For a big sky ride

ALWYN VILJOEN finds the new lit­tle Suzuki Ig­nis re­ally does like go­ing off the high­ways

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE -

“YOU must just write Adi­das un­der there,” said the petrol at­ten­dant as he tanked up the Suzuki Ig­nis five-speed man­ual in Beau­fort West.

The fuel jockey was re­fer­ring to the faux air vents on the C-Pil­lar that re­minded him of the Adi­das logo, but which Suzuki said pay homage to the air in­take grills of the rear-en­gined Suzuki Fronte Coupé — a pocket rocket of note in its day. The fuel tank swal­lows just over 30 litres, mean­ing I got to meet a lot of petrol at­ten­dants on a long test drive from Cape Town to KZN in Suzuki’s lat­est of­fer­ing.

En route, I quickly found the one thing I did not like at all in the hatch — a ridge on the hard plas­tic of the door han­dle. Af­ter a few hours of driv­ing, this ridge presses into a male driver’s right knee to the point where I started driv­ing like a girl, knees to­gether, which had me won­der­ing if this was de­signed as a city girl’s hatch.

But Charl Grob­ler, man­ager of sales and prod­uct plan­ning at Suzuki Auto SA did boast at the launch this lit­tle hatch would also prove will­ing and able over gravel. So I took it there — and Grob­ler was right.

The top of the range Ig­nis likes get­ting its 15-inch boots dusty.

Its 180 mm ground clear­ance is not re­ally high enough for rocky roads, but a kerb weight of only 850 kg on those thin tyres meant the Ig­nis just sliced through mud — like a Nis­san 1400 of yore. The light­weight con­struc­tion and rigid plat­form also en­sures the lit­tle hatch re­acts nim­bly to any steer­ing in­puts. So make this a car de­signed for city girls who don’t mind get­ting a bit dirty.

In city traf­fic the 1,2-litre four­cylin­der en­gine (which also does ser­vice in the Suzuki Swift 1.2) re­turned 6,6 km/100 — or 15 km to a litre. On a slow stretch of road works the best I got was 4,1, but the av­er­age open road con­sump­tion was 5,9 l/100, or 16 km per litre.

The 1 197 cc en­gine in the Ig­nis makes 61 kW at 6 000 rpm for a power-to-weight ra­tio of 71,65 kW/ton. But it is torque that gets one past the trucks, and while 113 Nm at 4 200 rpm is good for a small en­gine, it needed down­shift­ing into the long sec­ond gear to get mov­ing. I did not drive the au­to­mated man­ual gear­box, but sus­pect it will re­quire much the same high revving treat­ment.

While happy on gravel and nim­ble in mud, this run­ner-up in the World Ur­ban Car Award comes into its own in the city, where it turns on a dime and of­fers enough leg and more im­por­tantly, head room for two friends in the rear seats.

The rear doors open over 70 de­grees for easy en­try, and the boot swal­lows 260 litres with the seats up and 469 litres with the rear seat­back folded flat.

Stan­dard items across all mod­els in­clude elec­tric win­dows, re­mote cen­tral lock­ing, air-con­di­tion­ing, elec­tric power steer­ing, and an MP3-com­pat­i­ble CD sound sys­tem with USB port and 12V socket. The Blue­tooth sys­tem is not ex­actly in­tu­itive and the USB port is not pow­ered, mean­ing you will get to use that 12 Volt socket.

These nig­gles were, how­ever, quickly for­got­ten when I fi­nally got to use the pro­jec­tor-type LED lights on the GLX model on a dark but busy N1.

This light­ing sys­tem is sim­ply the best I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced in the sub R190 000 price range and to my mind these lights alone are well worth the R20k price dif­fer­ence be­tween the GL and GLX mod­els. The new Suzuki Ig­nis is cov­ered by a stan­dard three-year/100 000 km war­ranty, and as a two-year/30 000 km ser­vice plan.

Ser­vices are at 15 000 km or at 12 month in­ter­vals.

PHOTO: ALWYN VILJOEN

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