I’ve warmed like a late Spring afternoon to the 2017 Suzuki Ignis GLX, our long-termer tester that seems to have spent most of CarAdvice’s custodianship in co-conspirator Trent Nikolic’s pocket – perhaps literally – outside of the rare opportunity to occasionally “take her around the block”.
Brief impressions, then, but good ones. So when my annual jaunt down the south coast to the terrible Hyams Beach again rolled around, the chance arose to stretch the little legs of the micro car-cum-SUV I’ve since nicknamed Pokemon, for reasons that might only be immediately apparent to my kids.
Would we survive a long-haul road trip? Or, more accurately, would my sanity, no less my dignity, survive 500-odd kilometres attempting to approximate open-road velocity in a 66kW, CVT-encumbered micro-box?
And would said micro-box survive my caveman-like throttling once its pilot’s patience wanes and red mist descends? And that’s just cruising the Hume Highway, disregarding a hard punt up the steep Jamberoo Mountain Road west of Kiama, and a descent down through the twisty section of Moss Vale Road in Kangaroo Valley… in torrential rain.
‘ARRRRR’ we’re off to a noisy start as the CVT transmission pins the little naturally aspired 1.2-litre four near redline as the speedo needle climbs towards the posted 110km/h limit.
‘ARRRRRR’ roar the skinny 175mm Bridgestone Ecopia tyres across the Hume’s black surface.
‘I’LL TURN IT UP,” I yell across the strawberries and cream-coloured cabin space at The Better Half as I crank the radio in attempts to drown out the white noise the Ignis stirs up in full highway flight.
Know what? That’s about as bad as the long-haul Pokemon experience gets.
Up to speed, the coolest Suzuki to come along in quite some while is excellent. It tracks faithfully, steers clearly, remains rock solid and is surprisingly impervious to side winds given its laughably lithe 860 kilos.
Think about it: loaded with two adults aboard, the ‘Ignis express’ applies roughly as many kilograms to Mother Earth as an empty MX-5! That said, if I owned one, I’d tip the scales further with about 80 kilos of aftermarket sound deadening material…
Once the cruise control is set and the Ignis GLX settles in to cruise mode, it becomes reasonably quiet, especially across smooth hot-mix. And the sports-style bucket seats, with height adjustment to facilitate a low-slung seating position, in tandem with the nicely positioned, thick-rimmed stitched wheel, makes for a comfortable yet purposeful driving position handy for long-distance work. The lack of a centre armrest is the rare markdown to what is a great cabin for such a budget-savvy car.
We whip through Mittagong and Bowral like a low-flying sparrow and past Fitzroy Falls it’s a downhill rollercoaster ride through the southern lowlands and the skies are bucketing down. I worry about tyres, I worry about brakes – the latter so small they’re almost hidden behind the centre hubs of the small alloy wheels.
But the front end points, not on tippy toes at a snail’s pace but with a bite, even across standing water, that encourages me to push on. And on a road that once thoroughly cooked the anchors of a V8 Commodore I was once punting in these parts, the Suzuki’s left pedal remained firm and confident as, much to my surprise, we began rounding up other traffic spooked by the gloomy conditions. What a little ripper.
Not only did all and sundry make it to the famed white sands of Hyams Beach in one piece, the Ignis didn’t break a sweat. I had a plastered smile across my face and The Better Half kept her breakfast down. And even with a decent belting of the right pedal, the fuel readout was displaying around six litres per hundred. Nice.
Huskisson, Ulladulla, Mollymook, Berry – the Ignis plays the runabout card bouncing between southern coastal townships as well as could be expected.
But while it’s easy to park and point, any overtaking along the undulating Princess Highway demands maximum commitment: partly due to lack of acceleration, partly because nobody else on the road expects such a cute car to be able to get out of its own way. The risk of being carved by any other vehicle is ever-present.
Days later, Pokemon proved to possess more than a little Mario Kart across the hills of Saddleback Mountain, before the toughest test of the trip: the steep, switch-backing run up out of Jamboree and through to the Robertson Pie Shop.
Oh, the Ignis howled alright, the little four pinned at 6000rpm for minutes on end in the what’s possibly the heaviest lifting it’ll undertake in our long-term tenure. It’s not terribly quick progress, but again the beaut little chassis, with surprising agility and a fairly adept suspension tune, proved a compact barrel of fun.
Verdict? I’d have no hesitation again pointing this micro car to far away places in this Great Southern Land. I have little doubt the Ignis would do much more than merely survive the long and the grueling, and that my sanity – no less my dignity – would remain very much intact.
Kudos to Suzuki, then, for delivering well beyond expectations.
Click on the Photos tab for more images by Curt Dupriez.
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