From £11,1907
Baby SUV promises greater efficiency from new mild-hybrid engine and improved ride
14 September 2020

What is it?

Is the Suzuki Ignis a city car or a baby SUV? At just 3700mm long and 1690mm wide, it’s significantly smaller than even a supermini, but it offers four-wheel drive and takes the kind of bulldog stance that makes it look fit for flinging mud.

Indeed, Suzuki refers to the Ignis as “the only ultra-compact SUV on the market” and says that it has attempted to emphasise this side of its character through a facelift (which comes three years after it first went on sale), introducing a new grille and bumpers, plus some more countryside-appropriate colours, including the fetching Tough Khaki adorning our test car.

More importantly, however, Suzuki has been busy making some significant mechanical changes to the Ignis. Ride and refinement were always far from strong points, and to these ends Suzuki has brought in new insulation materials to cut vibration and noise on the move, plus extra body reinforcements in the tailgate, roof, floor and suspension mounts. And despite this, it still maintains its pleasingly low kerb weight of 895kg.

Even more significant is the arrival of a new engine. The latest evolution of Suzuki’s 1.2-litre four-cylinder Dualjet petrol unit, the K12D benefits from a series of design changes to give it even better efficiency.

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That wouldn’t be good enough for the EU on its own, however, so the Ignis now comes only as a mild hybrid. It’s less mild than the pre-facelift variant, despite retaining a 12V architecture while manufacturers of pricier cars go for 48V, thanks to a larger lithium ion battery (0.12kWh, up from 0.036kWh). Which explains the rather misleading rebadging from SHVS to Hybrid.

The upshot of the evolved engine, bigger battery and more powerful belt-integrated starter-generator (BISG) is a best WLTP fuel economy figure of 55.7mpg and CO2 emissions of 114g/km. This drops to 51.3mpg and 124g/km if you swap the standard five-speed manual gearbox for a CVT (which, let’s be honest, is rarely desirable) or 51.9mpg and 123g/km if you want Allgrip four-wheel drive.

Allgrip gives the Ignis permanent four-wheel drive and shifts the power bias rearward when required, via a viscous coupling. It’s not really detectable in normal driving, but Suzuki says it improves cornering ability and quite rightly points out that it’s of benefit to rural dwellers, especially in the winter. And even with Allgrip, the Ignis weighs less than a tonne.

What's it like?

The first thing you notice when driving the 2020 Ignis is the improvement in the ride quality. Suzuki had already upgraded the Ignis’s suspension in early 2018, in response to feedback about the harshness for rear passengers, and it has made an improvement once again with the mid-life facelift. The ride still isn’t amazing, bumping over broken asphalt, particularly at low speeds, but it’s without doubt more comfortable than when the Ignis first arrived.

Refinement is noticably better, too, particularly wind and road noise on the motorway, even if this still isn't a car you would want to use for 70mph work every day.

Some may malign the fact that Suzuki’s new engine has, as in the Swift Sport, reduced power in the Ignis, in this case from 89bhp to 82bhp. Not that you really notice it; this was never a fast car anyway, and nor need it be. In fact, the claimed 0-62mph is unchanged, at 12.8sec, and getting up to motorway speed down a slip road never makes you sweat. Having the control of a manual ’box certainly is beneficial in this regard. 

As for the improvement to fuel economy, our test car averaged an impressive 51.8mpg over 850 miles of mostly motorway and B-road driving, with 0.2 litres saved at idle thanks to the BISG. And we know from experience that better is possible; in fact, 65mpg shouldn’t be impossible if you drive sympathetically in a front-drive model.

Of course, the Ignis isn’t a car for handling, either. Steering it on country lanes feels like you’re having a relaxed conversation in which it amiably agrees to do what you’re saying, rather than an exchange between a soldier and sergeant major, but what else would you expect from what is essentially a city car?

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We didn’t get the chance to go off-roading during our test, but Autocar has taken an Allgrip Ignis greenlaning before to great merriment, which you can read about here.

The Ignis retains its old-school, functional interior, which will no doubt be pleasing to many even if its materials, which feel scratchy and hard, will put off those looking for a fashionable city car. It generally feels built to last, although the metallic-coloured plastic centre console sides are remarkably easy to move about.

There are chunky dials and buttons for controlling the air conditioning – no longer a given – as well as for the hill descent control, Grip Control and turning off the lane-keeping assistance (advisable) and automatic emergency braking (not advisable).

The touchscreen infotainment is essentially the same as before, which is a disappointment, because it’s not a particularly easy system to use, nor is it quick to respond to your prods. Thankfully, there are controls on the steering wheel for the stereo instead.

The driving position is particularly upright, even compared with a conventional city car, such as the Volkswagen Up. The seat could do with better lumbar support, but the steering wheel adjusts up and down, so most should be able to find a posture that suits them. The Ignis’s tall boxy shape means the interior feels airy, too, although adult rear passengers will want for some leg room.

Should I buy one?

The Ignis is no replacement for Suzuki’s sadly departed (in passenger car form) Jimny as a proper off-roader, but it certainly is the only real option for rural dwellers who want a small runabout with four-wheel drive for when the weather turns against them.

The Allgrip is decently priced, too, at £17,499, that also getting you range-topping SZ5 trim. You won’t find a countryside-capable little car for less than that – apart from the Fiat Panda 4x4, but then that now feels very dated.

Lesser, front-wheel-drive mild-hybrid Ignis variants start at £13,999, which again isn’t over-priced, although perhaps then you would instead look around at the likes of the Dacia Duster from the SUV side or very-well-rounded Kia Picanto from the city car side.

Suzuki Ignis 1.2 Dualjet Hybrid 4WD SZ5​ specification

Where Sussex, UK Price £17,499 On sale Now Engine 4cyls, 1197cc, petrol  Power 82bhp at 6000rpm Torque 79lb ft at 2800lb ft Gearbox 5spd manual Kerb weight 940kg Top speed 103mph 0-62mph 12.8sec Fuel economy 51.9mpg CO2 123g/km Rivals Fiat Panda 4x4Kia Picanto X-LineDacia Duster

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Comments
5

14 September 2020

I love these wee cars, they look so happy! 

15 September 2020

Boosterjet means Turbo, which this car ain't got

15 September 2020
Zebrano wrote:

Boosterjet means Turbo, which this car ain't got

15 September 2020
What happened to my comment.

Frontpaged as Boosterjet, got almost excited. I love small cars and thought great at last a decent engine in this little beast. Getting expensive?

15 September 2020

Nearly 18 large for a tiny compromised city car, even with four wheel drive, is not decently priced.

It's also a bit different from the price quoted at the top of this article too (£11,190) - even the cheapest entry level Ignis is £13,999. 

Car makers are royally taking the p with their ridiculous pricing.

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