The Jimny and Vitara models only cemented the Japanese automaker's reputation as the expert in the small 4x4 class, and this new one follows suit
Ignis is bliss, Suzuki proves this Suzuki Ignis

SMALL car-lovers here will surely remember the Swift, which dominated the small car market in the 1990s. 

Much of the mystique of the small car was created largely by the 1.3 Gti, a pocket rocket which won many a rally and sprint, performing numerous giant-killing feats in the process.

The Gti was once every boy racer's dream and the glamour it gathered rubbed off on the lesser brethren in the range. Although the Gti was a three-door hatchback, most of the sales were for the four-door sedan rather than the five-door hatch.

Probably the biggest appeal of the Swift was the fact that it was the only model available here with a one-litre engine in a saloon body.

Although it was a slouch to drive, it sold like hot cakes and, when production ceased in Japan about five years ago, Champion Motors actually took the trouble to source the little sedan from Eastern Europe.

Needless to say, the quality of these cars was nowhere near those of their Japanese-made counterparts and demand soon fell.

With the amalgamation of Categories One and Two to form the new Category A, marketing a one-litre car has become like trying to sell ice to the Eskimos.

The Swift's successor is now a 1.3-litre car with the trendy style of a Sports Utility Vehicle. With models like the Jimny and Vitara, Suzuki are the acknowledged experts in the small 4x4 class, so the decision to go SUV is not unexpected.

A tall stance, chunky bumpers, a ribbed roof with rails and flared fenders with black-lined wheel arches all give the new Ignis the image of an SUV, though only the front-wheel-drive version comes to Singapore.

The snout has a cheerful face, courtesy of the trapezoidal headlights, while the rear features the now fashionable vertically-stacked tail light cluster.

The biggest improvement over the Swift is in the cabin. Gone are the low rent plastics and fittings, and in their place are proper soft-touch plastics and decent upholstery.

Besides the glove box and door pockets, other storage areas include centre console pockets, under the dashboard, a passenger seat undertray ideal for shoes and the now mandatory cup-holders.

Front passengers are well-treated with comfy, supportive seats and a panoramic view, but those in the rear will feel decidedly economy class because leg room is limited.

Fortunately, car journeys are usually short, so the "economy class syndrome" of deep vein thrombosis will not manifest.

With all seats up, the boot is a rather limited 181 litres. Fold the rear seats forward and the luggage space increases to an impressive 419 litres.

The flat boot floor hides a clever box beneath. This can be removed to form a neat picnic table with legs attached. The Ignis' engine is a new 1,328 cc-DOHC in-line four developing 82 bhp at 5,500 rpm.

It revs freely to 6,000 rpm with minimum fuss, no rough spots and a commendable absence of mechanical thrash. It may not make the sportiest of sounds but its isolation and refinement will endear itself to many. 

The Ignis comes with either five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. The latter offers greater around-town convenience and reasonably jerk-free gear changes but lacks the urgency of the manual.

Acceleration times to 100 kmh bear this out. The manual car freezes the stopwatches at 13.8 seconds, a full 1.8 seconds quicker than the auto. And for a small car, the ride is decent.

As a cute and practical hatchback with interesting SUV looks and demeanour, this little Suzie has charm and performance. And at $75,950 with COE for the manual, you will not need to rob the bank.

FAST FACTS 

Suzuki Ignis

Price (inclusive of COE): $75,950 (manual), $78,950 (auto)

Engine: 1,328 cc DOHC 16-valve in-line four

Max power: 82 bhp at 5,500 rpm

Max torque: 110 Nm at 3,500 rpm

0-100 kmh: 13.8 seconds (manual), 15.6 seconds (auto)

Top speed: 160 kmh (manual), 155 kmh (auto)

For enquiries: Contact Champion Motors on 6777-6677