A crossover-styled hatch in the B2 segment was one of the few cars that Maruti Suzuki’s stable had not catered to yet. The launch of the Ignis at the start of 2017 changed that. It has a fresh and funky appearance with butch SUV looks, which Indians are swearing by these days. The car is available with multiple customisation options, both in and out. Maruti has powered the car with their tried-n-tested 1.2-litre petrol and 1.3-litre diesel engine options. And what’s new is that both these models get the brand’s AGS gearbox (AMT). Maruti Suzuki has surely set the pace in this segment, especially with such a wide range on offer. But all this comes a premium price, which we will come to later. For now, let’s see if the Ignis has the potential to lure a buyer.
Instead of calling it a compact SUV, Maruti is rightly promoting it as a premium urban compact vehicle. And I cannot agree more. Its dimensions seem like that of a tallboy five-seater hatchback, and in flesh, it looks like one too. However, what makes it a talking point is, firstly its new design. The modern and bold styling approach is unlike any of its siblings. The headlamps are integrated into the front grille with honeycomb mesh pattern. This lends the car a striking appearance. The clamshell-shaped bonnet with rubber inserts help its case further. The subtle chrome treatment up-front spells out a hint of something premium without going overboard.
Additionally, the A/B pillars are blackened to give the tall car a streamlined look. The flared wheels arches give the car a butch look and house 15-inch black alloys that look stylish. Still, I still find the rear styling to be a little out of place. Especially, the slab-sided black insert in the rear bumper could have had some more dynamic lines. Also, the conventional tail lamps could have got LED inserts to add to the bling factor. Nonetheless, there are a few traditional Suzuki design elements that carry forward the brand’s legacy of some iconic cars. For example, the biggest highlight are the three slits on the C-pillar inherited from the Fronte Coupe, Japan’s first mini sports car. So overall, the Ignis is a car that will stand out.
When it comes to the interior, the Ignis gets a very unconventional layout and design. And that’s a good thing as its visually pleasing. The dual tone dashboard gets a mixture of shapes for elements like circular and rectangular air-con vents and a floating tablet-styled infotainment screen with squared off edges. Maruti has done a good job of using premium materials for an upmarket look. For example, the glossy black and grey touches along with the fake carbon-fibre stickers go well with the white dash. However, they lack that robust feel and the white areas will get stained easily on the lower half. Again, the lack of a strong build quality is noticeable on the door pads that flex easily. Nonetheless, there are many usable stowage places in the centre console and door bins. Everything is within the driver’s reach and ergonomics are good overall. And thanks to thin A-pillars, the frontal visibility is good too.
The driver sits in a comfortable position with adjustments for recline, reach and height (latter not available in lower variants). The taller roofline makes for good headroom and there’s respectable legroom too, making it also easy to get in and out too. What makes things better is that the front seats are large and offer a snug fit with good back and thigh support. However, things in the second row are a little different. Visibility isn’t great due to the thick C-pillar, and the Ignis’ rear bench can’t accommodate three big adults comfortably. But that said, space is sufficient for two adults and a child. Plus, there’s sufficient legroom and headroom despite the compact size of the car. Although thigh support isn’t plenty, the foot well is deep so you can extend your legs below the front seats. We noticed that the seats are comfy and supportive, but they are too soft which can make long journeys tiring. Also, there’s no centre-arm rest and rear air-con vents.
Now, let’s delve deeper into what the Ignis has to offer apart from quirky styling and great packaging. The hatchback is the entry level offering from Nexa and so all trims come standard with safety features like dual front airbags, ABS with EBD and ISOFIX child seat anchors. The instrument cluster is well designed and easy to read. Features that you will see only on the top-spec Alpha trim are LED projector headlamps, DRLs, Apple and Android support on the touch screen system, a reversing camera, navigation, electrically-foldable ORVMs, start-stop engine button etc. Otherwise, the lower trims also get a similarly styled two-din audio system with remote, Bluetooth, USB et al. However, the quality seems very average on this one. The manual air-con unit looks old-fashioned as against the good looking automatic air-con unit in the range-topping Ignis. So if you go in for the top-spec, be assured of all the bells and whistles including the intuitive and easy to use 7-inch touch screen system.
The engine on the petrol Ignis is a 1.2-litre four-cylinder unit. It produces 82bhp of power and revs all the way up to 6,000rpm. The 113Nm of torque available at 4,200rpm might look meagre, but feels adequate to pull the car especially in the mid-range. The free-revving engine is silent and has a linear power delivery right till it hits the rev-limiter. The engine note gets better as revs rise, while the motor remains refined throughout. At 850-860kg, the Ignis is the lightest car to use this engine, thus making it feel very peppy. The precise five-speed manual gearbox is easy to use with short gear throws and a light clutch. So if you are buying this car to drive in the city, you will love it. Even on the highway the car has enough grunt to cruise at triple-digit speeds with revs less than 3,000rpm. Also, like other recent Maruti models, this one also gets an AMT. In this model, however, a heavy foot on the gas pedal will result in making the car jerky. But as long as you are gentle on the throttle, the gearshifts happen smoothly despite there being a slight lag.
Now, on to the diesel variant powered by Maruti’s tried and tested 1.3-litre four-cylinder Fiat-sourced unit. This engine produces 74bhp and more importantly, despite it being a small car, the torque stands at 190Nm and it’s available from 2,000rpm. So power-to-weight ratio is again good with the diesel Ignis tipping the scales at 940-960kg. We are familiar with this engine and it continues to retain its characteristics in the Ignis too.