“You planning to take this load away in that?” said the oik at the builder’s yard. He was looking contemptuously at the Suzuki Ignis Hybrid.
I had just opened it up, ready to receive the 12 bags of sand which I had bought – total weight 240 kilos. “Yes, sure,” I answered. “Why not?” He gave a shrug as if to say “On your own head be it,” and started hefting the sacks into the load space, which I had increased to its full 1100 litres by lowering the rear seats.
The back end of the little car sank progressively on its springs until its wheel arches were clear of the tyres by only a few inches but it accommodated the full load with room to spare. On the short run back to my home, I had to work the gears in the five-speed manual box rather more frequently than usual. And the brakes needed firmer and longer application to slow the car in time for roundabouts and junctions. But there was nothing awkward, uncomfortable or untoward about the journey. The Ignis mopped-up the task without breaking sweat.
In this respect and many others, the Ignis proved to be a lot more of a car than the silly little Tonka you – and that yob in the yard – might take it to be on first sight.
The permanent four-wheel drive set-up they call Allgrip Auto – enhanced by Grip Control and Hill Descent Control – is a brilliant system. Transferring additional torque to the rear wheels when required via a viscous coupling, it not only adds to the cornering capabilities of the Ignis but makes it a superb choice for people living in rural areas who may have to surmount more challenging road conditions in winter (I speak of myself and my family). Leaving aside the Beast from the East which blocked the roads to the tops of the hedgerows and was too much even for farm tractors for a while. I don’t remember any wintry blasts in the last 20 years that we have lived in this house in the Scottish hills which the Ignis could not have dealt with.
It’s not a Land Rover or Land Cruiser, of course, but it will comfortably match so-called off-roaders which cost a very great deal more than the £17749 all-in price for the higher-spec SZ5 version we borrowed (that includes keyless entry and start-up, climate control, lane departure warning, reversing camera and autonomous braking). And none of them is likely to match the 50.1mpg average fuel consumption I achieved (which compared closely with the 51.9mpg that Suzuki claim).
Even though it’s as titchy as a Volkswagen Up or a Kia Picanto, the Ignis is so cleverly packaged inside that its feels roomy inside and is as capable of transporting four fully-grown adults as it is of carrying half a ton of cement. My wife never warmed to its ungraceful external appearance but I can’t say that bothered me much when I was enjoying buzzing around country roads where the Ignis’s nifty handling made it a pleasure to press on.
The oaf in the builder’s yard may have taken it for a joke but the Ignis fully proved that the laugh was on him.
Neil Lyndon has been a journalist, broadcaster and writer on the UK’s national stage for 40 years, writing for every “quality” newspaper on Fleet Street. He started writing about cars and motorbikes for The Sunday Times in the 1980s and was Motoring Correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph for 20 years, having previously written a column on motorbikes for Esquire. He is also recognised as a leading commentator on gender politics, having published No More Sex War in 1992 – the first ever critique of feminism from a radical, egalitarian point of view.
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