THE Suzuki Vitara has come in various shapes and sizes in its 30 years on the world's roads - from a trendy two door SUV with soft-top option to a fully fledged 4x4 in the shape of the now defunct Grand Vitara.
The current version sits somewhere in between and competes against an ever growing list of rivals in the hugely popular compact family crossover market.
None of those rivals, however, have the advantage of Suzuki's 1.4-litre Boosterjet engine, which comes exclusively with sportily-styled, range-topping S grade cars.
This turbocharged little powerpack can be mated with a smooth and precise six-speed manual transmission or an optional six-speed automatic - and it delivers some perky performance with either.
A 0-62mph sprint time of 10.2 seconds and top speed of 124mph might not seem overly exciting on paper, although they're pretty good for an SUV, but the Vitara S actually feels quicker from behind the wheel.
Maximum torque of 220Nm is available from just 1,500rpm and turbo lag is almost non-existent, resulting in responsive and punchy in-gear acceleration for easy overtaking and relaxed cruising on the open road.
Thanks to its lightweight construction and well-balanced chassis the Vitara S also serves up some sharp and nimble handling, with surprisingly little body roll in corners and impressive levels of grip thanks to the inclusion of Suzuki's impressive Allgrip intelligent all-wheel drive system.
Despite the sporty set-up the ride remains comfortable, with imperfections in the road surface being well absorbed by the suspension, and the car is quiet and refined when driving in town.
At motorway speeds, however, road and wind noise rises and will necessitate an increase in volume if you want to keep listening to your tunes.
This is a small annoyance, though, which does not detract from the fact that the Vitara S is one of the most enjoyable SUVs to drive - compact or otherwise.
It's also a pretty good looking one, distinguished from the rest of the range by 17-inch gloss black alloy wheels, a unique grille design, satin silver wing mirror caps, a rear spoiler, black side body mouldings and LED headlamps with striking red projector covers.
The sporty theme and colour scheme continues inside, with contrasting red stitching to the upholstery and leather-covered steering wheel, red accents for the air conditioning vents and instruments and aluminium pedals.
There are more unyielding plastics on show than you might expect in the interior of a flagship model but everything does feel solidly screwed together and very much built to last.
Passenger space is decent for a compact family car, with plenty of room up front while in the back head and leg room will be fine for all but the tallest of folk. Fitting three adults across the rear seat is possible, although probably not for long journeys, but will certainly be OK for kids.
The boot, at 375 litres, is also one of the most generous in the class and should cope with most family needs. There's no troublesome lip to negotiate when loading and a useful hidden compartment beneath the floor to stow valuables, while the 60/40 split rear seats also fold down to create extra load-carrying capacity.
Equipment levels in the Vitara S are certainly worthy of a range topper and include an intuitive seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system featuring navigation, digital radio and smartphone connectivity; rearview camera; automatic air conditioning; adaptive cruise control; automatic emergency braking; keyless entry and ignition and automatic lights and wipers.