What are you driving?
This dinky little thing is the updated Suzuki Ignis. It's a small five-door hatchback and has, according to its Japanese maker, 'strong SUV styling.' Its bold, scowling 'face' features what appears to be off-road-friendly underbody protection, all but the entry-level variant come with roof rails and there's noticeably generous ground clearance, perhaps exaggerated by the skinny tyres. The Ignis's proportions make it look tall, too.
Pricing for the Suzuki Ignis starts at €15,560, placing it on a par with the Suzuki Swift. The Ignis comes in SZ3, SZ-T and SZ5 specifications, all powered by the same naturally aspirated 1.2-litre petrol engine, mated to a five-speed manual gearbox, driving the front wheels. Its performance and efficiency are enhanced by a 12-volt mild-hybrid system. All but the SZ3 can be had with a CVT automatic transmission, while the range-topping SZ5 can also be upgraded with Suzuki's 'AllGrip' four-wheel-drive system, as tested here.
It's quite a simple setup, and fully automatic, engaging the rear wheels via a viscous coupling when the front tyres begin to lose traction. It also comes with driver-selectable Hill Descent Control and Grip Control, the latter of which applies the brakes to the spinning wheels, hence transferring more torque to those with more grip.
The minimum specification for the Ignis, found in the SZ3, includes LED headlights and daytime running lights with automatic activation, air conditioning, a USB port, audio controls on the steering wheel and Bluetooth. The SZ3 is also the only version to come with a five-seat layout, as the other models get just four seats, but with much more flexibility. To the SZ3's equipment, the SZ-T adds a touchscreen infotainment system including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, a rear parking camera, 16-inch alloy wheels and a few aesthetic bits and pieces. The SZ5 receives a comprehensive active safety upgrade, keyless entry and start and a few other items.
Name its best bits
The Ignis is a hoot to drive around town. Ignore the weedy sounding engine stats, as it feels quicker than you'd expect off the line, thanks no doubt to assistance from the mild-hybrid system's integrated starter generator. More than that though, it feels keen and eager and responsive, which, in conjunction with its tiny dimensions, means it's perfect for dicing with busy city traffic. Remarkably, it doesn't feel completely out of its depth away from the urban crawl, but it does start to feel breathless on the open road.
Despite those diminutive dimensions, the interior of the Ignis isn't as cramped as you might assume. Its tall roof allows for quite upright seating, which frees up legroom front and rear and, actually, four adults can fit in without much of an issue - so long as they're not particularly wide of shoulder. It's also worth noting that the upright seating position means the Ignis is easier to get in and out of than most cars of its size.
What's more, in the SZ-T and SZ5 versions, the rear seats slide and tilt, so, when you're not carrying anyone in the back, you can slide the seats forward to make for a much more spacious boot. Cleverly, this can be done from behind the car when you have the hatch open, as there are levers built into the tops of the seats.
Anything that bugs you?
Practicality aside, the interior is a bit scratchy and plasticky, and the touchscreen system looks ancient, even if it functions acceptably.
It's also a shame that you have to pay for the top-ranking SZ5 model to benefit from the impressive full suite of active safety features.
And why have you given it this rating?
The Suzuki Ignis makes a lot of sense at its sub-€16,000 starting price, but at over €20,000 as tested it's competing with plenty of larger and more traditional alternatives. And while they're also likely to appeal to more buyers, most won't have the personality, quirkiness and wide breadth of capability that the Ignis does. Those that 'get' it will no doubt love it - understandably so.
What do the rest of the team think?
The Ignis is a car that's brimming with character. If you aren't in need of a huge amount of space, and you prefer cars to be as quirky as they are practical, then Suzuki might have what you're looking for in this car. Don't be lured by the mild-hybrid system, though, as it doesn't add a great amount of difference to overall fuel economy, but the Suzuki makes up for it with its all-wheel-drive transmission, making it a very capable machine in challenging conditions. It's a quite a fun car.
Dave Humphreys - Road Test Editor