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Boutique city cars – they’re bijou, ultra-chic and easy to park. But unlike conventional city slickers, they prioritise both style and practicality. Problem is, they tend to be rather expensive. Take a look at the price of a basic Mini One. At just under R425 000, it’s undeniably pricey. Fiat’s 500 is a far more palatable offering (in terms of price), but when you remember it first debuted in 2007 (14 years ago), it loses some of that retro charm.
While not as expensive as the Mini, it’s still pricey if you want one with some goodies thrown in. Financial foibles aside, they’re both perfectly fine as wheeled haute couture – accessories for battling CBD traffic in a fashionable manner.
Offering an equally trendy approach to commuting is the Suzuki Ignis. Recently facelifted, the already funky crossover-esque city car has been given a number of styling updates. A new front and rear bumper (now sporting a skid plate) freshens the appearance, while a revised grille brings it more in line with the rest of the range.
It’s always been quite the looker, though. Up front – on the GLX model, at least – you’ll find LED headlamps with daytime running lamps. Flared wheel arches give it an aggressive look, while lovely styling details (like the three style lines on the C-pillar) give it a distinctive feel. Suzuki does offer further personalisation options, if you feel your Ignis doesn’t stand out from the crowd.
Inside, it’s equally as stylish. Wonderful styling details are peppered throughout the cabin. The touchscreen infotainment system (with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto functionality) appears to be floating, while the climate control switches are styled to resemble fighter jet toggles. White swathes of plastic do their best to lift the ambiance of what would otherwise be a sombre interior. At this price level, don’t expect to find soft-touch plastics or leather trim. Hard plastics are the order of the day – but do, at least, feel solid.
Spec wise, you’re getting a lot for your money. Rear parking sensors, a reverse camera and keyless-entry (with push-button start) all come standard. Safety wise, you get ABS brakes, two airbags and ISOFIX child seat anchoring. The cloth-trimmed seats are comfortable and supportive, but I felt the pews could do with a touch more lower back bolstering – slight discomfort can be felt on longer journeys.
Despite the compact exterior dimensions (it measures just 3 700 mm from stem to stern), the Ignis has a deceptively large interior. Thanks to a high roof line, there is plenty of headroom. Space in the rear is decent, with two modestly sized adults fitting perfectly. The boot, too, is a revelation. With the rear bench in place, it measures a middling 260 L. However, fold it down, and you’ve got an SUV-rivalling 947 L at your disposal.
Fire up the four-cylinder 1.2-litre petrol engine and it is barely audible. At start up, the naturally-aspirated motor is nicely settled, with no vibrations permeating the cabin. With just 61 kW and 113 Nm of torque on tap, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Ignis was a bit of a slouch. But thanks to a lightweight construction (it weighs less than 900 kg), it feels positively sprightly. It’s agile, nippy and energetic to drive in town, zipping away from traffic lights with gusto. That being said, a touch more torque would be appreciated on the highway.
The five-speed manual gearbox – as with most Suzuki’s – is superb. Slick and easy-to-use, it adds to the dynamic driving experience. An automatic is available, but personally I’d save some money and opt for the manual. One area where the Ignis falls short is the steering. Somewhat vague and slow, it requires slightly more input to get it going in the direction you want it to. While not irritating or dangerous (you adjust in a couple of days), it’s missing the crisp steering feel of the Swift or even the Brezza SUV.
Still, for a city car, it’s entertaining to pilot. The suspension setup is compliant and well-chosen, soaking up most bumps and potholes SA’s roads can throw at you. This is certainly helped by the plump 175/65 R15 tyres fitted as standard. It’s not an SUV, but the 180 mm of ground clearance is useful in muddy car parks.
Now just over four years into its lifecycle, the Ignis shows no signs of ageing – especially after the recent facelift. It offers unique (boutique) styling at an agreeable price, a solid cabin and plenty of interior space. The little Suzuki strikes a fine balance between being an everyday commuter that can also provide a driver with some fun, if need be. At R229 900, its biggest threat comes from within its own family. For R11 000 less, a similarly equipped Swift GLX can be yours. It’s more fun to drive and even lighter on fuel. You can’t really go wrong with either, but if you prefer your city car with plenty of flair and panache, the Ignis is the one to opt for.
How thoughtful of Cape Town weather to colour coordinate with my wheels for the week, a Glistening Grey @Suzuki_ZA Ignis. This being the range-topping GLX derivative, it’s packed with numerous nice-to-haves, including climate control and keyless-go. pic.twitter.com/tRx1hUX6UK
— Jarryd Neves (@JarrydNeves) July 12, 2021
Suzuki Ignis 1.2 GLX
Price: R229 900
Power: 61 kW/113Nm
Fuel consumption: 5.1L/100km (claimed)
Top speed: 165 km/h
Rivals: Ford Figo Freestyle, Renault Sandero Stepway
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