Mi­cro meets pseudo

Suzuki sets out to make its mark among light cars and po­ten­tially cre­ates a new niche — price, space and per­for­mance are on the money

Herald Sun - Motoring - - FIRST DRIVE - CRAIG DUFF craig.duff@news.com.au

SUZUKI has de­signs on the light car seg­ment and it has to look the goods. That’s a big shift from a car com­pany that has forged a rep­u­ta­tion for well-en­gi­neered ve­hi­cles but the Ig­nis mi­cro SUV was penned with per­son­al­i­sa­tion in mind.

If there’s a metal­lic-look­ing bezel or strip on or in the Ig­nis, it’s a safe bet you can visit the dealer and have it coloured to match or con­trast your cho­sen paint colour. Even the black al­loy wheels can have coloured in­serts and that’s be­fore we start on spoil­ers,

Drive-away pric­ing starts at $16,990 for the base GL with a five-speed man­ual, with con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion adding $1000. The GLX is CVT-only and can be driven away for $19,990.

The GL rides on 15-inch steel wheels and has cruise con­trol, power win­dows and a 60-40 fold­ing rear seat. The GLX steps it up with 16-inch al­loys, bet­ter bol­stered front seats, 50-50 fold­ing rear seats that can also slide and re­cline, key­less start, auto head­lamps and air­con.

Suzuki Aus­tralia gen­eral man­ager An­drew Moore says the Ig­nis fuses de­sign cues from hall­mark Suzuki mod­els with mod­ern pack­ag­ing and con­ve­nience. Con­ve­nience these days means con­nec­tiv­ity so the in­fo­tain­ment soft­ware in­cludes Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto.

The pack­ag­ing is first-rate with good head and legroom for four adults and with all seats in use there’s more than 260L of cargo space.

Suzuki calls the Ig­nis a mi­cro SUV and jus­ti­fies the tag by not­ing the car’s 180mm of ground clear­ance is bet­ter than a Mazda CX-3, along with the fact an all-wheel drive ver­sion will ar­rive later this year.

Oth­ers will see it as a high­rid­ing hatch. Ei­ther way it is chas­ing sales against ev­ery­thing from a Fiat 500 to a Ford EcoS­port.

Moore pre­dicts city dwellers and sub­ur­ban­ites will buy about 400 ex­am­ples of the Ig­nis each month. “The ob­vi­ous mar­ket is the im­age-con­scious sin­gles and cou­ples in their 20s and 30s, along with empty-nesters,” he says.

ON THE ROAD

The 1.2-litre four-cylin­der in the Ig­nis may be nat­u­rally as­pi­rated but it is far from asth­matic. With out­puts of 66kW/120Nm the Suzuki never threat­ens to smoke the tyres but there’s al­ways enough torque on tap to get the job done.

The light­ness of the Ig­nis is a large rea­son for the bet­ter than ex­pected ac­cel­er­a­tion — a CVT-equipped car is 865kg, giv­ing it a bet­ter power-to-weight ra­tio than the stable­mate Swift.

Softly sprung sus­pen­sion and the high ride — the front seat hip point is 615mm from the ground — give the Ig­nis the im­pres­sion of lean­ing through cor­ners but the de­gree of roll is less than most small SUVs.

The turn­ing cir­cle is a pleas­ing 9.4 me­tres and the only reser­va­tion Cars­guide has is the oc­ca­sional flare in the CVT (to be fair the test cars had very few kilo­me­tres on board).

Other than that, the vari­able trans­mis­sion per­formed well for off-the-line and mid-range ac­cel­er­a­tion, with bet­ter en­gine brak­ing than most CVTs.

Ham­mer the throt­tle and dron­ing — the Ig­nis tends to range be­tween 4000-5000rpm — is the au­di­ble com­pan­ion un­til you get un­der about 70 per cent load. The rest of the time the car is ac­cept­ably muted, with a hint of road and wind noise the only com­pan­ions at free­way speeds.

The brak­ing is pro­gres­sive — a Suzuki trait in cars and bikes alike — and the steer­ing is light enough to nav­i­gate through in shop­ping cen­tres without af­fect­ing a rea­son­able level of feel through the wheel.

Claimed fuel con­sump­tion is 4.9L/100km. Over 300km in a GLX, Cars­guide re­turned 6.0L.

VER­DICT

It is no pow­er­house — wait for the an­tic­i­pated turbo ver­sion for more go — but the Ig­nis is a well-priced al­ter­na­tive to just about ev­ery­thing in the light car seg­ment. At the mo­ment it is a pseudo-SUV but the AWD vari­ant will add au­then­tic­ity, if not off-road ca­pa­bil­ity.

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