SHORTLY after the arrival of the ‘flame orange’ Suzuki Ignis at my house, my phone chirped with an incoming message. 

The somewhat unkind barb was sent by a neighbour with a keen eye for all things automotive who was obviously not impressed by the visual impact of the diminutive Japanese crossover.

While obviously reflecting what might be described as a widespread and general distaste for the wild colour scheme of the Ignis tester, it nevertheless ignored the fact that what we have here is a wildly capable little car which is crammed with kit, has an excellent petrol engine and full 4x4 capability, and comes at a sub-€20,000 price tag.

In fairness, while you may need a trip to your optician after prolonged exposure to the near-psychedelic suit adorning the Ignis and your medical advisors may have to treat you for hallucinogenic disorders, no branch of the medical profession would be forced to recommend a trip to the funny farm for having bought one.

‘Flame orange’, thankfully, is not the only colour the Ignis comes in and while it might be the wildest on offer, and therefore not the most immediately popular, the other options available will allow people access to the car without their neighbours having to concern themselves about alleged vomit on their property.

And while the Ignis might not be top of many ‘outstanding design’ awards because of its diminutively square, narrow, and tall looks and may well be the subject of derisory comment from other SUV owners, the fact remains that this is one exceptionally and deceptively good package.

Starting with the engine, I can tell you that the normally aspirated 89bhp four cylinder 1.2 litre petrol unit is a brilliant match for the chassis. It will produce a top speed of 175kph, an 11.8 second 0-100kph time, emissions of just 104g/km and a 5.5l/100 km (50.9 mpg).

Because the chassis is made of lightweight but high-tensile steel, the power- to-weight ratio is remarkably good and so any fears you might have about its performance abilities can be cast aside.

Certainly, it will not blow you away with its speediness, but it is perfectly adequate for the job and I have to say that, during my period with the car and across a broad mix of highway and town driving, I never got the impression that the Ignis was not up to the job.

Indeed, the surprise was its abilities on the open road where, thanks to the cruise control fitted as standard, you could happily troll along at high cruising speeds without any difficulty at all. And of course, in town, the Ignis was very much at home and its diminutive size meant parking was a doddle.

Given the lofty stature of the design, it might also have been easy to arrive at the conclusion that the car might be a bit top-heavy and prone to being at the mercy of side winds, but not so.

In fact, the stability was very impressive and that was not something which could always be said of some of Suzuki’s small off-roaders.

Now, while the Ignis tester was fitted with Suzuki’s ‘AllGrip’ automatic 4x4 system, I got the definite impression that while the car was well capable of tackling a dank field or even gentle rolling countryside, grappling with the north face of the Eiger might just be beyond its capabilities.

But, having said that, the 4x4 capability certainly gives the Ignis a much broader range of possibilities for adventurous drivers than many of the micro-minis it will compete against in this price range. In reality, it will leave them stone dead.

Aside maybe from something like the Fiat Panda 4x4, there isn’t actually too much on the market of this nature right now, so for anyone who is looking for something small that has real off-road abilities, the Suzuki has to be in the frame.

It is a given that you will find its ride and handling are not in any way exceptional and the steering is as dead as O’Leary in the grave, but it is a very honest broker and one which, with standard stuff such as hill descent control, has a lot more going for it than so many sub-twenty grand contenders.

If there is one area where the Suzuki is a little let down, it is the interior. Now, I must qualify that last remark by saying that you will be astonished by the length of the list of standard gear, but you may feel a little disappointed by the quality of some of the materials used.

Cheap plastics abound and the touchscreen that has been installed does look very passé but, having said that, it does have sat nav and all the connectivity that’s needed these days, so again it is very easy to overlook some of the negatives in favour of the many positives.

The Ignis will comfortably fit four adults — and maybe 15 kids, if you’ve got an U12 team and a benevolent insurance company.

It has to be pointed out that the leggier among us might find the confines of the rear seats a little tight, but you’ll easily get a dozen of the little ‘uns in there. There is certainly no shortage of head room. Boot space is pretty limited, but opens up to useful proportions with the rear seats down.

It may be that the front- wheel drive only model will be that most favoured by punters, but if I was interested in buying this car then I would most certainly recommend the 4x4 option, not least for the peace of mind it offers in bad weather and on bad roads.

Wild colour or not, I really liked this little Suzuki and the amount of heart it offers in such a small package. For the price and for what is on offer in such a smashingly comprehensive specification list, I don’t know of much that offers real competition here.

Even those cars which claim to be baby SUVs will find it hard to match the Ignis on price and that makes it a unique buying prospect.

I have to conclude by saying that, were it not for minor complaints about the quality of the interior plastics and the on-road dynamics, then the Ignis was veering towards five-star recognition here.

But the fact it came so close is pretty amazing — no matter what the neighbours think.

Colley’s Verdict

[timg]zzz4Stars_large.jpg/timg]

The Cost:

€17,995 on the road — €18,365 as tested, with optional ‘flame orange’ colour scheme.

The Engine:

A cracking little 1.2 petrol.

The Specification:

Stratospheric.

The Overall Verdict:

One of a kind — brilliant.


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