Suzuki's Big small car fires up

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The new Suzuki Ignis. Photo: Supplied

Last year's sales count for Suzuki New Zealand was a cracker - 18% year-on-year growth and 5311 registrations in the bag - only surpassed once since it started up in the 1970s.

So they are smiling, but still not satisfied. Brand boss Tom Peck thinks the market conditions are right for more growth so he wants another 1000 units in 2017.

Suzuki's big star is the Swift, and a likely mid-year transition to a new-generation model, if only in mainstream form (the hot Swift Sport is a 2018 entry), will very likely keep it foremost in the company's line-up.

Yet the new Swift is not cited as the model set to deliver the bulk of that additional growth. Rather, 80% of it is tipped to come from the new Ignis, a compact 1.2-litre crossover designed to tap into a soft-roader sector all the more lucrative now SUVs are outselling conventional cars.

No-one needs to tell Suzuki how to build chic small cars, nor for that matter SUVs. However, the Ignis steers away from the company norm in several facets.
There is the styling element that taps its history. The most obvious take-me-back cue are those triple indents in the C-pillar, homage to the first car Suzuki NZ assembled and sold here, the Fronte.

Then there is the stance. You will notice that a model that slots beneath the Swift, above the Celerio and more or less beside the Baleno, is quite truncated (just 3.7m snout to tail) yet has 180mm of ground clearance. That is more than a Mazda CX-3 or Honda HR-V.

It is all in keeping with Suzuki claiming the Ignis is something new, a ‘‘super compact SUV''. However, don't be misled into thinking it is some kind of alternative to Suzuki's proper off-road fare. Four-wheel drive is an option the distributor wants to add, but for the foreseeable future all variants of the Ignis are front drive.

Compact proportions prepare you for a tightly confined interior, but front-seat roominess is OK. There is ample headroom, and the seats have a high hip-point that will appeal to older buyers. Fold the rear seats down, and there is a generous 1100 litres of luggage space.

The car's lightweight construction - just 820kg on the scales in base form - is obvious from how the doors clang a bit when closed, but the materials inside are not as cheap as the price may suggest.

Impressions gained from a tame short test drive suggests the Ignis should be a good urban commuter and reasonable for open-road driving.

Because it sits a little high it can feel top-heavy when cornering and the suspension is bouncy over speed humps, but it has decent attitude. The steering is light, of course, but the brakes have a meaty feel. You will love it in the city because of its size, tight turning circle and good visibility.

While its on-paper output is no more than fair, the engine is keen to deliver every kilowatt.

The CVT transmission most buyers will go for is able to keep the ‘‘gearing'' around the engine's peak torque on acceleration, and though fair to middling for sporty driving -for that the manual is far better - it is not too shrill.

Suzuki's Big small car fires up
At a Glance

Price: $18,990/$20,500 GLX manual/auto; Limited $22,990
Engine: 1242cc four-cylinder multipoint fuel-injected petrol, maximum power 66kW@6000rpm, maximum torque 120Nm@4400rpm
Transmission: Five-speed manual, constantly variable transmission
Brakes and stability systems: Disc/drum brakes, ABS, ESP, EBD
Safety rating: Ancap assessment not yet available
Wheels, tyres: 175/55 R15 GLX, 175/60 R16
Fuel and economy: 4.7/4.9 litres per 100km (manual, CVT) on ADR combined cycle, capacity 32 litres
Emissions: CO2 107 (manual), 114 (CVT) g/km on combined cycle
Dimensions: Length 3700mm, width 1660mm, height 1595mm