February is in the habit of delivering day after murky day here in Blighty. Honestly, it’s like the sun has decided to pull a sickie all month and stay at home. So, when a few distant rays of sunshine finally decided to make an appearance in East Sussex, I planned a little escape to the countryside for myself and our long-term Suzuki Ignis to explore some green lanes and test the car’s off-road credentials.
This shrunk-in-the-wash SUV would probably describe itself as having a casual interest in off-roading, in the same way I have a casual interest in watching the winter Olympics. I’m happy to enjoy the next week of scheduled programming but I’m not exactly going to run down the shops and pick up my own bobsleigh. Similarly, the Ignis doesn’t wear a snorkel or off-road tyres; it doesn’t possess any radical approach or departure angles and the 4WD system that Suzuki calls AllGrip is neither permanent nor lockable. It does, however, feature a live rear axle with a viscous limited-slip differential. For the best part, the car goes about its business in front-wheel drive mode, but when the viscous coupling detects slip at the front, it can transfer drive to the back wheels for more grip.
It’s a relatively common mechanical solution and on these narrow rutted tracks, works convincingly. The Ignis scales up these slopes with the athleticism of a mountain goat. Or a Fiat Panda 4x4. And thanks to hill descent control - a system that controls your braking as you head back down - you feel confident about tackling all manner of mud, rock and ruts. The fact it wears super-skinny tyres and weighs about as much as a large dog undoubtedly helps here. I still can’t quite believe a base Ignis weighs in at 810kg; that’s lighter than the latest doorless, roofless and carbonfibre-festooned Lotus 3Eleven. Even my generously specced SZ5 comes in at under a tonne and that includes all the hybrid gubbins - the tiny lithium ion battery only weighs 7kg and lives under the passenger seat.
The bad news is that driving this car on this type of terrain is about as comfortable as going for a ride in a tumble dryer. You’re comically jostled around in the front, but the ride quality in the back is even funnier. If our cameraman Ollie hadn’t been belted up, he probably would have ended up making a new sunroof. So a baby Range Rover the Ignis is not, but AllGrip is still a complete giggle and more capable than you would imagine. I’m now three months into ownership and my enthusiasm for this endearing little box hasn’t dampened. When I originally took delivery, I thought this would be a car best kept cheap and simple. Now, however, I’m not so sure…
Our car: Suzuki Ignis 1.2 SZ5 SHVS AllGrip (manual)
|Estimated PCP finance
|£214pcm [includes one year free insurance, three years free servicing | based on £214 deposit, 47 monthly payments, 6,000 miles per annum, 5.9% APR]
|Flame Orange Pearl Metallic Two-Tone £650
|Price as tested
|3 years, 60,000 miles
12 months/12,5000 miles