What is it?
Funky, fun, youthful, pricey... these aren’t words you’d typically associate with Maruti. But the Ignis is just that and it stands quite apart from its stablemates. This isn’t to say Marutis are boring. We recently had the Brezza which has a dash of flair, but since the Swift, launched back in 2005, Maruti hasn't really brought out a car that really oozes panache. The AA plus platform (now in its fifth generation) is newer than the Baleno's ‘B’ platform, but both share the engineering approach and principles. The Ignis' USP is its low weight; the base model tips the scales at 825kg, making it lighter than the bantamweight Baleno. The other highlight is that the Ignis already meets the Indian crash norms that'll come into effect later this year.
What’s it like on the outside?
The design is polarising and won’t go down well with everyone, but this is a good thing. The car was built for the youth and for those young at heart and doesn't stick to the ‘play-safe, please-all’ design typical of most Marutis. The Ignis is styled like a mini crossover with a strong retro flair reminiscent of the '70s and '80s Suzuki Cervo hatchbacks. That’s where the overall stance and various design elements come from, including Suzuki's 'Progressive Triad’ – the three bars embossed onto the C-pillar – which is quite similar to the Adidas logo!
Another Cervo detail is the front grille that stretches right across the width of the car and the rectangular slotted panel which has the headlights inset. The projector lights are bracketed below by neat homogeneous LED DRL strips. Below the grille is a massive bumper that has three square-shaped sections for the fog light units and the number plate.
Dominating the side are the massively chunky C-pillars, formed by the metal work cutting into the rear door glass which gives the window line a sharp upward kink. The C-pillar wouldn’t look out of place on a military vehicle and it has, quite expectedly, evoked the strongest response. There are also prominently flared wheel arches and a cladding running down the sides. The alloy wheels have a squarish spoke design that’s quite unique and adds a sporty touch too.
The rear consists of a very tall, vertically rising hatch, a windscreen that slopes sharply inwards and is dominated by a massive bumper cladding. The tail-lights are squarish units. This is probably the Ignis' only bad angle as when viewed from the rear, the car looks a bit oddly proportioned. Overall, however, the styling is funky and cool.
What’s it like on the inside?
Design flourishes dominate the insides too, and the Progressive Triad finds its way onto the sides of the central console box which on some cars is finished in colours complementing the exterior paint. The front door handles which are neat-looking cylindrical bars are also painted in the same colour.
The dashboard is all straight lines and seems to have a virtual beam housing the rectangular central air vents and forming the mounting for the ‘floating’ touchscreen unit. Below this is a cylindrical auto climate control unit with nifty toggle-like switches. They operate with a quality feel, like the other switches and buttons around the car. Lower variants, however, get a manual AC with a control unit that looks like an afterthought. With all the style around, Suzuki should have paid some attention to giving this unit an attractive shape. The lower variants get a button-operated music system that's mounted within the same housing as the touchscreen unit.
Equipment-wise, you get the now-familiar Maruti SmartPlay unit with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay along with a host of typically expected connectivity features like Bluetooth, USB, Aux-in and the system can also be controlled via a phone app. The unit also has the rear camera display and the navigation system.
Other bits include a steering wheel that's new to the Maruti line-up, an engine start-stop button, electrically adjustable and folding ORVMs, steering-mounted audio controls, power windows all around and puddle lamps.
On the safety front, Maruti treats all variants of the Ignis as equals and has equipped them with dual front airbags, ABS with EBD, and ISOFIX child-seat mounting system, a feature that's uncommon on cars at this price point.
At 3,700mm, the Ignis is significantly shorter that the Swift (3,850mm) but has a wheelbase that's longer by 5mm. It’s also the taller of the two, but the narrower. Given this it’s no surprise that seating three abreast at the rear is tight but, overall, the space inside is excellent with headroom and legroom being more that generous. You sit quite upright at the back with enough space to keep your feet under the front seats. The front seats are comfortable and have a nice side bolstering, but they feel a bit soft and may not be great on longer journeys. In terms of adjustability, you get a driver’s seat height adjuster and a tilt steering.
What’s it like to drive?
Unconventionally, we were given an opportunity to begin our drive at night and that’s probably because Maruti wanted to show off a new feature – sparkly new LED projector headlamps. The S-cross and Baleno both make do with bi-xenon projectors. So, we head out at night to sample the four powertrain options on offer. The Ignis comes with the 1.2-litre petrol and the 1.3-litre diesel units from the Baleno, with a choice of a 5-speed manual or a 5-speed automated manual gearbox, making it the only car at this price point to offer an automatic with both petrol and diesel engines.
We took the petrol manual out first and, wow, what a great start to a drive. The unit is peppy and eager and the gearshifts are nice and quick with a positive feel to them. The clutch, however, is not very progressive and getting smooth starts needed a bit of concentrated pedal work. Power is available right from low revs and past 2,500rpm, the unit has a nice stronger surge. Rev the engine hard and it gets loud, but it’s a nice and sporty tone and the eager-footed will see themselves doing this quite often. Sadly, the only fly in the ointment is the steering. It's too light with no real connected feel and, typical of many Marutis, it doesn't centre after a turn.
The ride is another highlight of the Ignis. It moves like a car that's a lot heavier with a nice sure-footedness and does not get tossed around a lot on bumps and potholes. We switch to the diesel and it does feel a bit stiffer, but this is only in comparison. On the whole, all the Ignis models offer a well- composed ride. The diesel manual has a slightly heavier clutch but also a heavier steering – a welcome addition as it brings in a bit of feel. The engine is nice and drivable and does not suffer from very noticeable turbo lag. Power comes in above 2,000rpm until about 4,000rpm, after which the delivery begins to taper. The sound levels, however, do increase and this engine isn’t as refined as a few others at this price point.
Switch to a diesel AMT and the drivability sees a dip. The shift speeds aren’t a problem during light throttle inputs when you are pottering around town in slow-moving traffic. It’s when you want to get a quick move on, like in start-stop traffic or overtaking on highways that the pause between shifts becomes apparent. You will have to work around this using the manual selector, and what’s nice is that in manual mode the car lets you rev until the redline. Things improve on the petrol AMT with the shifts becoming less perceptible. However, in comparison to the diesel AMT, the manual 'box is the far more enjoyable drive experience. Unless, our crazy city traffic kills it for you, in which case you’ll have to settle for the AMT and reach for that tip lever from time to time.
Should I buy one?
This isn’t your typical Maruti. It isn’t value for money in the true Maruti sense, its styling steers away from the safe path, and it will polarise people into ‘love-it’ or ‘hate-it’ camps. If you find yourself in the ‘love-it’ group there is very little to turn you away from the Ignis. The AMT gearbox isn’t all good and at this price point, it would be fair to expect a smoother shifting unit. Also, the steering is quite lifeless, particularly the petrol, but that apart, the car has a lot going for it. It’s cool and funky, it’s loaded with equipment not seen in this segment like LED projector lamps, a touchscreen system and auto climate control. There's also a lot of space inside. Both engines are rewarding to drive, especially the peppy petrol and did we mention it’s really funky? So, in a positive manner of speaking, this is not your typical Maruti. And then again, it is one! Many components are shared with its stablemates, so maintenance costs will be minimal, and it’s backed by the carmaker's wide service network. The Ignis then is a Maruti that isn’t. Who knew with Maruti you can have your cake and eat it too!