Reduced weight and less chunky styling have played a massive part in improving the environmental credentials of go-anywhere mobility.
But smart electronics deserve the lion’s share of the credit for the dramatic benefits in efficiency that are allowing some of the latest off-road vehicles match many conventional hatchbacks in the key area of operating economy.
Fuel-sapping mechanical links that used to provide permanent four-wheel drive have been replaced by intelligent gadgetry that identifies which wheels can use most grip - then provides it in an instant to give the greatest traction.
As most travel over normal road surfaces requires power to be channelled to only two wheels, today’s ‘smart’ equipment makes it possible to achieve significant fuel savings.
One of the best examples of the technology comes from Suzuki. The Japanese company has built up considerable expertise in rough-and-tumble transport over the years, and its latest 4WD system is proving to be a sophisticated package.
Drive variations are imperceptible as sensors constantly determine how much of the engine’s power needs to be apportioned to the rear wheels and the result is smooth progress at all times.
A lock mode for the system makes the S-Cross feel equally confident in tricky situations off road and is particularly useful for caravan or trailer uses as it channels a high degree of torque to the rear to cope with mud and other soft surfaces.
Even though the car was delivered to us in the depth of winter, we’ve had no opportunity to test out the system’s snow setting, another mode that operates in 4WD by default and uses steering and accelerator settings to make adjustments to traction.
However, after 5,000 miles of driving in every other weather condition, the gadgetry Suzuki markets as Allgrip clearly allows this model to punch above its weight in the growing compact crossover sector.
Test mpg: 56
Current mileage: 5,000