Serious scholars will tell you that Latin is a dead language. They are, of course, wrong. Latin is very much in use – mostly by the legal profession, to bedazzle clients into paying their outrageous consultancy and court fees.
We, too, know some Latin, though it will probably never yield any financial benefits. For instance, we know that Anus Horribilis is a collective noun for ANC MPs.
And, that Taurus Excretus translates to South African election promises, while Cum Laude obviously refers to noisy lovemaking.
Finally, Suzuki have called their latest compact crossover model the Ignis. That means fire in Latin – witness the word “ignition”. First launched at the 2015 Paris Motor Show, the Ignis has attracted large popularity in Europe as a small city car with all-terrain aspirations.
And small it is, at just 3,7 metres long and 1,69 metres wide, with a kerb mass of 850Kg. Add 180mm of ground clearance, short overhangs front and rear, a high roofline and wide tracks that position the wheels at each corner, and you have a true crossover, equally at home in city traffic and on dirt.
The Ignis’ chunky lines, with square headlamps, daytime running lights, fog lamps, aggressive grille, pronounced front air intakes, integrated bumpers, large tail light clusters, roof rails and flared wheel arches might get a mixed reception with South African buyers, who tend to be rather conservative when it comes to car styling.
We loved it – whether standing still or on the move, it looked capable, cheeky and sturdy. The Ignis is powered by a normally aspirated, four-cylinder 1 197cc engine, which produces 61kW of power at 6 000rpm, and 113Nm of torque at 4 200rpm.
This goes to the front wheels via a fivespeed manual gearbox. The Ignis sits on the same high-tensile steel modular platform that serves in the Baleno model, which allows high levels of rigidity.
The front suspension combines MacPherson struts and coil springs with gas-filled dampers and an anti-roll bar, while the rear set-up makes use of a torsion beam, combined with coil springs and an anti-roll bar.
The car is fitted with ABS anti-lock brakes, incorporating electronic brake distribution and electronic braking assistance.
Other safety features include dual front airbags, side impact protection beams, rear park distance control, Isofix child seat anchors and child-proof rear door locks.
The vehicle also employs a rack-and-pinion steering system with electric power assistance, and the whole package sits on 15- inch spoked alloy wheels in 175/65 R15 tyres. Inside, the Ignis offers a surprising amount of usable head and legroom.
Standard features include electric windows, remote central locking, air-conditioning, keyless starting, electric power steering, a security alarm and immobiliser, plus an MP3-compatible CD sound system with USB port and 12V accessory power socket.
The cabin is uncluttered, with two-tone black and white surfaces contrasting against body-coloured door grips and centre console panels.
The instruments are located in a compact binnacle directly ahead of the driver, while the soft-grip, tilt-adjustable steering wheel is equipped with multifunction controls for the sound system and Bluetooth telephony. The front bucket seats are cloth-covered and comfortable.
The rear bench seat is split 60:40, and folds flat forwards to increase boot space, while storage is provided by two front and one rear cup holder, plus bottle holders in the front and the rear doors. With just 61kW of grunt to work with, the Ignis is by no means a racer. However, being light, it felt quicker than it was, with the engine note just raspy enough to add a dimension to the driving experience.
Suzuki claims it will reach 100km/h in under 12 seconds with a top whack of just under 160km/h, and we have no reason to disbelieve them. It is the car’s nimbleness that made it a joy to drive.
The turning circle is a mere 9,4 metres which, alongside its dimunitive wheelbase, makes it a doddle to fit through tiny gaps with confidence.
We did not take the Ignis on dirt roads, like 90 percent of its buyers will also not do, but we reckon it will handle rough surfaces with aplomb.
It handled neutrally, even under spirited cornering, and would perform a brilliant hand-brake turn in The Citizen’s parking lot.
A real bonus, that, in these days when most vehicles come equipped with a boring button in place of a handbrake lever.
We made no efforts to drive the vehicle frugally, and recorded a fuel usage figure of 6.3 litres per 100km. More careful users should reach better figures, but they will not have as much fun as we did.