What is it?
First sold during the noughties, the Ignis was a compact hatch that, due to its height, had some qualities of an SUV. Suzuki itself admits the Ignis was not a widely known nameplate in Australia, so in a way this is a new model for the Japanese car maker. It is now officially billed as a 'light SUV'.
What are its rivals
Because it is a sub-$20,000 SUV, the Ignis has few direct rivals. In Japan, its key target has been compact hatch buyers who are attracted to its additional space for a similar price. If that plays out the same way in Australia, it will be up against everything from the Mitsubishi Mirage to the Toyota Corolla.
What models are on offer?
The range is simple: GL and GLX. The GL starts at $15,990 + ORCs for the five-speed manual and $16,990 for the CVT auto. The GLX costs $18,990 and is available only in auto. All models have a 1.2-litre fuel injected four-cylinder engine putting out 66kW and 120Nm.
The GL has 15-inch steel wheels (common at the budget end of the market) but does get a 7.0-inch touchscreen sat-nav, high-res reversing camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (new to Suzuki), Bluetooth, cruise control and power windows (auto down only).
GLX adds 16-inch alloys, auto headlights, daytime running lights, climate control, privacy glass, keyless start, and sliding and reclining rear seats that split fold 50/50 rather than 60/40.
Customisation is one of the big drawcards for the Ignis and the buyer can choose the colour of the wing mirrors, headlight surrounds, centre grille bar, fog light bezels and wheel decals.
What's it like?
Seen front-on, the Ignis is as cute as a button, particularly with its chrome or colour-coded surround around the headlights and grille. Suzuki claims it has 'retro' styling, which might be over-stating it, but it is distinctive. The 'droopy face' rear and fake 'louvres' on the C-pillars are less appealing. The black and white interior, designed to make the custom colours stand out, does its job well, though, so overall, the styling gets a big tick.
But looks aren't everything and, while the Ignis might have a low price, it certainly feels built to it. Hard plastics abound in the cabin, the steering wheel isn't pleasant to touch, the brakes creak, there is considerable engine noise under hard acceleration, the exposed steering column can be seen from the rear seats, and spot welds are visible below door sills.
And while Ignis is Latin for 'fire', this car is no fireball. It might have a minuscule 820kg-865kg kerb weight – that's less than a Mazda MX-5 – but with power and torque figures more common to the 1980s, a less-than-industry-benchmark CVT and no steering linearity whatsoever, 'Ignis' and 'driving pleasure' are pretty much mutually exclusive concepts. We did not get a chance to test the manual version.
Underbody clearance is unexpectedly good at 180mm, although the low-hanging front bumper impedes what would otherwise be a useful approach angle. The tiny 4.7-metre turning radius, however, makes it well suited to tight urban situations and the forgettable performance comes with an economical silver lining – consumption of less than 5.0L/100km.
Sliding rear seats (GLX only) allow for rear leg room or cargo space to take precedence depending on what the situation requires. But even then, its 1100 litres of space with the rear seats folded down compare favourably only to micro hatches like the Kia Picanto or Holden Spark. Most small hatches, such as the Toyota Corolla and Hyundai i30, are more capacious. Moreover, the way Ingis' seats fold means the cargo floor has a large step in it.
Then there is the safety factor. While the Ignis has not been crash-tested locally, in EuroNCAP tests it achieved just three stars. A safety pack, which adds things like autonomous emergency braking and lane keeping assistance, improves the rating to five stars – but it is not available in the Australian market!
Should I buy one?
This is the sort of car where you have to keep the price in mind for it to make any sense. It's not nice to drive, doesn't look any good from the rear, the interior materials don't even pretend to be premium, and its safety rating is terrible. But it is a reasonably spacious light car with plenty of tech and a splash of personality for less than $20,000. The Ignis will probably meet a need – however small that proves to be.