CAPE TOWN, WESTERN CAPE – Understanding the local car market does not require a degree in Astrophysics. South Africa has a very small pool of car buyers relative to its population, and recent economic trends mean that cars are increasingly more expensive compared to earnings. These factors have created a situation for car manufacturers with affordable offerings to really make strides locally… enter Suzuki Auto.
Suzuki (cars) has been on the up and up for the last five or so years, registering growth that consistently outperforms the market. Between 2012 and 2017 the brand has nearly doubled its local sales volume. In 2017 its year-on-year sales grew by 57 percent to 8 843 units, easily outperforming other, more established marques.
Over the last four months the company has sold, on average, almost a thousand units/month, repeatedly placing it in the top ten selling automotive brands in SA. It’s unsurprising to learn that not one of the products on offer from the Japanese firm costs more than R500 000. Towards the middle of last year Suzuki SA launched another all-new model to bolster its range of offerings, bringing the local portfolio up to nine.
The Ignis is undoubtedly a funky looking little car; from its two-tone paintwork, to dark alloys, smiley faced LEDs and flared, rally car-like wheelarches, it is quite eye-catching. Elevated ride height, aluminium roof rails and short overhangs give it the appearance of a mini-crossover. Compact dimensions make it an ideal foil in the urban landscape.
… and in
The funkiness continues inside where light and dark hues, along with splashes of colour, are used to good effect. A tablet-like audio head-unit, which boasts Bluetooth connectivity, sits proud of the facia. The patterned cloth seats are comfy and there’s an SUV-esque view of the road ahead that underlines its crossover credentials.
The local range consists of three models that are all powered by a 1,2-litre petrol motor. There are two trim levels available in the manual version – GL and GLX – and one high-spec automatic variant.
I had the well-equipped manual version on loan for a stretch. The GLX features alloy wheels, LED headlamps and daytime running lights, front foglamps, handy rear parking sensors, folding mirrors, remote audio and phone controls on the steering wheel, convenient keyless entry and start, automatic air-conditioning, six speakers, chrome interior trim, a height adjustable driver’s seat and, the aforementioned, roof rails. That’s a LOT of extra kit for just R20 000 extra, much of which you would pay handsomely for as options on some premium models.
Years of producing motorcycles and small cars means that Suzuki knows how to engineer small engines. The inline four-cylinder unit in the Ignis is a real peach. As it is naturally aspirated, there is no dreaded lag, just linear power delivery. The motor pulls cleanly up to the soft limiter with just a step up in power upwards of 4 000 r/min.
The driving controls are feather light, from the electrically assisted steering to the lightly sprung clutch pedal and mechanical gearshift action, it’s all been set-up to account for novice drivers, ie the Ignis’ target audience.
… and zippy
61 kW of power may not sound like a lot, but when you consider this car weighs less than 900 kg you realise why it feels as spritely as it does. While the revvy little motor can help you zip through urban confines, the compact dimensions allow you to go for gaps in traffic. The Ignis is also happy cruising down the motorway at the national speed limit.
A major advantage of employing such a small engine is fuel efficiency. Suzuki claims a 5,1 L/100 km in mixed cycle driving, and during my time, which consisted of varied routes, the Ignis managed a still impressive 5,7 L/100 km.
Considering the current economic climate, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Suzuki is doing so well locally. Not only are its products well priced but they offer excellent specification and they feel well engineered.
The Ignis builds on the foundation laid by trusted models such as the Jimny and Swift. The newest member of the Suzuki is an agreeable car that should be very high on the shopping list of anyone on a very tight budget, especially when you consider that the sale price includes a service plan. On average, 160 Ignis models have been sold per month since introduction… and after driving one it’s not difficult to realise why.
Price: R189 900
Engine: 1,2-litre, inline four
Power: 61 kW
Torque: 113 N.m
Claimed fuel consumption: 5,1 L/100 km
Transmission: 5-speed manual