A number of well-publicised rescue missions during the worst of recent winters have transformed the way most people view the role of 4x4 cars.
After years of being derided as Chelsea tractors, the biggest off-road models now enjoy hero status, even though some flout their go-anywhere credentials with macho styling complete with bullbars.
But take a step down in size and the combination of softer design lines and improved operating costs are the key reasons why C-segment crossover models are finding increasing favour with motorists.
Currently, around 20 examples are contesting the sales area pioneered seven years ago by the Nissan Qashqai and one of the most recent arrivals – Suzuki’s SX4 S Cross SZ-T – has just joined our long-term test fleet.
With its generous specification backed by keen pricing, the SZ-T is clearly intended to win ground in the user-chooser market.
Standing on polished, 17-inch alloy wheels, the car’s long list of equipment includes tyre pressure monitoring, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated and folding door mirrors, black skid plates and wheel arch extensions.
With satellite navigation, DAB radio, a rear-parking camera, rear parking sensors and extra chrome styling touches included for good measure, the SZ-T adds up to an attractive standard package indeed.
Now sized closer to the most successful vehicles in the sector, the new S-Cross has a bigger interior more suited to all-purpose travel with adequate accommodation for five.
Boot space is also good and among the best in class at 430 litres.
Under the bonnet is a 1.6-litre engine and after the relatively few miles it has been driven so far, impressions are that the car has a more accomplished feel than its predecessor with suspension that combines good ride quality and neat handling.