How Many Melodies there are to Forget.

Oh, dear. It’s another Suzuki article. 

Suzuki Ignis Mk2. All images: the author

How can I introduce this cheeky, useful, honest and endearing car without alienating readers who prefer uncouth, useless, dishonest and off-putting cars? This time it’s the Mk2 Ignis, which I considered to be quite horrible when I first happened to see one many years ago, but which I now consider quite attractive. What changed? Obviously my own opinions and values shifted and I came to see the inherent worth of a car that made credible efforts to combine utility and unconventional looks. If you can’t see yourself in a 2CV then you could maybe imagine one of these instead (or a Yaris Verso Mk1).

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You can read an Ignis Mk2 review here. The key sentence is the opener: “The Ignis is one of those forgotten cars, which only registers on the radar of a tiny number of buyers in the UK. That’s a shame as it’s a very credible package in the sub-supermini market. Its styling might fall into the forgettable category, but its rather boxy, utilitarian looks allow the Ignis to offer a surprising amount of interior space; it being one of only a handful of such diminutively proportioned cars to offer genuinely comfortable seating for four adults.” Does that not sound like a modern description of a 2CV? And here’s another line: “The interior might not offer the flexibility of some rivals, but few of them can offer the space and excellent value of the Suzuki.”

Suzuki Ignis Mk2

When I motor around the place I see Ignises all the time. A trawl in my memory banks leads me to the recollection that there was a time when the 2CV was a common sight. Putting the two thoughts together, I would hypothesize that the Ignis is now occupying that part of the used-car market that Citroën once did back in the 1990s with the 2CV. I might ask readers if they could nominate anything else for this segment over and above the Ignis and the Yaris Verso.

I hope I am not over-doing this line of reasoning when I suggest the Celerio is Suzuki’s latest bid to keep the latter-day eccentric-small-car-buyer happy for the forseeable future. Carwow offers this wisdom: “The Suzuki Celerio’s an inexpensive small car that’s roomier than most city cars and pretty frugal, but its interior feels dated and you get very little equipment as standard.” Sounds very 2CV to me.

Suzuki Ignis Mk1: Japanese industrial design goodness

For comparison, I also snapped the Ignis Mk 1. It has more of an industrial design look to it and if you squint you can see some vestigial similarities to the Suzuki Liana of the same period. They were being brave with all that blank metal around the rear lamp:

At the front, notice how the crease over the wheel arch continues into the headlamp housing:

Suzuki Ignis Mk1: Big, in a small way.

So, if we look at Citroën’s own range, do we find a car that could conceivably be considered to be the 2CV of the present time? I don’t see anything that corresponds here at Citroën UK’s page. As I have said elsewhere, marques don’t have to carry on doing what they did in the past if it does not work for them any more. We can just note that Citroën is addressing a market for which I have no easy description.

I’d like also to note here that one way in which the current Mk3 Ignis and the Mk2 do share characteristics is that both have/had a 4×4 capability. The Mk1 also had a 4×4 version, but that was not exported to Europe. And the Mk2 also had a life as a Holden Cruze and Chevrolet Cruze and as a Subaru Justy.

By way of digresssion, I might mention that the Justy moved its nameplate onto the Daihatsu Boon and before the nameplate clung to Ignises, it was attached to the car we know as the Swift. Another bit of trivia is that Suzuki adapted features of the Holden re-design for its European model, adding some length to the car (mostly in the luggage area). I was not aware of this and will now try to find early and later versions of the Ignis to see what the difference looks like in the metal.

So, even if it’s a strangely styled pseudo-4×4 (and sometimes a real one), the Suzuki Ignis is quite a disarming sort of vehicle which does a lot with little demand for attention or resources. I have a feeling that the eccentric appearance of the Mk2 appeals for the same reason the 2CV did for the classic 2CV driver demographic: looking odd can be advantageous because, for a certain slice of the market, the idiosyncracy is a selling point and not a bug.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

18 thoughts on “How Many Melodies there are to Forget.”

  1. Good morning, Richard. First, I see a Bang & Olufsen store and second I see the car. To my eyes the Ignis Mk2 looks like a mismatch of elements that produce a car that is somehow distinctively un-distinctive. I don’t know how they did that, but somehow they did. I think however that this a car that does what it says on the tin and does that well. For that reason alone I applaud Suzuki. I prefer the Mk1, though. The current Ignis is a regular sight for me as there are a couple in my area, same with the current Swift.

    On a side note : the particular example you photographed has tinted rear windows, which must be one of the many bad trends in automotive design.

    1. I completely agree with you.

      Either all of them – which is not allowed in our country – or none. Then none.

      Some people argue in favour of these tinted windows that the children in the back seat are less exposed to the sun (UV rays). I can accept that. But we don’t have kids, so there’s no reason for me to mess up a car.

      I had an Uno Turbo when it was new and the rear windows were tinted as standard. That was chic or sporty at the time, I don’t know what attribute that fashion had. To me it always looked a bit proles, even today.
      Before the dealer handed over the car, I asked him to replace the tinted rear windows with non-tinted ones.

  2. This Ignis was a very common sight around here. With optional 4×4 and its small size, it was perfect for narrow alpine roads. People there also generally prefer designs that aren’t too shouty and a bit undistincitve. Silver fits very well with this, so it seems to be the standard colour for this car, used on probably 80% of them.
    The 2CV was never big in the Swiss Alps, in the times before Subaru offered affordable and practical 4WD, Beetles and Kadetts were used a lot. So the Ignis probably took their place (after the original Subaru Justy, which was a proper Subaru design not shared with anyone else and still the prettiest and most distinctive Justy of all).

