SUZUKI, once known chiefly for its superbikes, was ahead of the game when it came to SUVs - even before the initials held any significance.
There was the SJ range of small off-roaders, then the original Vitara and Grand Vitara plus the niche 4WD Jimny. Wind the clock on, and there's a newer Vitara and the revitalised S-Cross, which we drive here.
One of the few small crossovers to be available with 4WD, the neatly re-styled S-Cross in full hybrid guise gets a 1.5-litre engine and what's known as ‘automated manual transmission' which to most owners will translate as merely as an automatic.
It's an appealing package - not least for its abundant kit. The Ultra version gets nine-inch touchscreen, heated seats, sat nav, reversing camera and sliding glass panoramic roof among other goodies.
Front and rear seats are comfortable and well contoured and head height for six-footers is no problem. Rear legroom is a tad restricted, however, if front seats occupants take full advantage of their space.
An inevitability of electrification is somewhat restricted luggage room in the boot to make space for the battery set-up. The S-Cross must make do with 293 litres of cargo room, noticeably down on the mild hybrid which is available as a 1.4-litre manual.
Few buyers look for a blistering performance from a small SUV, but acceleration in the S-Cross is more lethargic than most with 62mph coming up in a leisurely 13 secs. This can mainly be put down to the transmission which is somewhat ponderous as it goes through the gears,
The manual model - 1.4-litre only - is noticeably more punchy. But back to the Full Hybrid, so long as you don't floor the throttle and choose to take a more measured approach to driving, progress is smooth and fairly silent.
The clear gain is in terms of economy. The fuel gauge descends slowly with most owners easily topping the 50mpg mark. There's some tyre noise from the road but mechanically there's minimal intrusion.
Cornering is safe and predictable with a little body roll when pressing on. The positive side of this is that bumps and road scars, of which there are plenty, are easily ironed out with disturbance to the passengers.
Steering is a bit numb, a common debit with off-roaders and SUVs, mainly because it's necessary to prevent too many shocks to be passed through to the driver over rough terrain.
Four selectable driving modes are available - Auto for everyday running, Sport for a bit of fun on twisty roads, Lock for scrabbling out of tricky situations and Snow which is fairly obvious.
The cabin, while vastly improved over the previous S-Cross thanks to soft-touch materials and higher grade plastic mouldings, doesn't quite match the standards set by some European makers. It is, however, practical enough with ample stowage space and easy to clean surfaces.
One peculiarity is that the sat nav cannot be programmed on the move - presumably for safety reasons. This, however, is quite irritating when you gave a passenger aboard who can easily and safely operate the screen if it were permitted.