City car review: 2020 Suzuki Ignis 1.2

Motoring correspondent Mark Gallivan gets to grips with the 2020 Suzuki Ignis 1.2 Dual Jet Hybrid AllGrip SZ5.

Freshly faced for 2020 the Suzuki Ignis 1.2. Dual Jet Hybrid AllGrip SZ5 priced at €20,265 has scored an upset as my new favourite city car of 2020. Though the Hyundai i10 comes in at a strong second place.

The Suzuki Ignis was launched into Ireland three years ago. Now in the year of Covid, Suzuki’s compact crossover gets a facelift with a zippy 1.2 litre four-cylinder gaining hybrid power.

“One revealing comment was that it looked like a Mercedes G-Class that got photocopied down by 60pc and was sold in aisle five by Lidl”

The CO2 emissions are 114g/km and the people at Suzuki claim 55mpg. I achieved close enough to that on my test. Prices in Ireland start from a very sensible €15,440 and include three grades: the SZ-3, SZ-T and the most expensive €20,265 SZ-5 that I drove.

City car contender

Yellow Suzuki Ignis city car.

City car rivals include the Volkswagen Up, the Dacia Duster and the impressive Hyundai i10. Each of them is worthy of your hard-earned money and you can buy any of them with confidence.

But none of them, not even closely, drives like the Ignis. Which, oddly, happens to drive a lot like a 1970s Alfa Romeo Alfasud. Which, if you have never experienced it, is one of the most exuberant small cars you’ll ever drive.

Due to the Suzuki Ignis’ 3,700mm proportions, I wondered what random people would make of it. One revealing comment was that it looked like a Mercedes G-Class that got photocopied down by 60pc and was sold in aisle five by Lidl.

Which got me thinking. Is the facelifted Ignis a very cut price G-Class that is €153,000 cheaper? It takes Suzuki under a day to produce a single example at the company’s Sagara plant in Japan. Meanwhile, over in Gratz, Austria, the 10,000 or so employees that hand build each G-Class takes up to 150 hours to churn out one. That’s a full seven times longer to build one G-Class than a typical small car. All of which makes you wonder, what on earth are they all up to over there?

There is so much to like about the diminutive Suzuki Ignis. It’s a five seater city car. If you buy the SZ5 like I tested you get all wheel drive with skinny 175/60 16” tyres that will help get you home in the snow when posh rear wheel drive cars get marooned in the drifts. Let’s see them sniggering at you then when you crawl by.

Eco credentials

If you’re a buyer scrambling for a semblance of eco credentials then Suzuki’s got you covered. Fitted in the Ignis is a 12 volt mild-hybrid powertrain with a 7kg battery located under the rear seats. Don’t mistake it for a car that runs on electric power for short commutes. Instead, the main advantage is to reduce CO2 emissions and improve fuel economy.

Suzuki has you spoilt for choice with no less than six different models specification that includes a choice of a 5-speed manual or CVT gearbox. I’d suggest you ignore the whiny CVT gearbox. You don’t need it and stick with the sweet 5-speed gearbox. It’s one of the nicest manual gearboxes I’ve tested in a while. It’s not perfect and will need to pause a moment when selecting reverse to avoid crunching gearchange noises. But so what if the gearbox takes some time to disengage, it adds character to the car. Other than that, the gearbox is sweet to use.

A word or two about the brakes. The initial travel is long and feels soft before the braking bite hits. It’s the polar opposite of a supercar that has no initial play and just bites hard. I got accustomed to the soft initial feel but, once familiar, the brakes proved reliably strong.

Despite the slow performance times of 0-100km in 12.7 seconds and just 83hp on paper the car’s low 856kg weight means it can really zip through traffic with more verve that you’d expect. The 1.2 litre Suzuki engine is eager and just begs to be driven hard. Suzuki has previous form. Its reputation for building engines that scream like the best small Italian superminis is continued here.

The Ignis looks are inspired by the zany Suzuki Whizzkid from the 1970s. Let’s be compassionate, the Ignis does it look a bit like a mongrel cross between a wheelie bin and conventional small crossover. Nevertheless, it compensated by having immense charm and is, without question, the happiest car I’ve driven in ages.

Far too many new cars on sale today have forgotten the charm of being consummately good natured. It’s difficult to drive the Suzuki with venom without being reduced to a giggling fool. Granted, the Mercedes G-Class towers over the Ignis in nearly every way. That said, the G-Class is a fully grown up SUV and is not dripping with a sense of humour. The Suzuki Ignis, on the other hand, is a boxy scallywag that will surprise lucky buyers with its practical and clever space utilisation that echoes the original Mini.

It’s tough and reliable as well. Suzuki finished 8th in the UK’s Auto Express 2019 Driver Power survey. And me? I adored the 2020 Suzuki Ignis. It’s unpretentious. Cheaply priced to compete, but above all, it’s a merrymaking box of motoring conviviality for our uncheerful times. People of Suzuki; this motoring correspondent stands up and salutes you.

You’ll like: Character of 1970s Alfasud. Tremendous value. Lightweight. Splendid 1.2 litre engine. Carries five-ish people. Top spec Ignis gets 4×4 capability. Tough and reliable.

You’ll grumble: Appearance not a universal hit.

By Mark Gallivan

Published: 8 October, 2020