IT'S been with us for six years now, but the Suzuki Vitara still looks up-to-date and chirpy - in a ‘mini-Evoque' sort of fashion.
But looks are never quite enough in this hugely competitive sector that has broadened noticeably with the introduction of models such as the Ford Puma, Skoda Kamiq and the latest Peugeot 2008.
But with attraction of part electrification supplied by a 48v hybrid system which reduces emissions by 20 per cent and benefits fuel consumption by 15 per cent, the current Vitara's appeal is strengthened.
Company car users will also find their benefit in kind tax sliced by a useful four per cent.
Although the technology lowers the power output marginally to 127bhp, torque rises which tends to nullify the power loss and allow the compact five-door to feel just as lively if not more responsive than the non-hybrid version.
The immediacy of the car's reactions is particularly noticeable at getaway when it picks up its heels with gusto.
Unlike most rival crossovers and SUVs, the Vitara SZ5 is driven by all four wheels giving it the sort of adhesion and cross country capability that no normal two-wheel drive rival is able to match.
Space is well used in the Vitara. Despite the compact external dimensions, there's plenty of room for four tall adults, partly thanks to the upright stance and seating position.
The boot, with 375 litre capacity, is big enough to absorb the family luggage and has a false floor which allows you to alter the platform level.
The floor itself is reversible - one side carpeted and the other has a hard surface which is spongeable.
Unfortunately the facia and cabin feels a tad low rent compared to models alike the Puma, T-Roc and 2008. Some plastics feel somewhat harsh and brittle and the sat-nav and audio controls aren't quite up to the latest standards. The doors also are a tad too lightweight to shut with a quality ‘clunk'.
No shortage of basic equipment though. Air con, sat nav, electric folding mirrors, alloy wheels, LED lighting and double sliding glass pan-roof are all standard features.
There are few high-riders that can justly claim to offer genuine driver satisfaction, but the Vitara has this quality by the spade-load. Its eagerness and mechanical harmony together with sharp reactions and compliant ride make it great fun on cross country roads.
Its six-speed automatic gearbox, complete with steering wheel paddles, complements the brisk acceleration well, and also takes the strain out of town driving.
There's some cornering roll but the side-benefit from this is that poor road surfaces aren't allowed to spoil the ride. Steering is on the light side but that's often the case with vehicles designed to romp over the rough stuff as well as spending most of their time on conventional Tarmac.
Although the 1.4-litre turbo lacks nothing in terms of energy, it tends to get somewhat noisy when revved. This, together with some road rumble, can make motorway cruising over long distances tiring.