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It seems just about every manufacturer is throwing its hat into the small SUV ring at the moment, but few are more experienced at engineering and building them than Suzuki.

This time around, though, it's taken the 'small' part to the extreme with its all-new Ignis.

At just 3.7 metres long, 1.69m wide and 1.6m tall, the Ignis is a rival for city cars such as the Fiat 500 and Vauxhall Adam on size. But given its flared wheel arches, bluff nose and jacked-up stance, you'd be forgiven for calling it a small SUV, and when Suzuki's optional Allgrip all-wheel drive system is added, that argument stacks up even more.

Just one engine option is available: Suzuki's 89bhp naturally aspirated 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol unit. The only variation is the option of a mild hybrid application previously seen in the firm's Baleno; this uses a belt-driven integrated starter/generator and a second lithium ion battery that assist the engine during warm starts, take-off and acceleration. The result of all that is slightly better fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions of 97g/km. 

Underpinning everything is the same high-tensile steel chassis on which the Baleno is based, but the Ignis's smaller dimensions mean a remarkable kerb weight figure of 855kg for the entry-level front-wheel-drive model.

Talking of trims, there are three from which you can choose: SZ3, SZ-T and SZ5. Entry-level SZ3 cars get 15in steel wheels, front electric windows, Bluetooth connectivity, air conditioning and rear privacy glass as standard.

Upgrading to SZ-T gets you sliding rear seats, roof rails, rugged exterior body mouldings, smartphone integration and a rear-view camera, while topping the range is the SZ-5 Ignis adds front foglights, keyless entry and start, climate control, cruise control and dual-camera brake support.

Is the Ignis a city car or a small SUV?

A power output of 89bhp may sound modest, but the Ignis doesn't really want for more, even in the heavier Allgrip model.

The usual rules apply: with natural aspiration and only a maximum of 88lb ft to call upon at 4400rpm, quick sprints require patience and/or a gearchange. Still, it's an engine that has no issue with being pushed, and Suzuki's five-speed manual gearbox is precise enough to make the whole driving experience rather enjoyable.

Mind you, the rest of the car isn't so keen, because its steering is rather slow, vague off-centre and inconsistently weighted, while there's pronounced body roll in corners.

Nevertheless, the Ignis's lightweight and short wheelbase at least help it to feel agile, and it has plenty of grip on the road.

Off it, the Allgrip technology is designed to help the Ignis cross muddy fields rather than traverse mountain ranges, but the fact that hill descent control is a feature on the all-wheel drive models is impressive. 

The soft set-up translates to a largely comfortable ride, with the Ignis's front MacPherson strut and rear torsion beam suspension providing a pleasantly controlled long-wave cushion over dips and crests, albeit tinged with a fidgety secondary ride beneath it at town speeds.

Up the pace and you needn't travel far down a lumpy back road before the little Suzuki's dampers run out of travel, but given the car's price tag, the ride is undoubtedly cultured enough beside its established competition. 

Aside from some tyre roar over particularly coarse stretches of asphalt, the Ignis manages to be a fairly refined at a cruise. Ask a lot of the engine and it begins to sound strained beyond 4000rpm, but otherwise it settles down to a background hum and resists sending vibrations through the pedals or steering wheel.

The Ignis is competent on the road rather than outstanding, then, but inside things are much more impressive.

For starters, the Ignis will seat four adults in complete comfort - and we're talking knees free from backrests and heads well clear of the ceiling here. The driver also gets a decent amount of adjustability behind the wheel (if you steer clear of entry-level SZ3 trim) and behind you is an impressive 260-litre boot (204 litres if you get Allgrip). Go for an SZ-T or SZ5 Ignis and the rear seatbacks adjust and the seats themselves fold flat and slide back and forth in a 50/50 configuration. 

So clever and spacious is the Ignis that the fact that its interior materials are exclusively low rent matters much less, more so because Suzuki has at least experimented with a convincing two-tone dash.

Its decidedly aftermarket Pioneer colour touchscreen is another weakness, being pretty unresponsive, tricky to navigate and of a low resolution. However, its standard Apple CarPlay compatibility makes it far more acceptable, and Suzuki promises this Pioneer unit will be swapped out for the Baleno's system in time

Small Suzuki Ignis proves to be a capable small SUV

Suzuki believes it'll find 6000 homes for the Ignis per year in the UK and that 40 percent of sales will be front-wheel-drive SZ-T cars. That makes perfect sense to us, because while the reassurance of Allgrip will appeal to some, the majority of buyers will be better off saving the money.

Suzuki says you'll then be able to add the full suite of safety kit, including automatic emergency city braking, as an option pack, which we'd advise you do. 

The Ignis range starts at around £10,460 and tops out with this SZ5 Allgrip at around £14,460, while the predicted best-selling model should cost no more than £11,960. Viewed next to city cars such as the 500 and Adam, that makes the Suzuki competitively priced, but against baby SUVs such as the Fiat Panda 4x4 and Renault Captur it's outright cheap.

Sure, it doesn't quite live up to any of those rivals' on-road dynamics, interior quality or infotainment systems. Yet if you bear in mind the Ignis's very generous standard equipment and outstanding space and practicality, it certainly has something they don't

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