IT seems that every car manufacturer imaginable is throwing its weight behind developing small SUVs these days and as the customer demand keeps on growing so the new models keep on coming.
The latest car to be unveiled meeting this criteria is the Suzuki Ignis, a fabulous little car that is well packaged, boasts funky styling, is fun to drive and even promises to be kind on the pocket.
Suzuki is no newcomer to the SUV scene and has built on all its expertise in the field to develop the Ignis, which takes its inspiration from the Swift and Vitara and looks pretty striking from any approach.
It features a distinctive 'face' with a strong front grille, flared wheel arches, LED lights, a clamshell bonnet, chunky shoulders and roof rails.
The interior is deceptively spacious with ample room for four adults to stretch out in style. In addition, the two individual rear seats can slide backwards and forwards to create either extra leg room or additional storage space in the boot.
Elsewhere the list of creature comforts is impressive and depending on the model chosen, include the likes of air conditioning, DAB radio with Bluetooth, sat nav, a seven-inch colour touchscreen with full smartphone connectivity, heated seats, air conditioning, a rearview camera and plenty more besides.
There is just one engine available - a 1.2-litre Dualjet 90bhp petrol - which was previously seen in the recently-launched Baleno.
However, there is a choice when it comes to trim and customers can select from three specifications called SZ3, SZ-T and SZ5 and also opt for Suzuki's SHVS mild hybrid system, along with an ALLGRIP four-wheel drive system plus auto or manual transmissions.
There are also11 colours to choose from with full personalisation options available for both exterior and interior trim.
This is clear indication that the Ignis aims to win over fans from the likes of the Vauxhall Adam, Fiat 500 and even the MINI, which all offer a vast range of personalisation packs.
Although prices are due to be released very soon, the range is likely to start at about £10,500 and rise to the £13,000 level.
We tried out a couple of Ignis models on sweeping roads around Rome and although the hybrid version is only likely to account for about 10 to 15 per cent of sales initially, it was that model in range-topping SZ5 spec with ALLGRIP that we drove first.
This SHVS five-speed manual model would be at the highest end of the budget scale and can reach from 0-62mph in 11.1 seconds, tops out at 103mph, achieves combined fuel economy of 60.1mpg with carbon emissions of 106g/km.
The first thing that has to be said about the Ignis is how quirky the car looks, but not in a bad way.
It looks fresh, modern and neatly proportioned. And when you step inside it's like a Tardis. There is easily enough room for six-footers to sit one behind the other without being cramped at all.
The instrumentation is neatly laid out and all controls, buttons and levers are perfectly positioned for ease of use.
The driving route included some motorways, high winding mountain roads and some brutally unforgiving country roads which made our UK network look smooth.
But whatever was thrown at the Ignis, it coped well.
The acceleration is good though not blistering and the more testing ascents did mean some frequent gear changes to maintain momentum, but that aside it worked really well.
On motorways it easily held its own and there was always ample power on tap to overtake when required.
The ride is a little hard and there is a little engine and road surface noise when pushed particularly hard, but to be honest it was fairly minimal and the sound system can easily drown out any outside interference.
Next up was the 2WD model in SZ-T grade without the hybrid system. This car can reach 62mph from a standing start in 13.5 seconds, maxes out at 106mph, has combined fuel efficiency of 61.4mpg with carbon emissions of 104g/km.
This model seemed more spritely than the first test car and was certainly more lively when climbing steep tracks. It is probably down to the fact that it carries less weight than the ALLGRIP hybrid model.
Once again it was a delight to drive and whizzed through quiet villages and then really opened up on fast country roads. It feels super grippy too and that means there is very little body roll into bends.
And when you factor in the 180mm ground clearance and tight 9.4 metre turning circle, the Ignis is agile and quite effective off-road on grassy tracks too.
The Ignis also features a whole host of safety features which become more comprehensive as you move up through the grades.
There is the likes of dual camera brake alert to detect vehicles and pedestrians, lane departure and weaving warning, hill-hold control, hill descent control and much more.
In recent testing the SZ5 models have been awarded the maximum five stars in the Euro NCAP safety ratings, while lower specced cars have achieved a three-star rating.
The new Ignis is another welcome contender in the compact SUV sector and Suzuki aims to sell up to 8,000 models in its first full year targeting a young, female and trendy audience.