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Drive Review: Suzuki Ignis (2018) is like Mario Kart

Feast your eyes on the 2018 Suzuki Ignis one more time. Deliberately retro and wildly off piste for Suzuki, the new-to-SA nameplate that has been designed to stuff a confluence of off-road attitude, taken from the Jimny, into Swift’s nifty city proportions.  The punchy packaging you might spot in concept form before it gets laden with bloatware.

So the Ignis is comically adorable and this time it plies that affection into a segment that cross-sections manoeuvrability with low running costs and ground clearance. It looks every bit as good as the pictures do and while there are rivals, few can claim to possess this bubbly humour squeezed into four corners – and if you make use of the roof rails, on top of it.

Under the bonnet there aren’t any significant engineering revelations. You might bemoan the non-turbo unit as being off trend but that would be a hasty criticism because besides returning better fuel consumption than the one-point-something turbo triples, this engine hauls the Ignis around a bright sparkle. Manual box is racy, as is a large portion of the Ignis’s personality but you can dig into the limitations easily by applying exciting amounts of lock onto little patches of rubber.

When previous TopGear staffer drove Ignis at the launch he reported that the steering let the whole thing down – generally the one thing Suzukis don’t do is steer badly. Second verdict over a longer test? Suzuki has somehow made a mess of it, coming off the high benchmark laid down by Swift, Beleno and Celerio. There’s a notable disparity between the systems; off-centre is characterised by a peculiar inconsistency from the power steering’s assistance but as more angle is angle to the front axle it twists out to the familiar linear progression. Don’t know if it’s ruinous of the experience but Suzuki veterans will detect it.

Lightly coloured trim items with splashes of colour to reflect the exterior’s boldness helps the interior divert attention away from its boxiness with commendable spec in the sub-200k category.  It’s the first time the company has unhinged itself from the all-in-one centre console so you’ll find a screen that isn’t cornered by buttons, a lower separate rail for climate with another row of buttons paragraphed below that. The design gives the impression of a minimalist setup but with all the functionality that comes with buttons rather than a wobbly prod.

You can’t help but be amused by the Ignis, bearing in mind that while better systems exist they generally tend to force cheap materials upmarket rather than resetting the concept like Ignis has done here. Door panels are thin with minimal sound deadening stuffed behind them – pegging the kerbweight in the ballpark of budget 2-seater – but like everything else it has a patina of chic durability.

And it was all going so well until a mob of teenagers walked past it and within earshot turned and snapped a verbal equivalent of a thumbs down. The flipside of taking a risk, I guess, but fortunately the Ignis has more than just looks, however polarising they may be, under its belt.

SPECIFICATION

  • R189 900
  • 1197cc 4-cyl, petrol, FWD, 61kW, 113Nm
  • 5.1l/100km, 119g/km
  • 0-100km/h 11.6secs, 165km/h
  • 850kg
  • Tester’s notes:
  • Suzuki’s most daring effort to date is mainly cosmetic but solid in execution
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