Long-term test review: Suzuki Ignis

Final report: the Suzuki Ignis has departed our long-term fleet, and we’re already missing the little SUV

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

The Ignis is one of the cleverest cars I’ve driven. Its looks may divide opinion and it’s uncomfortable over potholes, but you can’t help but marvel at the ingenious use of space. With low running costs, charm and a fun factor, it’s a winner – so much so that my wife now wants one!

Mileage: 8,117Economy: 46.0mpg

After 10 months on the fleet, our Ignis has returned to Suzuki, and we are already missing it. Over the best part of a year, the car has proven itself to be so much more than an unusually cute-looking small SUV.

My family liked the Ignis from the start, but the longer we ran the car for, the further we fell for its ‘park anywhere’ dimensions, clever interior and fuel-sipping engine.

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Our top-spec SZ5 had all-wheel drive (a front-wheel-drive version is also available, saving £1,000) and came with loads of kit as standard. Keyless entry and go, climate control, sat-nav, lane departure warning, hill descent control, autonomous braking and a reversing camera were my highlights.

It’s an impressive list, but no real surprise because much of Suzuki’s current range has taken the headache out of choosing options by throwing lots of kit into the package as standard.

What never ceased to amaze us with our Ignis was the sheer amount of space packed inside the tiny body. The interior proportions seem to defy logic when you consider the car’s tiny stature on the road. Once in the driver’s seat, the simple, upright dash and steep windscreen lead up into a high roofline, which makes the small car feel tall inside. The light-coloured trim adds to the spacious feel, and things get even better in the back: both of my tall teenage sons had loads of head and legroom.

However, they sat almost directly over the rear wheels, so any speed bumps or potholes sent shudders straight through them. I had to actively change my driving style and watch for uneven surfaces to avoid, which was a shame. Another slight downside is that the Ignis only has two rear seatbelt points, removing any option to fit a third person in the back. This did stop us from giving lifts to anyone outside our immediate family of four; but we never felt really short of options and sometimes you just have to work around such limitations.

The sliding, adjustable split rear seats provide an option to increase boot space, but the standard 204-litre load bay was usually enough. If not, I just kept the sliding bench in place and dropped one of those split seats to fit a larger item like a guitar or flat-pack box in the back.

My eldest son George was using our Ignis to learn to drive, although he hadn’t managed to pass his test before the car departed. However, in his time with it he found it easy to get on with, praising the raised seating position and good visibility. We live in a busy, hilly, urban area full of steep inclines, so he was also helped along by the engine’s low-range torque.

A helpful boost of electric power comes from the SHVS mild hybrid system aiding the 1.2-litre petrol engine. The power is supplied by a small battery pack under the passenger seat, and the electrical boost makes a brief but noticeable difference when pulling away.

Some of my colleagues criticised the retro-looking touchscreen display, but I really liked it. The ability to either connect via Bluetooth, USB or just slide in a CD appealed to me, and there was always the back-up of the DAB radio. I also found the sat-nav especially easy to use, with visual cues for turnings on motorways and a handy exit turning icon for roundabouts. It even has a speed warning icon.

None of these features is especially groundbreaking, but it’s great to see them included in such a small, affordable car. My family and I have loved running the little Ignis and it’s left a big hole in our lives.

Update: Suzuki Ignis

The grippy Suzuki Ignis is excelling in cold weather, and would make our small SUV shortlist in a heartbeat

Mileage: 7,872Economy: 54.5mpg

It’s taken nearly a year, but the recent cold snap and some time in the countryside have shown me exactly how much grit and grip our four-wheel-drive Suzuki Ignis SZ-5 AllGRIP has.

I spent a few days away from my home in the capital working at the office of our sister title evo in rural Bedfordshire. It made a nice change to throw the car around some slippery country lanes at pace rather than sit in endless traffic.The Ignis is bags of fun to drive; not especially refined or smooth, but certainly entertaining.  

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The squat stance has to help, but the winter’s first big freeze proved the car’s ability to climb a frosty slope to the hilltop crescent where I live, then manoeuvre its way down using the Hill Descent system.

We’ve already been won over by its quirky looks, clever ‘space creating’ interior design and long kit list. Our top-spec SZ-5 has all the bells and whistles as standard, including keyless entry and go, climate control, a reversing camera and camera brake support, which has given me a confidence boost when I’ve been teaching my teenage son to drive.

The tech goes beyond buttons and displays. Our Ignis also wears an SHVS badge, signifying its mild hybrid credentials. Under the passenger seat sits a small lithium-ion battery pack, which soaks up energy from the regenerative braking.

On acceleration the system uses a simple belt-driven ‘Integrated Starter Generator’ (which also acts as a starter motor) to give the Ignis an electrical boost. The car certainly feels nippy in town and my learner son George has remarked on how sharply it pulls into gaps in city traffic. You only really notice it in the first couple of seconds, although decent fuel figures of 54.5mpg may be a direct result of the system. In theory it should also lower the CO2 output, and when combined with the 4WD, it helps the car cover 0-62mph in a claimed 11.5 seconds.

