IT'S a rare beast that can combine the diverse attributes of tenacious grip and reliability off-road with sportscar-like performance and handling on the highway.
But Suzuki has managed to package both features into its Vitara S model, making it a very seductive buy indeed.
And while it has the distinctive appearance of a 4x4 the Vitara S drives and handles like a sporting family hatchback. It's light, agile and very quick off the mark.
The secret is its turbocharged 1.4-litre Boosterjet engine which delivers sharp acceleration from go with mid range performance a delight for the motorist who likes to push on quickly.
And because the suspension set-up has been altered from that of the standard Vitara there is no body roll to speak off and plenty of grip.
This car came with a six speed automatic gearbox which delivered seamless gear changes and an instant surge when you put your right foot down hard despite the relatively small engine.
And true to its sportscar-like credentials there are paddles behind the steering wheel so you can drive the car manually for more hands-on motoring.
The S model is at the top end of the Vitara range and this is reflected in its price, but it comes with a nice bit of kit on board and is still less than half the cost of similar looking models from some other manufacturers.
Standard features include satellite navigation, adaptive cruise control and a radar support system which warns you of any impending collision and then applies the brakes if you don't.
Externally black alloys, black side mouldings, silver mirror caps and a rear spoiler all add to its sporty appearance.
When it comes to off-road work there's a switchable hill descent system for steep declines and a limited slip differential allowing you to lock the axles for when the going gets really tough.
Inside the cabin it's bright and modern with red surrounds on the dials and on the air vents contrasting with the silver and black of the dashboard and there‘s a tasteful and warm sued-like finish to the seats.
A double deck boot means there is decent luggage space with some 375 litres available as well as numerous on-board openings for smaller items.
For most of the time the Vitara S is powered by the front axle but as soon as any slippage is detected both axles come into play to get you out of trouble.
A dial near the gearshift allows you to change from the regular auto mode to sport for livelier performance than you have any right to expect from any small engined 4x4 and there is also a snow setting for winter motoring.