SUZUKI is in a good place at the moment with global sales up by 18 per cent over the past nine months and European sales up by 21 per cent at a time when the car market is struggling to cope with supply problems and a global pandemic.
The company also recently gained the honour of being rated the top automotive brand for customer service and trust in the UK by the Institute of Customer Service ahead of 25 other brands.
Suzuki now offers some form of hybrid technology in all its vehicles and has just introduced full hybrid tech into its popular Vitara range.
The good-looking five-door compact SUV has style and character and the introduction of full hybrid technology is sure to make it even more attractive in what is a very crowded segment of the market
The Vitara has offered 48-volt mild hybrid technology for some time alongside a 1.4-litre petrol engine but customers can now opt for the full hybrid version which offers extra fuel savings - a bonus when pump prices are at an all-time high.
The four-cylinder full hybrid comes with a 1.5-litre petrol engine and140v lithium battery combined with a 24kW electric motorwhich is completely new, while the engine is a version of the one fitted to the Jimny.
It is only available withSuzuki's AGS system which stands for Automated Gear Select and feels like an ordinary automatic but with weight savings. There are also paddles so the car can be driven like a manual if you feel the urge.
The full hybrid will eventually replace the mild hybrid version but Suzuki will retain a model with a manual transmission due to customer demand.
Available in two trim levels - SZ-T and SZ5 - the latter has the option of ALLGRIP 4WD and prices start from Â£25,499 and rise to Â£29,299.
As both trims are generously equipped the only way to personalise your car is to opt for two-tone bodywork that adds a black roof and £835 to the final cost.
A styling refresh a couple of years ago modernised the Vitara's looks and added new bumpers, a new and bigger front grille as well as smart LED lights - so there are no visual changes this time.
Under the bonnet things are different and the full hybrid system delivers115PS of power and 138Nm of torque,enabling the ALLGRIP 4x4 to reach 62mph in 13.5 seconds before going on to a top speed of 111mph.
While these stats mean the Vitara is not a sporty performer it does always feel willing and well planted.
According to the latest WLTP figures you will be able to get up to 57mpg on longer journeys and average a combined 48.4mpg. Suzuki reckons this will save owners about £10 a month in fuel costs if they average 10,000 miles a year.
I spent some time with the range-topping Vitara full hybrid SZ5 with ALLGRIP in a very wet Snowdonia National Park and it was ideal for the job.
It coped easily with the foul weather and offered stacks of grip in the poor conditions and twisting roads.
Inside very little has changed since the car's last makeover and it could do with a refresh to bring it up to the same standard as its sibling S-Cross.
The compact infotainment touchscreen is a bit small compared to many of its rivals but it does controla six-speaker sound system, sat nav, DAB digital radio,Bluetooth,a rearview parking camera and smartphone connectivity.
While the touchscreen is a bit dated, the cockpit is still very good with all switches and dials easy to use and read and some systems can be operated from buttons on the steering wheel.
My car was good to drive and only became a bit noisy when you pushed it really hard or tackled a very steep slope. It does cruise quietly at motorway speeds with little noise inside the spacious cabin and it is also happy plodding about town.
The Vitara is more about comfort than speed so you have to allow plenty of time for overtaking but it does handle and ride well.
New Eco and Standard drive modes alter the handling and efficiency of the car, and the ALLGRIP set-up also has its own modes. These are calledAuto, Sport, Snow and lock. Auto is for maximising the fuel efficiency and uses two-wheel drive as a default.
TheSportmodeadds some fun while Snow offers extra grip on slippery surfaces and Lock can be used to free the car if you get stuck in snow, mud or sand.
The Vitara sits on reasonably sized 17-inch alloy wheels and combined with the suspension changes the result is a comfortable ride on most surfaces. The steering remains a little light but it is accurate and ideal for town work.
There is room for four adults and thanks to its higher stance the Vitara offers good all-round visibility.
The boot is not huge but can take 289 litres of kit and this increases to 642 litres if you drop the 60:40 split rear seats. There is also a handy adjustable boot floor and lots of storage space inside the cabin.
Suzuki has introduced lots of extra safety tech over the years and they all come as standard and include ablind spot monitor, lane departure warning and lane departure prevention, rear cross traffic alert, traffic sign recognition, ISOFIX anchors, a tyre pressure monitor, vehicle sway warning (on ALLGRIP models), adaptive cruise control and seven airbags as well as some other features.
One of them is calledDual Sensor Brake Support and works between 3mph and 62mph. If the system decides there is arisk of a collision it issuesan audio and visual warning. If these warnings are ignored, the brakes are automatically applied to prevent the risk of an accident.
There are stacks of rivals in the Vitara segment but none of them offer the same levels of standard equipment for the same money.
Suzuki also has a solid reputation for reliability and that is why its customers stick with the brand and show their satisfaction.
I have always liked the Vitara's blend of style, practicality and value for money and with the new full hybrid technology It is better than ever.