Suzuki Ignis: second report

The baby Suzuki Ignis SUV is a family hit, and an ideal car for learning to drive in

Mileage: 6,510Economy: 54.5mpg

You might think that running the smallest car on our test fleet could be a challenge with a family of four – including two teenage sons – but that’s really not the case. While our appetite for long weekends away and the occasional need to do some heavy lifting sounds like it would catch out our little Suzuki Ignis, it has more than managed all that we’ve thrown at it.

My family loves the quirky city car’s red paint, black grille and chrome details. It may divide opinion, but the Ignis is characterful and the boxy shape means there’s more space than you might think inside.

The Suzuki has also enabled me to start teaching my eldest son George to drive in a car with sensible power and acceleration. You can read George’s opinion in the panel (right), but from a (slightly nervous) father’s point of view, it is keeping his feet firmly planted on the ground. The 1.2-litre petrol is powerful enough to navigate city traffic, but still appropriate for George to learn with.

The Ignis comes with autonomous emergency braking, which warns of an impending collision and applies the brakes if the driver doesn’t respond quickly enough. I’ve tried similar systems on Suzukis I’ve run in the past and found them a little over-sensitive and irritating on the Vitara and Baleno, but the Japanese company seems to have fixed that with the Ignis.

In addition, the car features six airbags (should the worst happen) and even the satellite navigation map has a speed sign symbol that turns red should George stray over the limit while out on a lesson.

Despite all the clever gadgets which are included as standard, the Suzuki is also reassuringly simple to learn to drive in. It has a proper ‘pull-up’ handbrake, which is great for hill starts and at junctions, especially as we live at the top of a hill.

Visibility when driving is also excellent, mostly due to the boxy shape of the cabin and the upright windscreen. A nice large rear view mirror and a parking camera make reversing especially easy.

I underestimated the car’s practicality at first, but after finding that a dining table wouldn’t fit through the tailgate of a supposedly larger car on our fleet, I was forced to use the Suzuki. The table slid straight into the Ignis due to the remarkably high roofline and wide hatch. We’ve never had any real problem fitting luggage for four people into the car for weekends away,  including tents and associated gear for a camping adventure in Wales this year.

Those trips on motorways have also aided the fuel figures: we have managed 54.5mpg so far after just over 3,250 miles.

Suzuki Ignis: first report

Mileage: 4,980Economy: 48.2mpg

Having previously run a VW Passat Estate and had a brief stint in a Citroen C4 Picasso, I thought it might be fun to downsize. But switching to the Suzuki Ignis isn’t all about me seeing if I can live without the big load capacities to which I’ve become accustomed. It also gives me the perfect opportunity to teach my 17-year-old son George to drive in a more sensibly sized car.

Over the coming months George will also be reporting on how he finds his driving experience in the pocket-sized Suzuki – just not for a little while yet. He needs to complete 10 lessons before he’s allowed behind the wheel of the Ignis.

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I was as excited as him about trying the car. I’m a big fan of the exterior styling, as the wraparound front lights and chrome grille look sporty, while the high roofline and angled C-pillars remind me of those Penny Racer toys from the eighties.

Our 1.2 DualJet SHVS mild hybrid four-wheel-drive model gets 16-inch black alloys, silver roof rails and black privacy glass, all of which make it look even more pumped up. I like the red paint, too, although I’ve seen a few examples in white that look even better. Love it or loathe it, the Ignis has real character.

While the styling is an acquired taste, it’s not until you get inside this exceptionally clever little car that you realise why it’s designed the way it is. Impressive practicality tempers the scaled-down SUV styling, with every inch of room used. Four adults can fit inside with ease, and even tall occupants get plenty of leg and headroom. The expected pay-off would be a tiny boot, but I can fit four large shopping bags in the 204-litre load bay – although the rear diff on this 4WD model does reduce the capacity by 56 litres. If that’s not enough space, the split rear bench can be individually adjusted to slide back and forth.

Despite having had the car for only a short period, my wife Dawn and I have already put nearly 2,000 miles on the clock, with plenty of day trips and a couple of long weekends away. Packing has never been a problem, while George and his younger brother Harry have plenty of rear room and have remarked on how they’ve felt more cramped in bigger cars. As usual Suzuki has included loads of tech as standard, so the boys are happy playing music through the Bluetooth audio system, while charging their phones via the twin USB sockets.

However, it’s not all smooth running for the Ignis. Some of the trim feels fairly cheap, which is perhaps to be expected when this top-spec SZ5 4WD ‘hybrid’ costs only £14,249.

Another downside is the rough ride. The boys sit almost over the back wheels, and the car is uncomfortably bumpy in town. In fact, despite that SUV stance, speed bumps must be carefully negotiated. In contrast, motorway travel is a much smoother affair, with the car returning 48.2mpg over mixed conditions.

I’ve found my first few months with the youthful Ignis a lot of fun. Now I’m looking forward to hearing George’s opinion.

*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points. 

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