In this week's automotive adventures, Steve makes the case for the unacknowledged brilliance of the humble Suzuki Ignis, and the slightly more acknowledged brilliance of a good Mini, defends BMW's new styling direction and more.
I’m pretty sure that there isn’t a Suzuki Ignis Appreciation Society, which is great news, because it leaves me free to start one. If ever an affordable car deserved to be seen as separate and special, this is it. The version I’ve just borrowed is the recently revised, full-house SZ5 mild-hybrid 4x4, which costs just £17,300 after you’ve paid the laughable £1000 they charge for four-wheel drive – roughly the cost of a Porsche cigarette lighter.
The Ignis is 30cm shorter and 150kg lighter than the Renault Clio or Ford Fiesta, yet I find its driving position roomy and my 6ft 3in son can sit comfortably behind me. Far from looking boxy, the Ignis is viewed as “business-like” and “funky”. Even with 4WD, it weighs just 940kg, which is why its hybridised 80bhp 1.2-litre four-pot, helped off the mark by an integrated starter-generator, gives thoroughly decent performance.
Weird to be talking Minis then have one appear on my doorstep. Amid a gale and horizontal rain, a lady’s ancient example conked opposite my house today; I spotted her from my dining room (now also my office). The problem was a familiar Issigonis gremlin: water penetrating the grille and drowning the distributor. Most Minis had fixes made long ago (we used to encase the entire dizzy in a rubber glove, with the fingers cut off to let the plug leads out), but not this one. A few squirts of WD40 and it was running roughly, so (after sanitising) I whizzed it around the block to get heat into the engine. Even amid distractions of a misfire and filthy weather, I couldn’t help thinking how gloriously different Minis are and feeling regret for the many drivers who will never get to try one.
I headed out of Gloucestershire towards Cornwall at 5am in the Suzuki, feeling guilty for travelling so far from home, even with a legitimate work errand (soon to be revealed in these pages). The traffic was mostly trucks (it was quite enjoyable watching them jousting at 56mph unhindered by West Country holiday traffic), while the overtaking lane was reserved largely for my Ignis and a bunch of ferociously overdriven four-tonne food vans swaying about at 65-75mph.
My two-leg trip amounted to 400 miles, with a five-hour meeting in Newquay in between. I averaged an easy 57mph and the Ignis returned a frankly daft 51mpg for the whole exploit. I made two petrol stops (mainly as rest breaks), feeling vaguely stupid about adding only 15 litres each time, and returned home fit and fine. This do-it-all gem of a car will be with us through Christmas, and now I’m praying for snow.