Ignis breathes life into small cars segment

The saying “never judge a book by its cover” should not be limited to books – it applies to the all-new Suzuki Ignis as well.

What I initially viewed as a plain Jane bowled me over when I got to experience the savvy crossover up close.

Featuring lots of bells and whistles – electric windows, air-conditioning, electric power steering, and an MP3-compatible CD sound system – this compact car is a breath of fresh air amid its competitors.

This is an ultracompact crossover that combines the benefits of a wieldy lightweight hatchback with the stance and clearance of an all-terrainer.

The short overhangs, relatively long wheelbase, high roofline and raised ride height create a vehicle that is manoeuvrable both on and off road, while offering the elevated seating and enhanced visibility more typical of an SUV.

Offered in GL and range-topping GLX versions, the Ignis features a modern, spacious and well-equipped interior.

It may look small from the outside, but its two-tone black and white interior – the top half of

the dashboard, for example, is finished in black, while the lower sections are clad in contrasting white – is uncluttered and offers plenty of head and leg room.

I would without doubt recommend it to young mothers like myself.

The front and rear doors of the vehicle are extra wide-opening making fitting in that baby-carrier and all that shopping an absolute breeze.

A 260-litre luggage capacity puts the Ignis in the lead when compared to its competitors, which on average offer a 253-litre luggage capacity.

This is expandable to 469 litres with the rear seat folded flat.

The bold exterior design features rectangular-looking headlights with angel eyes LED finish, an aggressive-looking grille, and a deep, integrated front bumper which is home to large air intakes, as well as front fog lamps on the GLX models.

The rear treatment is tidy, thanks to a neatly integrated rear bumper, together with large, trapezoidal tail light clusters and a smooth, full-width rear screen.

Slim roof rails, a high-mounted third brake light and a bee sting aerial complete the Ignis picture.

Powered by the same K12M 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine as in current Suzuki models such as the Swift 1.2, the Ignis benefits from a lightweight

850kg kerb mass to achieve its sprightly performance, together with a claimed impressive fuel economy. At just 3.7m long and 1.69m wide, the Ignis is small enough to be extremely agile, while a generous 180 mm ground clearance will help it take some dirt-road short-cuts.

All models have, as standard, electric windows, remote central locking, air-conditioning, electric power steering, and an MP3-compatible CD sound system with USB port and 12V accessory power socket.

Safety is addressed via dual front airbags, ABS anti-lock brakes, side impact protection beams, Isofix child seat anchors and child-proof rear door locks.

The new crossover’s construction features Suzuki’s Total Effective Control Technology (TECT), which includes crumple zones to absorb the impact of a collision, a chassis that distributes the impact energy, and a rigid passenger safety cell.

The Suzuki Ignis range consists of three models, spanning two specification levels, and two transmission choices.

The efficient 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine is employed across all three variants.

The engine’s maximum power output of 61kW at 6000 rpm translates into a power-to-weight ratio of 71.65kW/ton.

The GLX specification level includes everything offered in the GL model, but adds a further level of comfort and convenience, as well as enhanced exterior appeal.

From the outside, the most obvious difference is the fitment of 15-inch piano-black alloy wheels, while wheel arch extensions and roof rails emphasise the crossover’s chunky looks.

The black grille gets chrome accents, too.

The GL’s halogen headlights make way for projector-type LED designs with daytime running lights, while the front fog lamps are incorporated into the integrated front bumper.

The exterior mirrors include turn signal indicators.

Inside, a start/stop button confirms that the GLX offers keyless starting, while the air-conditioning features fully automatic climate control. The climate control switchgear is housed in an innovative, cylindrical housing.

When I got to drive the zippy standard five-speed manual transmission design the most impressive aspect was how effortlessly it shifted gears.

The lightweight vehicle also held its own on the inclines.

Initially I was skeptical about how well the vehicle would perform on gravel, but the Ignis proved to carry surprises up its sleeve.

So do not let the small frame fool you into thinking it does not have heart because it truly is like no other in its class. — oreillya@timesmedia.co.za

PRICING (as of May 24):

1.2 GL 5MT IG1 R169900

1.2 GLX 5MT IG2 R189 900

1.2 GLX 5AMT IG3 R204 900

The retail price includes a two-year/30000km service plan.