If, like me, you’re of a certain age, you’ll probably remember being buzzed by a Suzuki Whizzkid.
Despite being powered by what sounded like a food blender angry at having been consigned to the boot, these little tykes had a habit of appearing in your rear-view mirror as if from nowhere before squirting past the instant a tiny gap appeared.
With less than 50hp to play with, anyone who drove one knew that the secret to making progress was to maintain momentum at all costs.
Thankfully, it could be slung into corners with little regard for the laws of physics and, thanks to its rear-drive layout, it could almost be drifted around roundabouts if you were feeling particularly ambitious.
Clearly, someone at Suzuki has similarly fond memories, because the new Ignis feels like the Whizzkid’s spiritual successor.
For a start, there’s an obvious design homage in the three diagonal slashes in the rear quarters, repeated in the interior on the floor console.
Then there’s the fact at just 810kg, the Ignis weighs about the same as a breath of fresh air.
Which is understandable. Because that’s exactly what it is.
the Ignis weighs about the same as a breath of fresh air
While some cars in this market can feel a little cramped and joyless, the Ignis is a triumph of packaging and thoughtfulness.
Folding my 6ft4 frame into a car this size would normally be something of a challenge, but the Ignis surprises with plenty of room for even the lankiest drivers. Visibility is excellent, too, with the only real demerit being a lack of reach adjustment for the steering wheel.
There’s enough space for a pair of six-footers in the back, and with rear doors that open almost to 90 degrees, it’s easy to climb aboard.
The rear seats can be reclined or slid forward to increase space in the 267-litre boot, or folded completely to reveal up to 514 litres (although AllGrip 4×4 models lose a few litres to accommodate the rear differential).
The two-tone dash design is quite appealing, the instruments are a model of clarity, and there’s evidence that someone really thought about the details: there’s a glovebox that can hold more than just gloves, door bins that can hold bottles of water, several places to stow a phone, and even little clips that retain the rear seat belts so they don’t get pinched when unfolding the seats.
It’s remarkably well equipped, too, with range-topping SZ5 models featuring cruise control, climate control (housed in what looks like a cryptex from The Da Vinci Code), keyless entry, reversing camera, automatic LED headlights (which are excellent), and a Pioneer navigation and media system (which is awful).
Instead of a food processor, there’s a 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, but unlike the Whizzkid it’s mounted more conventionally up front. It delivers a rather modest 90PS, and is capable of quietly whirring its way to 62mph in 13.5 seconds.
You can knock a couple of seconds off that by opting for the SHVS model (‘Smart Hybrid Vehicle by Suzuki’ – no, really). The company describes it as a ‘mild hybrid’ system and is rightly proud of the fact it adds only 6.2kg to the car’s overall weight, comprising mostly a lithium-ion battery under the front passenger seat and a belt-driven Integrated Starter Generator (ISG) that offers 50Nm of assistance during pull-away and acceleration.
Suzuki say it drops CO2 emissions from 104 to 97g/km, while economy improves from 61.4 to 65.7mpg. In practice, we averaged just under 53mpg during a week’s testing, the only obvious sign of the system’s presence being an incredibly quiet restart at traffic lights.
All models feature a typically light-shifting and easy-going five-speed manual gearbox, available also as an automated version dubbed AGS.
On the road, the Ignis drives much as I remember the Whizzkid did – it takes a while to build momentum, but once up to speed it can be willingly stuffed into corners far faster than you might imagine, no doubt helped by its wheel-at-each-corner stance.
Its little wheels can crash noisily into pot-holes, though, and it can get a little hoppy with the rear suspension in particular making full use of its bump-stops over larger undulations.
Despite that, the little Suzuki somehow manages to retain its playful character without ever becoming tiring; that’s a trick many a car more than twice the price has yet to master.
the little Suzuki always manages to retain its playful character
It’ll happily tackle a long-distance motorway journey, too, and although tyre noise over coarse tarmac surfaces is very much in evidence, you’ll still arrive at your destination feeling like you enjoyed the experience.
If reaching your destination involves driving across a muddy field, the Ignis has you covered. As well as a useful 180mm of ground clearance, Suzuki’s AllGrip system is available on the top-spec SZ5 model and offers a fully automatic permanent 4WD system complete with Hill Descent Control. We dumped ours in the middle of a muddy field during a torrential downpour, and it had little trouble extricating itself even without Grip Control enabled.
There’s also a new Dual Camera Brake Support system that warns the driver if it detects a risk of collision, applying the brakes if necessary, although just as we found with the Vitara the system was easily confused by parked cars and vehicles turning into side roads. Thankfully you can turn it off, as you can with the Lane Departure Warning.
The Ignis’s party trick, though, is how it makes you feel – you can’t help but smile whenever you see it, usually as it bursts through traffic like some kind of crime-fighting anime character. This is one car where we half expected to find a superhero cape in the accessory brochure.
So bristling with charm is the little Suzuki that any minor criticisms are quickly forgotten.
In fact, the only complaint we kept coming back to was that the Ignis has been given the wrong name.
Because as far as we’re concerned, this is the new Suzuki Whizzkid.
- Surprising interior space: plenty of room for six-footers, even in the back
- Rear seats slide/tilt forward to give more boot space
- Pioneer infotainment system is awful – slow, unintuitive, poor graphics. Thankfully offers both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay although it’s buried in the menus
- No reach adjustment for steering
- Rear doors open to almost 90 degrees making access easy
- Rear seatbelts have little clip to hold them out the way when unfolding the seats
- AEB warnings still activated by parked cars, vehicles pulling into side roads
- Full LED headlights are excellent
- Can easily sling it into corners
- Small wheels crash into potholes
- Rear suspension can hop about, hits bump-stops easily
- Small fuel tank limits range
- 53mpg on test
|Entry-level Price||£9,999||Price as tested||£14,464|
|Engine||1242cc 4-cyl petrol||Transmission||5-speed manual|
|Power||90PS @ 6,000rpm||Torque||120Nm @ 4,400rpm|
|0-62||11.1 secs||Top speed||103 mph|
|Economy||60.1 mpg||CO2||106 g/km|
|Dimensions||3700 x 1690 x 1595 (LxWxH)||Kerb Weight||920 kg|