IN a highly competitive motoring market where motorists want big car features, preferably an SUV, with a small car price and that is economical to maintain, car manufacturers are getting cleverer.Many are changing what would have been compact entry level type cars into SUV type cars, calling it compact crossover vehicles – linking the characteristics of a city runabout with the robust look and height of an all-terrain vehicle.Suzuki is the latest to offer one of these with its ultra-compact SUV, the Ignis, launched in June. And with a starting price of around R170 000 it’s no wonder that motorists are taking note and they are selling like hotcakes.It has also recently been announced as a finalist in the 2018 WesBank South African Car of the Year (COTY) competition.Among its selling points is probably not only its funky look, appealing to the younger entry level market, but also the fact that it is packed with high spec comfort and safety features that one would only have found in entry level cars a few years ago – such as keyless entry, stop start, park assist, electric windows front and rear and audio controls on the steering wheel, to name a few on the higher spec GLX version.This makes it quite a good option in this entry level market which features contenders such as the VW Up! and Toyota Aygo – especially for those who would like something a bit different.The Ignis is powered by Suzuki’s well-known K12M 1,2-litre four-cylinder engine and is offered in GL and top of the range GLX versions. The GLX version is available in manual gearbox as well as robotised-shift gearbox.The model test driven for this week’s Express on Wheels is the Ignis GLX with five-speed manual transmission. Exterior The Ignis has quite a striking design with its squarish shape which really gives it character and makes it stand out. Roof rails, a high-mounted third brake light and black plastic cladding at the pronounced wheel arches gives it a cross over look. The top models in the range offers LED headlights and daytime running lights. The Ignis is 3.7m long and 1.69m wide, with 180mm ground clearance making it an ultracompact crossover with the benefits of a high seating position as well as high ground clearance for off the road travelling.The GLX model tested has as an extra 15-inch piano-black alloy wheels. Interior Despite its compact size, the Ignis’s interior is surprisingly spacious with the luggage compartment offering 260 litres of cargo space, which is increased to 469 litres with the rear seatback folded flat, offering a nice deep boot. The rear seat offers a 60:40 split.Standard items across all models include electric windows, remote central locking, air-conditioning, electric power steering, and an MP3-compatible CD sound system with USB port and 12V accessory power socket.Safety features include dual front airbags, ABS anti-lock brakes with electronic brake distribution (EBD) and electronic braking assistance (EBA), side impact protection beams, Isofix child seat anchors and child-proof rear door locks. A security alarm and immobiliser are standard across all models.The GLX allows for more customisation, such as two-tone colour choices; whereas the GL comes in single colours. The GLX version boasts a two-tone interior. The top half of the dashboard is finished in a black, while the lower sections are white. The same contrasting black/white finish is seen in the door panels.The interior door grips and the centre console panels are finished in the same colour as the exterior. The Ignis sports a funky layout of which the entertainment system is most noticeable. Although it doesn’t have a touch screen it is positioned in such a way on the dashboard that it gives the impression of being one. A CD receiver with FM/AM tuner is mounted in the centre of the dash, while the air-conditioning controls are grouped together and mounted in the centre.There are also plenty of cup and bottle holders.In the GLX model, the steering wheel is equipped with multifunction controls for the sound system and Bluetooth. Spec levels The Ignis is available in GL and GLX specification levels, and buyers of the higher spec GLX derivative can choose between a five-speed manual or automatic gearbox. Both specification levels feature luxuries such as electric windows, an MP3-compatible CD player and air conditioning. The GLX adds a host of features, such as automatic air conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity and a push-button stop/start system.Suzuki also recently announced an update with a touch-screen multimedia system now also available as an option.The full colour screen allows for direct control of iPhones and iPods via Bluetooth, as well as limited controls of certain Android smartphones. Ride The Ignis offers a zippy, comfortable ride in town with nice gear shifting, handling and good all-round visibility.Despite it not being turbocharged, its 1.2-litre engine is very willing and agile, probably because of the fact that the Ignis weighs in at only 850kg.With a turning circle of only 9.4m, it offers great manoeuvrability, especially at your favourite shopping centre when parking is at a premium. During the test drive, which was only on the peak hour, urban commute, the average fuel consumption achieved was 7.1 litres per 100km. Suzuki states a combined cycle fuel consumption figure of 5.1 litres/100km in the case of manual gearbox models, and 4.9 litres/100km for the automated manual model.The standard transmission is a five-speed manual which drives the front wheels. However, there’s also the option of Suzuki’s so-called automated manual transmission (AMT), which links the convenience of a self-shifter to the efficiency of a manual gearbox.The manual-transmission model accelerates from 0-100km/h in 11.6 seconds, while top speed is 165km/h. The Ignis with the automated manual transmission gets to 100 km/h in 13 seconds, while top speed is 155km/h. Price and warranty Ignis 1.2 GL 5MT R169 900Ignis 1.2 GLX 5MT R189 900Ignis 1.2 GLX 5AMT R204 900 The new Suzuki Ignis is covered by a standard three-year/100 000 km warranty, as well as a two-year/30 000 km service plan. Services are at 15 000km/12 month intervals.