Suzuki Grand Vitara five-door 1.9-litre diesel SZ5.

Price: £23,875 (on the road).

Top speed: 106mph.

0-62mph: 13.2 seconds.

Fuel: 42.8mpg (combined figure).

CO2 emissions (g/km): 174.

Verdict: Excellent off-road ability, strong diesel, good looks, well built, versatile, roomy, well equipped and great value.

JAPANESE giant Suzuki has been raising the profile of its classylooking Grand Vitara yet continuing to offer the vehicle at a price that beats rivals hands down.

The five-door 4x4 is in much demand when fitted with a 127bhp turbo diesel motor and this latest unit is not only a strong performer but cleaner on CO2 emissions, which puts the car into a lower VED tax band, and it is also slighter better on fuel with a combined everyday return of 42.8mpg.

Prices start at £16,000 for the three-door 1.6-litre petrol SZ3, rising to £23,875 for the five-door 1.9- litre diesel SZ5.

There is no doubt that the Grand Vitara’s body shell has poise and purpose with far more visual appeal than many other off-roaders.

And for this year the model has been given a fresher face with a more modern front end which includes a new bumper, grille and fog lights. And inside it is more technologically advanced with a touch screen colour navigation system, Bluetooth integrated into an audio unit, and keyless entry and engine start.

The interior is roomy and can easily seat four or five large adults. The vehicle is also versatile with generous cargo space of almost 400 litres which increases to 758 with the split rear seats down.

And giving the interior a more opulent look is the leather upholstery with heated front seats which all come as standard items.

Off-road, the four-cylinder diesel provides sufficient torque or pulling power to get in and out of some fairly tight spots and the independent suspension and high ground clearance help to keep the car responding well in the rough.

There is the big advantage of switchable high and low ratio gears to aid off-road progress and ensure you don’t get stuck in the mud.

On the road the car handles well with the steering well weighted and the fairly firmly sprung suspension keeping body roll in check on sharp and fast bends.

The five-speed manual transmission has well-spaced ratios for swift progress, though with the engine being so flexible and willing an extra sixth gear would be a welcome addition on long hauls.

However, it’s a good drive and easy to live with.

Safety and security are tops with ABS, EBD and brake assistance as well as an electronic stability programme.

Suzuki has given the Grand Vitara an excellent specification list, particularly for comfort and convenience, and this includes automatic air conditioning, cruise control, electric windows with driver’s auto down, tilt adjustable steering wheel and driver’s seat height adjustment.

Suzuki has been enjoying bumper sales in the UK and globally, with India becoming a large market for the marque.

The good-looking Swift is setting a cracking pace among the supermini set and at present limitededition and other models with generous equipment levels are selling VAT- free until the end of June. The 1.0-litre Alto continues to be extremely popular with Suzuki virtually selling as many cars as the company can make.

There are also VAT savings on this model until the end of June.

The Alto SZ1, for example, is currently priced at £5,999 (on the road) instead of the normal price of £7,199. The Splash and SX4, with a 4WD option, are also on special offer.

An interesting addition to the Suzuki range is the plush Kizashi, a 2.4-litre medium-sized petrol saloon with an advanced CVT system.

It’s a cracking car to drive and has been on sale in Japan and American for a few years. At £21,995, it is well equipped with just 500 cars being made available in the UK. Pity there’s no diesel.