    Citroën had some attempts to produce a 2CV successor in spirit, but they never really succeeded. I remember that the first Berlingo was seen as such a vehicle – not that it was explicitly marketed as that, but the press liked this reference (as with the Kangoo and the R4). In the meantime, the Berlingo has become so heavy, sophisticated and expensive that it’s hard to see a basic car in it. Then there was the C4 Cactus. Again, a large-y car on small underpinnings, with simple, clever solutions and some joie de vivre. It wasn’t very successful, alas, and when it had to replace the C4 completely, it had to move more into ‘real car’ territory.

    1. Though I might as well mention the Saxo Open Scandal and C3 Pluriel – produced in limited numbers, but kept that “sardine can roof” tradition going. Of course in 2CV that was just one feature, not the main point.

      About the MK2 Ignis, it has always reminded me of the second generation Honda CR-V a lot:
      I’m thinking similar off-road styling cues combined with some car-like features, like the more sloping front ends, for example.

  3. “distinctively un-distinctive” – That´s a description I thought best fit the Ford Focus Mk3. You knew it was a Focus Mk3 because it was not anything else. An opposite sort of design is Lancia Kappa: that could only be a Kappa, is what you think when you see it. The Ignis is miles away from the Focus, I would contend. It´s a gawky car in a now-dead tradition of French gawky cars. It is a very love-able kind of vehicle for that reason. There is a Mk1 Ignis (with the small rear lamps) labelled “special” and I have no idea what that is supposed to mean. These cars aren´t that young but are surviving. I suppose being noticeable helps.

  4. Good morning Richard. Your question about the Holden redesign of the Ignis prompted me to investigate and here’s the answer: the Mk2 Ignis used the doors and centre section of the Mk1, but added an extended tail and new nose to make it appear at first glance to be an all-new model. Here are comparative photos of both:

    Especially if you’re a relatively small automaker (ignoring their motorcycles, of course) like Suzuki, it pays to recycle, and this is a rather neat example.

    The current Ignis is, of course, a rather different animal, but still highly appealing, reprising as it does the distinctive looks of the 1970s SC100 Whizzkid:

    Both are, of course, Kiemencoupés! (DTW’s scheduling of pieces is a work of genius, don’t you think? 😁)

    1. Thanks for those last two pictures Daniel. To be honest, i always get a bit itchy when i see the Kiemens on the Ignis: what are they supposed to point to, apart from the superficial reference to the very smart SC100? One option is that the Kiemens on the Ignis suggest an air cooled engine in the back (despite the Kiemens not actually allowing for air intake), next to the engine in the front, which apparently is worked very hard, as seems to need faux air exhausts. That set-up would in effect make it the spiritual successor to the 2cv Sahara…

  5. Not a fan of the Ignis, although I am of Suzuki. But nice to see a mention of the Mk1 Yaris Verso – a car I thought ridiculously ugly initially but gradually came to admire.

    1. There´s another one which springs to mind and is really rare, the Daihatsu YRV. Its dropped doorline predates the super Meriva Mk2 which has the same feature.

  6. I meant to mention earlier my nomination for ‘useful if quirky’ cars as Richard requested. Pretty obvious, really:

    From a time when Škoda was allowed to make really interesting cars.

    1. There was a period when Skoda had a nice line in “frankencars” such as the Superb that was really a LWB Passat. The Yeti is even more astounding.

    2. Indeed. My sister-in-law and her husband have a Yeti 2.0-litre 4×4 Adventure special edition, in white with a black roof. It’s also the better looking pre-facelift model, exactly like this one:

      I saw it in Tuesday when they came for lunch. It really is a lovely car. The seats have inserts with a rather natty tyre tread pattern:

    3. That tyre tread pattern is an expression of what it says on the rear screen: ARUTNEVDA

  7. It is a long time since I last heard the expression “rather natty”, Daniel. Thanks for the reminder!

  8. For the Netherlands, the answer is easy:

    Utilitarian and suprisingly much fun, though I’m not sure about how roomy they are (excellent in the front, not sure about the back seats and the boot is tiny). That, or any number of older kei cars and the occasional Panda of various makes. However, I’m not sure that I’d want to drive through a French field with a basket of eggs in the back, as was the apocryphical use case of the 2CV, in any of these, Ignis included.

    I rarely see Ignises around, I think (or are they so invisible as to blend into the woodwork?). I’m still not taken with the second generation, though I see your point. That first generation is very nice though: one of those typically Japanese designs full of surprisingly well thought out details, but in a somewhat bland overall package.

  9. My shout-out is with Tom V for the C1/107/Aygo – we’ve had a 2006 107 in the family from new and it is still going strong. I think of it as a Renault 4 successor – a bit more solid than the 2CV and has a modern, just-right feel. Lots of lovely sky blue painted metal inside, but also A/C and (to our special order) 6 airbags . After some initial problems with a few weak components (water pump, original clutch, window hinges) it has settled to a generally reliable rhythm and I am excited to get it back from our son who has used it for the past years and now need something a bit bigger.

    The size is perfect for town – it does get blown about on windy motorways, though. And ours smells of petrol… Moving house my son folded the back seat and loaded the car to the roof. Turns out that the fuel pump sits under the middle of the rear seat. Being a four-seater, this area does not usually take much weight. Loaded with cargo, something snapped.. . three years later it no longer smells like an immediate fire hazard (the seat cushion soaked up quite a bit of petrol at the time, the rest ended up in a pool on the ground). Live and learn!

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