WHAT IS IT?
When is an SUV not an SUV? When it’s a Suzuki Ignis!
That may sound a bit cruel, but it’s not. Though it’s sold in the same segment as AWD soft-roaders like the Jeep Renegade and Subaru XV, the little Ignis isn’t really built with straying from the blacktop in mind.
Think of it instead as a jacked-up micro-hatch, and you’re on the money. Underneath its chunky outdoorsy sheet-metal lies a city-slicker, not a bush-basher. Keep that in mind, and it should live up to expectations
The most important number is this one: at $16,990 on-the-road, this Ignis GL manual is the cheapest SUV you can buy today.
Sure, it only has 66kW of power and 120Nm from a 1.2-litre naturally-aspirated engine, but a feather-like kerb weight of just 820kg means there's not a lot of metal for the engine to move anyway.
One other number you might care about is the turning circle – with just 9.4 metres needed to turn around, it's clear that the Ignis was designed with navigating tight urban streets in mind.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
This car deserves your attention not just because of its price, but because it’s a spunky alternative to the sea of dull as dishwater econoboxes that presently exist in the same price bracket. It’s heart-warming to see a car that relies on its personality – and not just a sharp price point - to sell well.
FIRST THINGS YOU NOTICE
From the get-go, it's the Ignis' design that commands your attention. Bulky and blocky but still extremely compact, it's got a bodybuilder look in a dwarf-sized package.
On the inside there are two-tone cabin plastics with glossy splashes of colour on the doorhandles and centre console. The plastics might be rock-hard, but they don't look as nasty as what is in plenty of other cheap hatches. All models – base GL manual included – also receive this fairly user-friendly integrated sat-nav infotainment unit, which is a plus.
In the back, you'll also find a decent amount of leg and headroom – something that's often in short supply not only in other micro-SUVs, but in many light hatches as well.
You'll also notice this car has three pedals and this wobbly stick in the middle – an unusual feature to find in a car these days, but in my opinion, it's something every Ignis should be equipped with.
PLUS AND MINUS
Why do I insist that this car needs a manual? Because, simply put, the Ignis' automatic is a dog.
That CVT auto really takes the edge off of what is otherwise a fairly decent powertrain by constantly hunting around for the right ratio, and rarely feeling settled. A manual, of course, doesn't. You're the one in command, not an indecisive computer.
Bear in mind though, that due to the absence of a turbocharger to help this little engine out, the bulk of its power and torque are produced quite high in the rev range. You'll need to rev it hard if you want to get anywhere in a hurry.
Gearbox and engine aside, there are some other driveability niggles. The steering ratio is mega high and requires a heap of wheel-twirling to go from lock to lock, while the ride is surprisingly sharp for such a light car.
Skinny tyres also mean there's not a huge amount of grip, so don't go corner-carving in this one. The city is its preferred habitat, and it's here where the Ignis makes the most sense.
But if you're searching for a pint-sized SUV that’ll actually go a decent way off road, Suzuki has another product to show you: the Jimny.
The line between a regular ol' passenger car and a high-riding SUV is getting awfully blurry these days, and the Ignis is just the latest example of that. After all, with only 180mm of ground clearance it's clear that the tallest obstacle this car is designed for is a speedhump. A rock-hopper, it is not.
But as a city hatch it's great. I can't deny the appeal of its boxy form, and the equipment you receive for the money asked is a pretty sharp deal.