Those of you wondering whether I like micro cars should probably know that I own a late first-gen Smart Fortwo – yes, I’m a little partial to the idea of a useful city car. That could be part of the reason I ended up as custodian of the 2017 Suzuki Ignis GLX…
We’ve had the Smart for nearly three years now, and on a weekend, it almost always gets used more than any big dollar press car. The test vehicle gets a run if we’re heading out of the city, but not if we head into town – or anywhere near the CBD for that matter.
Why specifically? Parking is an afterthought, fuel efficiency is in the low fives per hundred no matter how heavy the traffic, and it’s so damn easy to drive in town, you can’t beat the practicality of being able to find a parking spot anywhere. Anyone who lives in Sydney or Melbourne can attest to that.
As such and with my micro car heart firmly on my sleeve, I’ve had high hopes for how the Ignis would deliver around town. The good news is it hasn’t disappointed one iota. It’s as practical as we hoped it would be – maybe even more so. To the point, it’s almost as effortless as the Smart, which is not much more than half the size.
First up, there’s the seat height. The Smart Fortwo, and vehicles like the Kia Soul appeal because of what we call a ‘neutral’ seat height. That is, you neither climb up into them nor fall down into them. You seem to be able to step out of them without any effort whatsoever.
The Ignis is a vehicle that delivers on this crucial benefit and makes it really practical for anyone with hip or back issues, or if you transport older relatives like we do (family in their 80s and 90s) often. The sliding rear seat is sensational and means there’s enough room to carry four adults in comfort.
The doors open nice and wide to make getting in and out even easier, and the sliding second row is clever too. It means that even with taller occupants up front, you can still make room for adults in the second row. For younger buyers, something so banal as seat height is not remotely relevant, but as you get older, it becomes more of a concern.
Passengers don’t all get sweetness and light though, especially in the second row. With three or four adults on board, the Ignis has a tendency to crash through bumps and ruts to the point more than one occupant suggested that ‘it sounds like something is broken’.
‘Rough and sharp ride’ said another. There’s a very harsh crash through the suspension that you don’t feel from the front seat, but is definitely a factor in the second row. Softer dampers would probably make a difference here.
The most obvious benefit around town from the driver’s seat is the physical size of the Ignis. It’s tiny (3700mm long, 1700mm wide and 1600mm tall) and with wheels close to the edges of the bodywork, you get a sense of why the Mini was such a revelation when it was first released. The wheelbase is in fact just over 2400mm, so you can see how little overhang there is in reality. The skinny tyres might look a little funky at full lock, but they provide next to no rolling resistance at low speed and make for easy manoeuvring.
The rear-view camera is clear and wide, so you’ll have no excuses for rubbish parking escapades, before you start to think that can be used as a reason. When you’re heading forward, the Ignis can execute a U-turn in not much more than a two-lane space. The steering has that connected go-kart sense to it too, which makes quick manoeuvres a breeze as well. In fact, the Ignis is quite possibly the most practical city car from a driving perspective we’ve tested in quite some time.
There’s also more than enough luggage space in the boot for a family shopping expedition, and you can cram plenty into that space with the seats in play. Fold them down to transport something like a mountain bike, and you can work that into the larger space as well – the days of small cars being useless are long gone.
After a few weeks in my garage, the Suzuki Ignis is getting even more appealing than it was at first. Sure, a car that costs a quarter of a million bucks might seem to tug at the heartstrings more, but it’s hard to beat something that is cleverly styled and so damned practical. If only the infotainment wasn’t so bloody annoying…
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