No frills, no fuss, just good value

Diamond Fields Advertiser - - MOTORING - PRITESH RUTHUN

SMALL Ja­panese cars are, for me, the best when it comes to every­day mo­tor­ing. I base my opin­ion on my un­cle’s Dai­hatsu Cha­rade, a car that never skipped a beat in more than 15 years of own­er­ship. That car was loaded to the brim for fam­ily func­tions and it would even dou­ble-up as a work­horse for his car­pen­try busi­ness when his bakkie was be­ing used to ser­vice other sites.

My dad on the other hand loved small Euro­pean cars. He has had his fair share of Fi­ats and Opels (and yes, they leaked oil, even­tu­ally), but nowa­days he prefers the blue oval, driv­ing a Ford Fiesta as his daily.

When I think back to the small cars in our fam­ily over the past 20 years (Con­quests, 323s, Unos and Laser Trac­ers), it is the Ja­panese cars that stand out, sol­dier­ing on the hard­est, re­fus­ing to leak oil or eat their own clutches or melt their own elec­tron­ics.

My own Dai­hatsu YRV Turbo and my Yaris 1.8TS (both heav­ily mod­i­fied) also just kept on go­ing and go­ing and go­ing, like prover­bial Du­ra­cell bun­nies be­fore I sold them for a dad-mo­bile.

But, this fea­ture is not about my cars (or my elders’ cars), it is about the Suzuki Ig­nis 1.2 GLX that Suzuki Auto South Africa has given us to eval­u­ate over a pe­riod of six months. The rea­son I men­tion the Ja­panese cars that stand out in my life ex­pe­ri­ence is be­cause the Suzuki Ig­nis now ranks amongst the best in small-Jap mo­tor­ing from my per­spec­tive.

Styled with no in­tent of be­ing the best-look­ing car in its class, the Ig­nis in high-spec GLX grade is ac­tu­ally quite in­ter­est­ing to stare at. Short and stumpy, with enough ride height to keep the un­der­car­riage safe dur­ing off-road ex­pe­di­tions, the Ig­nis looks more SUV than hatch­back.

I like its styling but some of my friends and fam­ily keep ask­ing if I left the boot be­hind some­where.

I do not mind the jokes be­cause the Ig­nis’ boot is in tact, and in fact it is able to swal­low 260 litres of lug­gage. We’ve even fit­ted an adult-frame moun­tain bike in the thing and with the rear seats folded, you will be able to pack at least 947 litres of goods be­hind the driver and front pas­sen­ger.

I have spent a few weeks in the Ig­nis now and each time I get to drive it, I am ac­tu­ally ex­cited about it. I love the fact that it is nim­ble enough to scoot into the small­est of gaps (very handy when driv­ing in town) and that vis­i­bil­ity from the driver’s seat is un­hin­dered by in­tru­sive A, B and C pil­lars.

It is an easy car to drive, and new driv­ers will in­stantly feel at ease in its raised seat­ing po­si­tion. It also helps that the car is fit­ted with (as stan­dard) LED head­lamps, as this fea­ture makes night driv­ing bliss­ful in the small car.

On the sub­ject of driv­ing, this has to be one of the Ig­nis’ ul­ti­mate draw-cards, which is why you have to drive it to ap­pre­ci­ate its swift­ness, par­don the pun.

The 1.2-litre four-cylin­der petrol en­gine fit­ted to the car is re­mark­ably ea­ger to rev and its torque pick-up is con­fi­dence-in­spir­ing in that you never feel want­ing for more power in the car when over­tak­ing (as long as you se­lect the cor­rect gear for your road speed).

Suzuki claims that the en­gine pro­duces a mere 61kW and 113Nm, but when driv­ing the car it feels al­most as spir­ited as a ‘100HP’ car. I say a 100HP car be­cause only one other small nor­mally-as­pi­rated car is as fun to drive for me; the old Fiat Panda 100HP. Sure, the Ig­nis doesn’t han­dle like the Panda, but it has the guts to give newer 1.0 turbo cars a go for sure.

Beyond its ride, han­dling and per­for­mance, though, I’m re­ally en­joy­ing the fru­gal na­ture of the car when it comes to fuel con­sump­tion.

I’ve been av­er­ag­ing around 5.5l/100km in a com­bined cy­cle; a mix of M1 high­way (in Jo­han­nes­burg) and city traf­fic mostly. The Ig­nis cruises com­fort­ably at high­way speed and it is not revving at an un­godly 4000rpm to main­tain 120km/h like most of th­ese nor­mally as­pi­rated com­pact cars do th­ese days.

I do how­ever find the steering sys­tem on the car to be rather odd in that it re­fuses to re­turn to the cen­tre po­si­tion af­ter turn­ing around a bend or corner at lower speeds. For ex­am­ple, if I’m in a park­ing lot, I can ba­si­cally set the steering wheel to a slightly left of right po­si­tion and the car will con­tinue to move in that di­rec­tion even if I let go of the steering wheel. In some in­stances it can get re­ally an­noy­ing, as I need to yank the steering wheel back into the cen­tre po­si­tion to en­sure the car tracks true. Ap­par­ently this trait is not com­mon in the all-wheel drive ver­sion of the Ig­nis, but we don’t get that car here so this steering is­sue should be looked into by Suzuki’s en­gi­neers. Steering oddness aside, the Ig­nis is a great daily com­muter. Light on petrol, easy to place, park and turn, and ex­cep­tional at at­tract­ing at­ten­tion. It is a re­ally well ap­pointed model that can serve your needs well if you’re just start­ing out in a car of your own, or if you are look­ing for a sec­ond car to use to work and back.

If I were in need of a com­pact car to com­mute in, the Ig­nis would be num­ber one on my list thanks to its value-ori­ented pric­ing ver­sus pack­ag­ing. En­gine: 1.2-litre four-cylin­der nat­u­rally-as­pi­rated

Power: 61kW at 6000rpm

Torque: 113Nm at 4200rpm

Fuel con­sump­tion: 5.1l/100km (claimed), 5.5l/100km (tested) War­ranty: Five-year/200 000km Ser­vice plan: Two-year/30 000km Price: R193 900

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