Although we should not assign human traits to cars, it is rather unavoidable with the Suzuki brand because they seem such cheerful, affable cars. The fact is their cars are always fun to drive and the Escudo is no exception. Some regions, including Europe, know this diminutive 4x4 as the Vitara.

For years, in a rather low-profile way, Suzuki have been selling competitively priced cars that have been good to drive but rather lacking in the social graces we come to expect from prestige brands. Interiors were functional but displayed rather a lot of hard, plain plastic that gave fussy passengers a bit of a low-rent vibe. Those days are gone.

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The Latest Versions

Although it has been with us for a few years now the current model Suzuki Escudo is a real step up in quality. There is, as ever, some robust plastic on the dashboard and door sills but now it's subdued and textured to deliver what should be a hard-wearing finish; making it an ideal for a busy family. Otherwise, in this range-topping European SZ5 version pictured, the inside is now a pleasant, airy place to be thanks to the big sunroof. The seats are supportive and, on the featured car, were upholstered in a leather/suede mix.

The Escudo falls under the general heading of 'Crossover' which means it is roomy with plenty of storage and ample legroom without being massively cumbersome like a full-size SUV. The cascading piano-black dashboard is blissfully button free with most functions controlled through a touchscreen or via the leather steering wheel (optional and region dependent). Some controls are a bit fiddly but on the whole it works well. The satellite navigation is accurate with clear voice guidance.

Technology that you will actually use are all on board with cruise control, US and Aux sockets and climate control as well as a standout Bluetooth system with music steaming. The boot offers a reasonable 375L of space or 710L with the rear seats folded. Perfectly adequate plus the boot has hidden depths, literally. There's security storage beneath the false floor and beneath that is the spare wheel well.

The Vehicle

Traditionally, Suzuki are masters at delivering good four-wheel-drive systems and the Escudo features the company’s patented AllGrip technology which is simplicity itself to use. Leave it in Auto and the car will drive two wheels but will switch drive to the corner with the best grip should the need arise. Sport mode makes maximal use of four-wheel drive in accordance with accelerator inputs. At low and mid-range engine speeds, the system alters the accelerator/torque characteristics to optimise engine response and cornering. When things get muddy, icy or snowy just click over to Snow mode for added all-wheel security. 4WD can be locked too to get the car out of sticky situations. A great system. There are, again, many regional variants so check that your selected model has what you need.

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The Suzuki Escudo is good to drive. The company have mostly done away now with larger capacity engines, although they are still available in some regions on used vehicles. Now, a 1.6L petrol motor suffices (there's also a diesel) and Suzuki offer the new 1.4L turbo-charged ‘Boosterjet’ engine in some markets.

Variants have a five-speed manual gearbox but Suzuki now offer a new six-speed which will make for more relaxed distance cruising. The car has good looks and is one of the more attractively designed crossovers.

Tried and tested around the world, the Suzuki Escudo (or Vitara) is recommended as a reliable choice for mixed use.

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