Mrs DougD and I returned from two weeks in Ireland recently. We had requested a small car, but unexpectedly received big fun in a small car.
“What size car did you rent?” asked the kid at the rental counter. “SMALL!” we answered in unison. We had driven in England before, and been warned that the roads in Ireland were even narrower so we wanted the smallest car possible. Walking out to the lot at Dublin airport I pushed the button on our Suzuki key fob and saw the lights flash on our little crossover SUV. Perfect!
So what is an Ignis anyway? Turns out this is the 2nd generation, built in Japan and India since 2016. Only 146 inches long, it’s classed as a “city car” and seems to get good reviews from the motoring press.
Ours had a 1.2 liter petrol engine with 90hp and a 5 speed manual transmission. It also had quite a clever little hybrid system that stores regenerative braking energy in a battery under the rear seat, and applies electrical forward thrust when appropriate. I never noticed the effects of the hybrid system, but there was a little graphic on the dash that indicated the state of the battery. I did notice that the clutch has an anti-rollback feature which came in handy on some hilly stops. On the motorway the Ignis kept up with traffic, although passing required some planning ahead and keeping the revs up. Despite being a city car we found it fine up to 120km/hr, at which point the handling got a little twitchy. Gas mileage is reported to be over 50mpg, although fuel was just over 2 Euro per liter we figured it was much less expensive to operate than our Grand Caravan back home.
Up front we’ve got 16 inch rims with little tiny brake discs. In the rear were some even tinier drums. Also note the plastic rub strips around the wheel openings, and the scratch marks from Mrs DougD scraping a stone wall.
Despite the small size the hatchback trunk held our backpacks and purchases easily. I wouldn’t travel with 4 people and hard suitcases in this car, but for us it was just fine.
Inside, the boxy shape makes for good visibility out the greenhouse and adequate headroom front and rear. Our car was equipped with most things you’d expect these days: A/C, power windows, USB port and non-intrusive console. We added a custom sticky note to remind ourselves which side of the road to drive on. Rear leg room was surprisingly good, I could sit behind myself comfortably. Despite the front power windows the rear units were wind-up.
Did I mention it was small? Here we are on the road to our Airbnb on Errisslannan peninsula (yes, this is a road with two way traffic) . Ireland sets their speed limits on the high side, and we found the Ignis to be delightful fun on R and L series roads. The handling feels light and tossable, and despite the narrow tires it felt well planted on the road.
Small also means it’s easy to park. Here in Dingle Mrs DougD manages to get it almost sideways yet still within the lines.
And at one point I did bark at her “Do NOT drive into the f**cking ocean!” but she had the situation under control.
Ireland also got high marks for being small but fun. The roads and views were amazing. Renting a car is a great way to see the country, driving is fast but not aggressive and we could semi-plan each day with sights and activities knowing we would stumble across more interesting things along the way.
We did a lot of hiking, the mountains were perfect for my age and level of fitness. 500m elevation gain on a hike is just right, and there’s usually a tea house or a pub at the bottom so you can have a snack afterwards. Why would anyone climb Mt Everest when you can have a whole mountain to yourself, get a great view, have a Guinness afterwards and still have time for something else in the afternoon?
One thing the Ignis is NOT would be super successful, at least in Ireland. Despite our enjoyment and the positive reviews I’ve seen since, we only saw a handful of other Ignis’ (Ignii?) during our two weeks. The Ignis starts at 16,320 Euro in Ireland, which seems like good value. Although looks are not it’s strong suit (particularly from the side) I would seriously consider buying one if they were available in Canada.
So a small car on a big trip for two turned out to be just right. Special thanks to Jim Grey who suggested some good roads and destinations. We are already thinking of going back with our two adult children, but will likely need a bigger car.