SINCE the Subaru Forester first hit the road in 1997 European sales of compact SUVs have increased eightfold.
The explosion in popularity of these rugged family motors has seen a plethora of new models launched as car maker's clamber for a share of the spoils.
But while many of the newer upstarts offer the trendy rough and tumble design features buyers crave - there's often very little to back it up.
The Forester takes a more old school approach.
It might not have the sweeping lines and bulging curves of some of its rivals - but Subaru have remained focused on the traditional SUV virtues of space, practicality and some proper 4x4 capability.
And the fact that this is the Japanese manufacturer's biggest-selling model in the UK is proof that there are still plenty of people about who value such substance over the style of less able alternatives.
That's not to say that the Forester is ugly, far from it. Regular tweaks to the bumpers, grille and light formations have kept the look fresh - but it remains a more boxy, restrained option which blends in rather than stands out from the crowd.
Flat panels and squared off edges do have their advantages though, not least being that they allow interior space to be maximised - and the Forester certainly gives passengers plenty of room to get comfortable.
Five adults will fit with relative ease and none of them will be short of head or leg-room, while there is plenty of personal storage around the cabin and a boot which, at 505 litres, will cope with most family requirements.
The load capacity rises to 1,592 litres, with the 60-40 split rear seats folded down - something which can be accomplished easily via a simple quick-release lever in the boot, which also has a large opening and flat floor for easy loading and unloading.
The quality of the Forester's interior has improved steadily over the years and, although there is still some scratchy plastic, it feels reassuringly dense and hard-wearing, while soft-touch surfaces have increased and high-gloss and silver accents help to raise the perceived quality - as does the generous equipment.
All models get 17-inch alloys, roof rails, a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with satnav and reversing camera, electrically adjustable driver's seat, digital radio, automatic dual-zone aircon, heated wing mirrors, Bluetooth, and a stability control system which also assists with trailers when towing.
Power comes from a choice of 2.0-litre engines - diesel, normally aspirated petrol and direct injection turbocharged petrol - all in Subaru's trademark horizontally opposed Boxer layout.
The diesel I drove was paired with a compact and snappy six-speed manual transmission - some models get a constantly variable automatic - and provided a good balance of pace and durability, coupling a 0-62mph sprint time of a snip under 10 seconds with the ability to tow up to two tonnes.
It's also pleasantly refined, Subaru having eradicated much of the diesel rattle and vibration that used to characterise their Boxer units, or at least isolated it from the cabin very well.
The Boxer format creates a low centre of gravity which has the bonus of endowing the Forester with the sort of driving and handling capabilities that are more akin to a family saloon.
It remains settled and relatively flat through corners, avoiding the excessive body roll you often get in SUVs, and handling is surprisingly nimble for a car of this size, with light and accurate steering making manoeuvring in tight spaces fairly painless.
Subaru's proven symmetrical all-wheel drive system also offers plenty of grip, takes wintry weather in its stride and offers the sort of go-anywhere potential that soft-roaders or the clutch of fashionable crossovers simply can't match.