather lofty 4 200 rpm while max power of 66kW arrives at 6 000 rpm. Thankfully, that lean structure helps overcome this relative lack of brawn, at least at sea level, but heading into head winds – a quirk of nature that Cape Town is the regular recipient of – means the little Suzi can struggle at motorway speeds, but this is primarily a chic urban runabout so long-run pace may not be such a hindrance. In fact, up to 100 km/h. it exhibits adequate liveliness and spins smoothly right up to the 6 500 rpm redline but makes its presence heard above 4 000 rpm.
Other plusses include decent but not stand-out suppression of wind and road noises – the electrically-activated wing mirrors make their presence heard at speed – but the most rewarding aspect of the Ignis is its ability to drive past service stations more often than most of the class opposition. In a week’s use which involved a lot of short-hop urban work and a longish motorway run into the teeth of a Cape gale yielded an excellent 6.0l/100 km. And if you really want to know, top speed is listed as 165km/h while the 0-100 dash is despatched in 11.6s.
In an unladen state, the little Suzi rides undulations with aplomb on its 175/65/R15 tyres that wrap black alloy wheels but it can be unsettled by sharp ridges and occupants will be aware of some body roll in enthusiastic cornering. Driven normally though, and steering observations aside, the Ignis is a nifty driving tool, a characteristic aided by a light clutch and an easy-shifting 5-speed manual box. The brakes too are reassuringly effective notwithstanding the rather long pedal travel which takes just a matter of hours to become familiar with.
It may come as something of a surprise to learn that the Ignis is based on the same high tensile steel chassis which underpins the underrated and larger-bodied Baleno and that may well account for the ace in the Ignis’ pack – generous interior space and equipment levels.
The fact that four adults can be comfortably-accommodated without the need for undue compromise from the occupants of the generously-proportioned front seats is a real plus, but those in the back will find themselves feeling a little hemmed in by the substantial rear pillars which also impinge on over-shoulder visibility for the driver. Luggage space at 260/469 litres is understandably tight if the rear seats are in use.
Good quality black seating fabric looks pleasant and is pleasant to sit on, but the rest of the cabin is trimmed in hard and scratchy plastics that offer little tactile quality, but which are rescued visually at least by heavy graining and by the use of contrasting off-white trim which I personally really like.
Equipment levels are very generous and include auto air con, rear park sensors, push-button start, electric windows, remote central locking, sound system with Bluetooth and connectivity, fog lamps, front air bags, ISOFIX mountings, a comprehensive trip information system and more. Please visit www.suzukiauto.co.za for a full run-down on this GLX model as well as the full Ignis range.
Overall finish and general detailing is good for the class with even panel gaps (except around the bonnet closure where wider gaps were noted) and blemish-free paintwork that nonetheless is a little short on deep gloss as is the case with all Suzukis. An absence of rattles and trim squeaks is also pleasing, and long-term patterns suggest that reliability should be very good.
Truth be known, the dynamic qualities of the Ignis are not stand-out and the engine output figures suggest that high altitude use could bring about some frustrations. However, the quirky design, the colourful interior and the generally cheeky disposition ensure that the Ignis is a charmer in its own right and deserves to be near the top of the listings for anyone looking for a compact urban run-about imbued with a lot more flair than is found in most Oriental rivals.