Think hatchbacks and you are most likely to think of Maruti Suzukis. The brand offers a wide range, with literally one to suit every taste bud or wallet. But there is one that does not aim for the crowds. It targets those looking for something unorthodox, something that is not owned by every other middle-class family. No prizes for guessing I’m referring to the Ignis. First launched in 2017, Maruti positioned it as a car for the millennials and somehow, given its positioning and design language, I was reminded of the first generation Zen (not the Zen Estilo, please!) which was the original hot hatch to say so.
And the Ignis didn’t disappoint from behind the wheel either, with its fun quotient. It didn’t quite rocket up sales charts like the Swift but has enjoyed a following of its own. For 2020 it has been repositioned as an urban SUV but no, we’re not getting the 4×4 version sold in Europe. The same car has received a cosmetic update to give it the visual stance of an SUV. On the positive side, with the same underpinnings and mechanicals, it’s still as much fun to drive! A bolder grille with square chrome inserts dominates the face, along with a redesigned bumper that integrates a faux skid plate. It’s plastic, so if you happen to damage it, you will have to replace the entire bumper.
The grille reminds of the S-Presso’s and to be honest, I’m still trying to decide how much I like it. The rear gets mild tweaks as well but is largely the same, while the sides remain the same as before, looking all sporty with the flared wheel arches. I wish the wheels were larger in size and the tyres fatter, as they look quite skinny. Overall, the Ignis retains the silhouette of the earlier model and while looks can be subjective, it certainly retains its tag of being the most distinctive-looking hatchback from Maruti Suzuki. Distinctive characteristics are further highlighted inside. Use of the dual-tone theme grabs attention instantly and so does the rather flat dashboard.
It might appear simple and minimalistic, but it is well laid out and provides a good view of the road ahead. The floating touchscreen unit gets Maruti’s latest Smartplay Studio system now and is easy to operate. All looks good until you realise how hard and plasticky everything feels. This leads to a bit of disappointment, but wait. Thumb the starter button to fire up the 1.2-litre petrol engine, blip the throttle and you will be intrigued again. It’s a rev-happy, smooth and refined four-pot motor with a nice grunt. The clutch is light and gears slots in precisely and the car feels peppy from the moment you take off from a standstill. Acceleration is quick and accompanied by a sporty note, which is sure to take your attention away from the cabin’s plasticky feel.
The engine also build revs quickly and it almost urges you to blip the throttle before downshifting to match revs! I’m thus happy to report the Ignis has not traded off its ability to plaster a smile across your mug despite the revised positioning and BS6-compliant engine. The slick-shifting gearbox adds to the joy of driving the Ignis and effectively, it is a car you want to take out at every opportunity – be it a late-night coffee meet-up, early morning dash to the gym or even errands like grabbing milk from the grocery! It has also retained its playful character and makes you want to drive it hard while the car’s lightweight aids agility and the precise steering makes it confident when making quick directional changes, in traffic or chucking it into bends. On the flip side, the lightweight takes away some stability, while the skinny tyres are rather quick to get to their limits and squeal in protest.
On the same note, while it feels planted on the go, the Ignis tends to lose composure when braking hard from high speeds. Fatter tyres should help in fixing that. The ride quality is pliant though and the Ignis certainly knows how to handle broken roads. All said and done, the Ignis is huge dollops of fun – with its sprightly engine performance, eager gearbox and sporty handling. It comes across as a bonafide enthusiast-centric hatchback, without compromising occupant comfort or efficiency. It may have a few shortcomings, but those certainly don’t stop us from loving it!
Engine: 1.2-litre, four-cylinder, petrol
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Price: Rs 4.89 lakh onwards (ex-showroom)