“There are currently no plans to build a new Ignis Sport,” said a spokesperson during the launch of the all-new Suzuki Ignis. Well, with the greatest respect, Suzuki, may I suggest you stop what you’re doing and start making plans.
The world needs a reborn Ignis Sport for a new generation and, Mr Spokesperson, you need it if you’re serious about going after a younger audience.
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Back in the mid-noughties, Suzuki built the Ignis Sport to enable it to go racing. The firm enjoyed success in the Junior World Rally Championship (JWRC), making the Ignis Sport a homologation special with a fair amount of pedigree.
Heck, it can share a table with the likes of the Lancia Delta Integrale, Audi Quattro and Peugeot 205 T16. Of sorts.
Suzuki Ignis Sport: fishnets and white boots
Not that you’ll need to drop a small fortune to secure this tiny slice of Japanese rallying history. A really good Suzuki Ignis Sport could be sat on your driveway for as little as £1,500.
And for that, you get a 1.5-litre 16-valve engine producing 110hp and 103lb ft of torque. Hardly headline figures, but this bats-in-the-belfry rally special weighed a mere 945kg, ensuring it could reach 60mph in under nine seconds.
Suzuki dropped it 50mm and fitted firmer springs and stiffer dampers to ensure that potholes and drain covers were obstacles to avoid when taking the rally special stage to the office. Unless you were happy to have a chiropractor on speed dial.
The ventilated disc brakes, body kit, extended arches and rear spoiler hinted at its rallying pedigree, while 15-inch white alloy wheels and Recaro seats with fishnet head restraints were straight out of the car accessories catalogue, circa 1995.
But you know something, the Ignis Sport was more than a match for its rival pint-size tearaways. The likes of the Ford SportKa, Fiat Panda 100HP, Volkswagen Lupo GTI and MINI Cooper might be more illustrious, but the Ignis was quite the upstart.
It revelled in being given a damn good thrashing, helped in no small part by the variable valve timing, giving it a noticeable kick around 4,000rpm. If old-school thrills are your bag, the Ignis invites you to fill your boots.
It might not be the most fashionable of naughties from the noughties, but those in the know appreciate the Ignis Sport for being a bit of a rebel. That it’s largely forgotten helps to keep values down. For now.
New Suzuki Ignis: ‘retrocutesy’?
Which brings me back to the case in point: the prospect of an all-new Ignis Sport. Forget Brexit, Trump and Danny Baker being the first to be booted out of the jungle, if Suzuki doesn’t build a new Sport, it’ll be the biggest injustice of the decade.
The ingredients are there. Take the styling, which is a delightful blend of retro and cutesy – ‘retrocutesy’, said nobody, ever. Seriously, the new Ignis is crying out for its own one-make race series on Gran Turismo. It just looks the part.
Then there’s the weight, with the Ignis tipping the scales at a mere 810kg. It’s like a Citroen AX GT for the new millennium, requiring a modest amount of power to hustle a well-driven sports car on a twisting B-road.
Imagine the prospect of using the 1.0-litre Boosterjet engine, most recently found in the new Suzuki Baleno. With 110hp on tap and 125lb ft torque, an Ignis Sport could rival the mighty Swift Sport for cross-country pace.
Dare I suggest it might be more fun than the new Renault Twingo GT? The figures are remarkably similar – 110hp and 125lb ft – but the Ignis Sport is likely to weigh significantly less than the surprisingly heavy one-tonne Twingo GT.
In standard form, the new Ignis is no drivers’ car, but it doesn’t take a huge amount of imagination to see how it could be improved. Lower the ride height, stiffen the springs, add a decent pair of sports seats and you’re on the road to something with a little more bite.
New Ignis Sport, new breed of drivers
Here’s the thing: Suzuki is going after MINI and Fiat 500 customers with the new Ignis, suggesting the majority of buyers will be new to the brand. But it freely admits that it’s just as likely to attract Alto and Splash owners, something that could come back to haunt the company in years to come.
The MINI and 500 are successful for a number of reasons, chiefly the marketing spend, brand equity, driver appeal and interior quality. Suzuki won’t be able to match MINI and Fiat in any of these areas, so it needs to think differently.
A fun, affordable and good looking halo model might be the answer. If it can undercut the Twingo GT’s £13,700 price tag, even better. A £12,500 Suzuki Ignis Sport: who wouldn’t want a slice of the action?
Suzuki needs a new breed of drivers: those who could be turned off by the sight of elderly Alto and Splash owners straddling the centre white line as they venture into town. A spine-troubling, street terrorising version would only serve to repel such people.
Do the right thing, Suzuki. And if you can make it look half as good as the Alto Turbo RS, that would be grand. Thank you.