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Engines on test: Suzuki K12C DualJet 1.2-liter I4 SVHS

Suzuki's Ignis had a radical make over for 2017, mixing Japanese Kei car quirkiness with a 'hybrid' system, solid handling and an appealing price point. What's not to like, right? 

 

The 2017 Ignis 1.2 SVHS SZ5, was delivered to us complete with a press sheet highlighting the hybrid nature of the car; SVHS standing for Smart Hybrid Vehicle by Suzuki. Whilst this came as a surprise, as we were collectively expecting a pure IC engine car, on further investigation it became apparent this was a claim that was stretching the term hybrid to its limits. The reality is, the car’s system is built around an Integrated Starter Generator that is paired to a very small li-ion battery, which is placed beneath the passenger seat. The car then adds voltage to the battery under braking moments, and reuses the stored energy to restart the engine once warm, and provide a mild ‘energy boost’ under acceleration.

That’s the theory on paper at least. In reality, we found that the system and its quite cool retro-style 8-bit display (above) in the dash, weren’t effective at all. The system seemed to be charging, permanently, whilst under acceleration the difference in delivery with the system active was negligible at best. Perhaps this is an unfair review of the car, but our first few days with it, the multiple members of staff who tried the car couldn’t understand the hybrid's inclusion, or worth.

Perhaps this is solely down to the revvy nature of the K12C inline-four engine that masks any assistance it may be receiving. The free revving nature, in combination with the Ignis’s compact dimensions and lightweight do give the impression of driving a go-kart, and despite the fraught nature of its delivery, the unit never feels crass or unrefined.

The 1242cc displacement is achieved through a 73mm bore and 74.2mm stroke, whilst the K12C uses multi-point injection for improved efficiency. The simplistic style of the car, both inside and out, split the entire office down the middle. Actually, and truthfully, it didn’t. I appeared to be the only one who openly admitted thinking it was a cool car. But the quirky Kei-car styling, compact dimensions, and admittedly ‘peppy’ 1.2 made the car an absolute hoot at low and medium speeds. On a rainy commute to the office where traffic barely exceeds low and medium speeds, the car was returning healthy mpg figures, and it never felt like it was left behind in traffic when it occasionally, and briefly, cleared.

As I say, perhaps suggesting the hybrid system is redundant is unfair. After an extended period of using the Ignis, the overall impression the package gives is one of a larger displacement engine. The 30-second bursts that the SVHS system provides during acceleration are more than sufficient to accommodate most, if not all, overtakes and hard acceleration moments. Overall, it gives the impression that the Ignis is equipped with an engine much larger than 1242cc, yet retains the fuel efficiency benefits of the diminutive lump.

Our loan period of the Suzuki was bookended by two exceptionally high-end vehicles, meaning it would be easy to be flippant about the car’s build and finish. But at less than GB£14,000 brand new, the Ignis makes an exceptionally good entry in to its class and the SVHS-assisted DualJet makes a solid attempt at offering genuine real-world economy and driveability.

 

 

27 August 2017

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