The Suzuki Ignis slipped into our lives in a quiet, friendly sort of way late last year. I can’t remember the details of its arrival except that a helpful driver dropped it off in our locked-down Gloucestershire driveway one happy afternoon early last November.
It was the first fruit of a request that I had put to Suzuki’s people to try a few of their cars (it pays to stay up to date in our racket). We started with the slightly off-the-wall SZ5 4x4, because I’ve always liked affordable cars that do a lot with a little and especially stand apart from the mainstream rather than making up the numbers in some amorphous ‘sector’.
Up to that time, I had spent only an hour or two in an Ignis, but I already had an oddly close relationship with the car. When it was unveiled at the 2015 Tokyo motor show, I was immediately smitten by its shape, compactness and unique packaging (I remember sitting in the back on the show stand, amazed at the space). And you could opt for four-wheel drive for not much more than the price of a Porsche cigar lighter. The record will show that I chose the Ignis as my ‘car of the Tokyo show’ way back then.
About that time, Suzuki was just ending an entertaining public spat with the Volkswagen Group over what had started, three or four years earlier, as a classic technical partnership. If you read between the lines, it seemed Volkswagen had presumptuously assumed that it would be the senior partner in the relationship, free to dispense largesse on its own terms. Suzuki hadn’t enjoyed the Germans’ tone or what they were offering.
Feisty Suzuki patriarch Osamu Suzuki made it plain that “our engineers have lost the desire to co-operate with Volkswagen”. He demanded freedom from “the ball and chain,” which, after some more public sparring, was granted. I admired Suzuki for its independence and fighting spirit, which seemed to be reflected in the cars, not least the new Ignis.
From the first day of its arrival, the Ignis became extremely useful. We’ve nearly always had a surplus of cars in our household, but pretty soon there might as well have been a car-count of one. We have a preference for compact cars, and the 3.7-metre Ignis is handily shorter and narrower than the current Ford Fiesta. We are fairly big people, too, so the fact that my 6ft 3in second son could comfortably fit in the back – and without demanding space from me as the driver – seemed amazing. The wide-opening doors and high hip-point also made this the perfect car for taking granny to hospital for her first Covid jab: she could get easily in and be comfortable, yet the Suzuki was small enough to joust successfully with the other cars in the crowded hospital car park.