One of the best parts of this job is putting cars in situations they clearly weren’t meant for.
In recent times I’ve (car company folks, feel free to skip this paragraph) taken a Rolls-Royce through a drive-through, a Mazda2 to remote camping camping spots and even an early 1980s Mini panel van beach bashing.
But I drew the line on taking the Suzuki Ignis on a 650km round trip to the Wheatbelt. It’s so small, its engine so city focused, I decided to — clutching my pearls as I write this — take our own car.
I’m glad I did, because overtaking road trains would have soured my impressions of a vehicle which excels in the environs it was designed for.
Let’s get the engine talk out of the way as it will probably be the deal maker or breaker for most potential buyers.
It’s a tiny unit with minimal output and paired to a CVT.
Acceleration isn’t its friend, particularly from a standstill where the little engine tries and revs its hardest to a droning CVT soundtrack but does little more than keep up with traffic.
To its credit, once up to speed the noise dies down and it’s quite composed, even at freeway speeds.
The constant revving will see fuel economy climb quickly but also drop just as fast once cruising; we didn’t get close to the claimed 4.9L/100km, but the 6.0L/100km we returned was still very good.
We often laugh when some models have a sports mode and this is one of the more useless and hilarious examples we’ve yet encountered.
No one needs to hear 66kW strangling a CVT.
Elsewhere, the Ignis really does come into its own as a city car, becoming as lovable as its quirky exterior would suggest.
The most obvious attraction to the Ignis is price: no other light SUV has any variant with a list price under $20,000, let alone a range-topper.
But despite its price, there is still a fair amount of kit on the GLX: climate control, keyless entry and start, automatic LED headlights, daytime running lights and privacy glass, which is on top of standard gear such as Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, sat nav, cruise control and more.
Where the GLX really elevates itself above the entry-level GL is in the rear.
Though the Ignis looks more like a Hyundai Getz than an SUV, rear leg and head room is actually very good, able to accommodate adults taller than six feet.
But the GLX adds a 50/50 rear seat split (60/40 in the GL) and more importantly, the ability to slide the back seats forward and back.
This means a flexible little car able to cart people in the back or extra gear in the boot at the pull of a lever. Or, thanks to the 50/50 split you can do both, though it also turns the GLX into a four-seater.
There are 264 litres with the seats raised, 516 with them folded and up to 1104 litres if you pack it to the roof.
The diminutive proportions allow for fun, nimble handling and, thanks to a 9.4m turning circle, there aren’t many easier cars to park.
There’s good storage for wallets and phones.
To Suzuki’s credit there aren’t too many obvious areas where corners have been cut to save costs, aside from a lack of auto wipers, cheap digital driver display, lack of adjustability in steering wheel reach and the powertrain.
With one major exception: safety.
It has the basics such as a reverse camera, six airbags and Isofix points, but nothing to avoid accidents such as autonomous emergency braking, pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring or rear cross traffic alert.
It hasn’t been ANCAP crash tested but got a three-star Euro NCAP rating in 2016 — however criteria has become far stricter since then.
If you don’t mind the engine and are OK with the basic safety equipment, there is a lot of value and practicality to be found in the Ignis. The GLX is worth the extra $2000 above the GL.
2020 SUZUKI IGNIS GLX SPECIFICATIONS
- Price: $19,990
- Engine: 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol
- Outputs: 66kW/120Nm
- Transmission: CVT automatic, FWD
- Fuel economy: 4.9L/100km