I TRAVELLED the breadth of the country in the Jeep Patriot - and would quite happily add the length in this excellent compact off-roader.
On every type of road and in all weathers the American 4x4 was foot perfect providing the perfect environment for comfortable long-distance motoring.
But even on a short hop to the shops the light and accurate steering ensures a surprising level of manoeuvrability that makes this Jeep anything but cumbersome.
And with a list of gadgets that leaves little out the price-tag of a shade under £20,000 looks good value.
Certainly my dad - not one to be easily impressed - was moved to comment that he would actually consider buying a Patriot during a jaunt along the Norfolk Broads.
Praise indeed, but let's get down to the nuts and bolts of what makes this off-roader tick.
First there's the no-nonsense look that suggests this is not a vehicle to be messed with. It's chunky and ignores the current vogue for smooth curves - instead opting for a boxy look that is pure Jeep.
The rugged appearance hides a soft centre though, as contrary to what I initially expected the Patriot does not drive like a tank. Instead the ride is pleasant and corners are taken in good style with plenty of grip available.
Under normal weather and road conditions power is directed to the front wheels only - but it is also sent to the rear wheels as well when more traction is required. This is handy in the event of snow storms which were depressingly much in evidence during the week's test.
The two-litre diesel engine in the Limited version of the Patriot I drove is likely to prove a more popular choice than the 2.4-litre petrol power unit as the fuel economy is reasonable and there is strong acceleration and plenty of pull once the turbo kicks in.
The six-speed manual gearbox is smooth and there's the option of a CVT automatic gearbox on Limited-trim models.
The Patriot does a good job keeping the noise of the diesel engine out of the cabin, and indeed the interior is a pleasant and spacious place to be. The windscreen may be upright and the door mirrors huge but the wind noise generated is also kept at bay.
There is plenty of room for four adults, but a fifth will find it a tad less comfortable in the centre of the rear seats due to the large transmission tunnel.
That said there are many nice touches including reclining and folding rear seats and a front passenger seat that you can fold flat. This makes the Patriot a practical option when it comes to lugging longer items.
There are numerous cubby holes dotted around to cater for the clutter families inevitably create and the boot is a decent size.
The high stance of the Patriot ensures a panoramic diving position with the seat able to be cranked up or down. A couple of minor quibbles were a steering wheel adjusting for height but not reach and the driver's view being a bit restricted by thick pillars.
Back on a positive note the Patriot is bristling with equipment. There are two versions available - Sport and Limited - with even the cheaper Sport model offering a good level of kit with front and rear electric windows, electric folding door mirrors, alloy wheels and air conditioning included.