EARLY in 2015 the Suzuki Vitara made a welcome return to showrooms in the UK and just seven months on the appeal has grown even greater with the release of the all-new Vitara S.
Priced at Â£20,899, it's the joint range-topper alongside the SZ5 in the Vitara line-up and most importantly features the new 1.4 turbocharged petrol engine - the first application of Suzuki's Boosterjet technology - which translates into 140ps of grunt.
The Vitara S comes with ALLGRIP four wheel drive as standard which is a ‘must' in the world of compact SUVs these days.
Admittedly, few owners will ever venture far from the Tarmac but it's nicely reassuring to know that the car will maintain its grip in wet and wintry conditions.
The S model also has some unique design elements that help it stand out from other Vitaras. These include gloss black 17-inch alloys, a vertical grille design, an upper rear spoiler, satin silver door mirrors and red interior stitching and stylish red trims around the air vents.
The interior is clutter-free and feature-rich with all controls, dials and read-outs ideally placed for ease of use.
On-board technology includes a very efficient sat nav system that works well with just a postcode programmed in if necessary. In addition there is a good sound system, DAB digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity, air conditioning, a clear touchscreen and plenty more besides.
Comfort levels within the Vitara S are good with ample room for two adults in the back - three at a push.
The boot is generously-sized too with a capacity of 375 litres which can be increased to 710 litres with the rear seats folded flat. Elsewhere there is a good-sized glovebox, deep door pockets, a central bin and some handy trays to stop bits and bobs rolling around.
The driver benefits from a slightly elevated position which results in good all-round visibility and the Vitara S is very nimble and easy to manoeuvre which makes it ideal for driving and parking in busy town centres.
Then out on faster roads and motorways, the car can easily hold its own with a 0-62mph sprint time of 10.2 seconds and top speed of 124mph.
The acceleration through the six-speed manual gearbox was smooth and nicely responsive with minimal road and engine noise even when pushed quite hard.
The steering was nice and precise and the efficient suspension ironed out the unexpected bumps and dips along the way. I did find that after a long 100-mile-plus journey I was finding the seats a little hard, but that was my only slight gripe.
Safety features are comprehensive too with the likes of anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist, seven airbags, electronic stability programme, foot protecting brake and clutch pedals, a tyre pressure monitor plus the ALLGRIP 4-wheel-drive system to keep you going during the colder months.