Suzuki has an enviable reputation in the small car market at home in Japan, where it’s the dominant player. For 2017, Suzuki launched the new Ignis model with fresh styling and a more compact stance in a car that’s altogether better than ever before as Michael Moroney found out when he took its mild hybrid version for a test drive.
Suzuki has re-incarnated the Ignis into a more compact looking car that’s modern and uses some smart technology. The Ignis is designed as a city car with SUV-like credentials so that you feel that you get a little more than you expect.
Sales of compact cars are growing across Dublin City and its commuter belt as motorists are looking for ways to manage costs with flexible, good-looking cars. This new Ignis introduced at the start of this year, stands out in terms of its design. There’s no doubting its individuality, which is classically Suzuki in terms of identity.
This is a car that has the potential to charm and this charm has won me over. The overall design is modern, with strong hints of the Suzuki Japanese influence and it is closely based on a previous concept car design. One thought that crossed my mind was if the Ignis grew up to be a real full-size SUV, then it would make some statement.
One of the special features of the Ignis is the novel mild hybrid engine design. It’s not available in all models and it was a feature of the test car that I drove recently. This system enhances the fuel economy from the tidy 1.2-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine with claims of a low CO2 emissions figure of 97g/km and a combined fuel consumption performance of 23km/litre (4.3l/100km).
The Suzuki mild hybrid system is lightweight and uses what is called an Integrated Starter Generator (known as ISG) which acts as both a generator and starter motor. This belt driven device assists the engine during vehicle take off and acceleration. It also generates electricity to recharge a compact lithium-ion battery placed under the front passenger seat, through regenerative braking.
The energy assistance provided during acceleration makes this a mild hybrid system and it adds just 6.2kg to the overall weight. Suzuki claims that the ISG generates electricity more efficiently than a conventional alternator through regenerative braking. The ISG unit detects this as soon as the brake pedal is depressed. It is seamless in operation and that’s what makes the car so easy and comfortable to drive.
Out on the road the compact petrol engine is relatively quiet even though you need to rev it up past 3,000rpm on the engine to achieve close to the maximum performance from its five-speed gearbox. While the sweet little engine never seems to be working too hard and my economy experience delivered a range of almost 600km which is equivalent to 20% off the rated economy level.
I was also impressed with the road holding and stability of the Ignis when I took it for a longer drive. Out on the motorway it could hold its own and un-phased by passing trucks and comfortable at motorway speeds.
This Ignis was a four-seat car, with a sliding bench seat. The high cabin roof gives an airy feeling to the car so it feels spacious in terms of height, if more compact in width. Still, I never felt cramped in any way and quickly got comfortable with the controls and their use.
The central info screen is easy to use, but it’s a pity that it wasn’t a little bigger as the frame is deeper than it needs to be.
I liked the easy-to-use trip meter so that you don’t need to be a computer programmer to establish or re-set the car’s performance.
The boot area is good for a car of its size, but as the emphasis is for city driving, there is no spare wheel on board.
There’s plenty of safety kit included, such as ABS with EBD and brake assist with stability control as well as hill hold control and hill descent control. This Ignis achieved a five-star safety rating in its recent Euro NCAP crash test, but only for the model with the full safety kit, which includes six airbags (driver, front passenger, side and curtain) with front passenger activation, front height adjustable three-point ELR seatbelts, front seatbelt pre-tensioner and force limiter and two rear three-point ELR seatbelts, as well as foot protecting brake and clutch pedals and two rear ISOFIX child seat anchorages.
Suzuki sees the Ignis competing against the likes of market leader the Toyota Aygo, Opel Adam and Renault Twingo, while I consider that it has wider appeal. Entry prices are competitive, while the more economical mild hybrid version that I drove is marginally more expensive, it’s still relatively attractively priced at €16,995.