Maruti’s latest fledgling, the Ignis hatchback, is funky, fun, youthful and pricey. These are not adjectives you would use to describe most other offerings from the carmaker. Besides its striking looks, the Ignis is also a light car. In fact, at 825kg (it has an 825-860kg range), its base model is lighter than even the bantamweight Baleno hatchback. Maruti has future-proofed the Ignis, so it already meets the Indian crash safety norms which come into effect from October.
While the Ignis’ radical design won’t be to everyone’s taste, it is sure to appeal to young car buyers wanting something unique. One of the really cool touches is the inset headlamps (with LED projector lamps on the top-end variant) that are bracketed below by neat homogeneous LED daytime running lights.
Dominating the side are chunky C-pillars which wouldn’t look out of place on a military vehicle either. Its flared wheel arches, side cladding and the alloy wheels with their squarish spoke design further add to the Ignis’ stout stance.
The rear, however, is a bit oddly proportioned. It’s got a tall hatch, squarish tail lights, and there’s no missing the massive bumper cladding. You either love it or hate it but you can’t ignore it.
The striking styling continues into the interiors, with some of the bits finished in colours complementing the exterior paint. The front door handles, neat cylindrical bars, are also body-coloured.
The dashboard is all about straight lines and houses rectangular central air vents and a “floating” central touch-screen unit.
Equipment-wise, you get the SmartPlay infotainment system with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, along with Bluetooth, USB and Aux-in connectivity. You can even control the system via a phone app. The screen also doubles up as the display for the rear camera and the navigation system.
All the variants come with dual airbags, ABS (anti-lock braking system) with EBD (electronic brake-force distribution), and ISOFIX child-seat mounts, a feature that’s uncommon in cars at this price.
It’s quite spacious for a hatchback its size too. While seating three abreast behind is tight, overall the space inside is excellent, and there’s ample headroom and legroom. You sit quite upright at the back, with enough space to keep your feet under the front seats. The front seats are comfortable and well-bolstered.
The Ignis comes with a 1.2-litre petrol or a 1.3-litre diesel engine. These can be had with a 5-speed manual or a 5-speed automated manual gearbox, making the Ignis the only car at this price to offer an automatic with both petrol and diesel engines.
Beginning with the petrol manual, this 1.2-litre unit is quite peppy and the gearshifts feel positive. The clutch, however, is not the smoothest to operate and needs a bit of effort at the pedal. While the light steering is a boon when navigating city roads, it doesn’t weigh up at higher speeds.
Despite its size, the Ignis drives like a bigger car and feels sure-footed. The diesel has a stiffer suspension, but offers a flat and comfortable ride
The diesel manual version has a heavier clutch and a heftier steering, which is nice. Also, the engine is quite responsive and really comes into its stride above 2,000 rpm. However, it also becomes increasingly audible as the revs rise.
Switch to a diesel AMT (automated manual transmission) and drivability sees a dip. The car’s quite at home when you are driving in slow-moving traffic, but for quick overtaking, that pause between shifts becomes apparent. You can use the manual selector, and that helps. Things improve on the petrol AMT, where the shifts are less perceptible.
The Ignis is priced between Rs4.59-7.80 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi). The funky styling will divide opinion. However, there’s little that you can fault. The car is quite impressive—it is feature-packed, spacious and quite rewarding to drive, especially with the peppy petrol engine.