Every once in a while a car comes along that’s surprising for all the right reasons. The new Suzuki Ignis 2017, a new city-car with off-roader looks, is just such a vehicle. On paper it may not seem to have an obvious place in the market. However, Suzuki thinks that the Ignis’s styling will mean it finds buyers from across the motoring spectrum.

The manufacturer claims the Ignis should appeal to a younger, mainly female audience than its current 50-plus average. What’s more, they may be considering cars that aren’t direct on-paper rivals such as the Fiat 500, Mini or Nissan Juke. Suzuki hopes these Ignis buyers will make up an additional 6,000 sales in 2017 and the majority of buyers are likely to go for the mid-range SZ-T and the top SZ-5 level. While the majority will be front-drive, Suzuki expects 15 per cent of the total to opt for four-wheel drive which is only available on the latter.

While styling is a subjective aspect of any car, Suzuki’s designers appear to have achieved the considerably difficult task of styling a car that is almost universally liked. It looks perfectly proportioned and stands out among the thousands of others on the road. Only one engine is on offer in the Ignis, an 89bhp 1.2-litre petrol.

However, as an option this can be combined with a small and clever hybrid system that gathers and stores energy while braking and then feeds that electric power back in when the driver sets off and under low speed acceleration. While the system, called SHVS (Smart Hybrid Vehicle by Suzuki), does increase shove it doesn’t result in a different total power output to the non-hybrid version because the additional power is used to boost the efficiency of the car rather than increase performance. 

That said, there is a small gain in the rate of acceleration of the hybrid-equipped cars over those without. The 0 to 60mph time for the standard twowheel drive car is 13.5 seconds while the hybrid equipped version comes in at 11.4 seconds. In the four-wheel drive models, which only come with SHVS, the sprint drops to 11.1 seconds. 

The top speed remains the same with or without the hybrid assistance at 106mph, however, the 4x4 version is fractionally slower with a 103mph maximum. There are similar differences in average fuel economy. The manual front-drive car with the hybrid system fitted is the most efficient with an official figure of 65.7mpg and this car also qualifies for the zero-rated road tax thanks to emissions of 97g/km.

Without the hybrid system the Ignis still returns a reasonable 61.4mpg, while the 4x4 comes in at 60.1mpg. Driving is also a surprisingly good experience, although it is not faultless.

The raised ride height means the car has reasonable wheel travel should you be after a 4x4 and heading off-road. On-road the softer suspension means there is more body roll when cornering than experienced in rival cars. Oddly, the softer suspension can also thud over speed bumps and potholes yet on most roads the softer ride is good for passenger comfort. The car is still easy and fun to drive and position though.

In fact, its body-roll coupled to precise steering helps this because it offers good feedback to the driver about what the car will and won’t do in a corner. The engine adds to the experience and is smooth and happy-to-rev with enough power to happily cruise on the motorway while not being excessively noisy. Inside the Ignis there are more surprises, mainly around its substantial interior space given the diminutive exterior.

It will happily accommodate four adults with enough boot space (260 litres) for a week’s family shopping. The interior design is neatly finished with bodycoloured or contrast-coloured inserts possible in the cabin and a simple clean look to the dashboard.

Construction of the interior feels good but some of the materials used are less expensive than some rivals. Equipment levels are excellent too with air con, Bluetooth and a DAB digital radio standard on all models.

Step up from the entry level SZ-3 to the SZ-T and the Ignis gains sat nav, rear view camera, alloy wheels and sliding rear seats. These two versions however have only been rated with three stars in the recent EuroNCAP crash tests because they miss out on autonomous braking that is standard on the five-star SZ-5 top-spec car which also gains keyless entry and start.

The interior space and good equipment levels, plus the car’s looks, mean it can genuinely rival cars that on paper wouldn’t be on the same shopping list.

It is surprises like taking on larger cars that sum up the Suzuki Ignis neatly. It’s a car that punches well above its weight and could be the surprise hit of 2017.