All fired up

by Andy Bryenton

When it was first designed, the now-iconic Mini was a response to the shock oil crisis of the post war years. There was real trepidation that this tiny car — one of the first with a transverse engine and front drive — would be a flop. But motorists loved its cheeky personality, and its nimble handling made it a force to be reckoned with on the world’s rally circuits.

A new model, produced by BMW, carried on the public’s love for this small car — although the second generation is actually not so tiny. But it’s the influence of the mini on other vehicles which is just as important, and one of its spiritual successors is doing amazingly well for itself in the Kiwi market. Suzuki’s 1.2 litre Ignis is, like the original Mini, a bit of an oddity on paper. A tiny sports utility with determinedly retro styling and a small footprint, the little machine from Japan has that same cheeky wheels-to-the-corners look. Inside, there’s plenty of scope to customise with interchangeable coloured panels, and a surprising amount of space. You only have to squint a little to see the resemblance to the classic little British rally battler — though there’s a host of thoroughly modern features fitted to the Ignis which the Mini’s designers would never have dreamed of. At less than $20,000 brand new, it also has a ‘retro’ price. This fun factor, inexpensive cost and a willing and peppy little engine under the hood have made the Ignis a fast favourite. Suzuki must be having deja vu, because their latest offering is repeating the success story of the modern Swift, now also in its third generation. Putting the Ignis in the SUV section of the national sales charts puts it up against stiff competition such as the mighty Land Cruiser and Ford Everest, but the Ignis has gobbled up 6.8 per cent of the market share. That’s fantastic for such a compact and distinctive car.

There’s another accolade which the Ignis shares with the Swift — both are short-listed to win the coveted New Zealand Car of the Year award. Once again, competition will be tight with a stable of excellent motors lining up against Suzuki’s pair. A win for the Ignis as ‘best SUV’ would be a real coup, though even to have come this far is a victory in itself. 

If you’re looking for a compact crossover that turns heads, expresses your individuality and also presents a very economical fuel bill, it might be time to see what all the fuss is about. Book a test drive and see why the must-have accessory of summer 2018 comes with a chrome ‘S’ on the front.