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There is a growing trend for a car to be more than just, well, a car. Take Suzuki’s Ignis as a prime example. Not only is this a city car to rival the Volkswagen Up! and the Hyundai i10, this diminutive bundle of charm is also a hybrid and a formidable four-wheel-drive crossover for good measure.

WHAT’S THE STORY HERE, THEN?       

Shown to the world at Paris in 2016 and launched a year later, the Ignis quickly established itself as a fun-to-own, good-to-drive and cheap-to-run small car. But perhaps the biggest quality it had that rivals struggled with was personality: dinky proportions and styling heavily inspired by the car it pays homage to – the Whizzkid. If you need proof, check out those dimples on the roof pill.

WHY THE NEED TO TINKER WITH ITS LOOKS?

There is not much to dislike about the Ignis but Suzuki obviously felt it lacked a certain something – and that certain something is toughness. So, to fix that, the appearance of all models – ‘SZ3’, ‘SZ-T’ and ‘SZ5’ – are graced with chunkier front skid platers front and back, although the base trim does without protective cladding around the arches. A shinier grille and an increase in colour choices complete the visual transformation – but this reworking of the Ignis does not stop there. Truth be told, the real beauty of the Ignis is how light it is. The battery might add 7kg of mass but this is offset by a platform that is constructed from super strong and super light high-strength steel. Keeping the Ignis’s 895kg mass down is important for the simple reason the 1.2-litre, 89bhp petrol needs to be worked hard, especially as it loses 7bhp to non-hybridised versions of the car.

HOW DOES IT WORK, THEN?   

Living under the front passenger seat, the compact battery has three purposes: to reduce emissions by switching the engine off at coasting speeds to minimise CO2 emissions; store energy generated by the brakes; and use this energy to assist the engine during acceleration. The last point matters because for small bursts, torque climbs from 79lb ft to 85lb ft – and boy does the Ignis need it. Acceleration is painfully slow and an even bigger chore on the long drag up an equally long hill. There are two big upshots, however: regardless of how hard you drive the Ignis, you are guaranteed fuel returns of 52mpg. Secondly, the engine will happily rev all the way to the redline. Just as well, really, because you might find yourself doing this more often than you’re used to.

AS IT’S SMALL, IS IT FUN TO DRIVE?    

You bet! Having to riffle up and down the gearbox because the motor is so asthmatic is actually no bad thing given that the five-speed manual has a satisfying action. For that reason, we would save the extra cash and side-step the CVT auto. Turn-in is immediate and on slippery autumnal roads the AllGrip system allows you to push the envelope without fear of recrimination. Being an SUV there are trade-offs. Little in the way of information is relayed from the thin-rimmed leather steering wheel to your hands which can be disconcerting considering how slab-sided the Ignis is. The brakes can prove unnerving upon first introduction, while the softly-sprung ride gives a lively quality. It isn’t annoying, although you will feel every imperfection on craggy and broken roads.

HOW DOES THE INTERIOR STACK UP?

The first thing to mention is seating position. Both the driver and front seat passenger sit nice and high in the Ignis. Combined with the jacked-up ride, this gives a commanding view of the road. Visibility is so good, in fact, that you have to wonder why Suzuki has deemed a parking camera on a car measuring 3.7m long and 1.7m wide necessary. We aren’t sure about that decision, nor are we entirely sold on the 7-inch Pioneer-developed touchscreen; all the usual complaints apply, from laggy processing times to arcade game graphics. Thankfully, all the main knobs and switches are near hand, clearly labelled and straightforward to use. As pleasing is the equipment count, with our ‘SZ5’ test car boasting keyless start, sat-nav, automatic headlights and rear privacy glass.

IS THERE SPACE FOR FOUR?    

Appearances can be deceptive and the Ignis is living proof of that, especially when it comes to space. Realistically, only two adults can sit in the second row where head and shoulder space are equal to rivals’. Legroom is better as the 50/50 split-folding rear seats can slide backwards without eating into the already small boot. Oddment space is on a par with the Up! and i10 meanwhile, and comes with the usual array of cup and bottle holders, USB connections and map pockets.   

PROS & CONS

+ Charming looks, nicely styled
+ Fun to drive, easy to park 
+ Competitive pricing, cheap to run
Hard cabin plastics disappoint
 Engine is a slow burner
AWD option costs more

‘ALLGRIP’: Suzuki’s four-wheel-drive system becomes more advanced the further up the model range you go. With the Ignis, it is only available on top-spec versions and is straightforward in how it works: when slip is detected extra torque is ushered to the back tyres for a stable sensation. Hill Hold and Hill Descent Control come in pretty handy, too, as does the 180mm of ground clearance.

ALLGRIP IMAGE

STYLING: Unsurprisingly the Ignis’s shape and dimensions are the same as before with a new grille and restyled bumpers – front and back – featuring deep skid plates for a more rugged look. Other changes to the 2021-model see the introduction of some novel single and two-tone body colours, including ‘Caravan Ivory’, ‘Rush Yellow’ and ‘Tough Khaki’. Alloys come on ‘SZ-T’ and ‘SZ5’ variants.

STYLING

INTERIOR: Revised cabin is as spacious as before but now includes a redesigned black and white-coloured driver display that is dominated by a large speedo and supplemented by a small RPM dial and an even smaller Casio-esque trip/information screen. Air con, a DAB radio and Bluetooth all come as standard, while a two-tone dash and coloured door grabs do help to inject some fun.

IGNIS INTERIOR

PRACTICALITY: The Ignis has a tiny footprint but there is acres of room for four adults and because the ride height is taller than a supermini and it has wide opening doors, this makes climbing in and out a cinch. Where the Ignis does lose out is carrying capacity: with the back seats up, the boot is a tiny at 267-litres. The AllGrip model’s extra gubbins shrinks capacity further to 204-litres.

IGNIS INTERIOR

SPECIFICATION

Price: £18,399 (as tested)
Engine: 1.2-litre, 4cyl petrol 
Power/torque: 89bhp/79lb ft
Transmission: 5-speed manual, all-wheel-drive
0-62mph: 12.8 seconds
Top speed: 103mph
Economy/CO2: 51.9mpg/123g/Km

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