If this seemingly endless winter weather has brought home one thing, it is the reassuring support offered by a car with four-wheel-drive.

More than once over the last few months, I have found the trusted traction of an all-wheel-drive vehicle has made the difference between anxious journeys in snow and ice and unruffled, trustworthy travel.

One of the undisputed masters of four-wheel-drive is Suzuki and the latest blast of sub-zero temperatures happily coincided with a spell at the wheel of the Vitara S, a model which comes with four-wheel-drive as standard.

The S model is the quickest Vitara on sale, powered by a turbocharged, 140 horsepower, 1.4-litre petrol engine, offering a wide spread of torque from low revs and more power and better fuel economy than the 1.6-litre petrol engine.

The five-door, five-seater S specification is easy to spot on the road thanks to 17-inch gloss black alloy wheels, a vertical grille design, rear upper spoiler and satin silver door mirrors.

Mated with a smooth, six-speed automatic gearbox, the engine is easy to manage around town and delivers plenty of power on the open road.

In line with the sportier image, the ride in the S model is a little firmer due to a stiffer suspension set-up, but it remains really comfortable with the bonus of improved body control during cornering.

Built in Hungary, like all other Vitara models it’s well equipped with seven airbags, including a driver’s knee airbag, along with Bluetooth mobile telephone link and DAB radio.

The S specification adds a smartphone link, satellite navigation, a radar-operated emergency braking system and adaptive cruise control. Red interior stitching, red air conditioning vents and instrument accents and aluminium alloy pedals add a sporty feel to the cabin.

There is a decent-sized loadspace that almost doubles when the rear seats are folded and for those that tow, the braked towing weight capacity is 1,200 kg.

Ever since its launch 30 years ago, the Vitara series has earned high acclaim for stylish designs, compact and easy-to-manage dimensions, good on-road performance and genuine off-road capability.

Its latest incarnation carries on the good work with an Allgrip system with four modes – auto, sport, snow and lock – selected at the flick of a dial between the front seats.

Auto mode is where you hopefully spend most of your time, with the emphasis on fuel economy using two-wheel-drive by default and automatically switching to four-wheel-drive if the system detects wheel spin.

Sport mode makes maximum use of four-wheel-drive and is specially set up for twisty roads.

Snow mode uses four-wheel drive by default and is the choice on snowy, unpaved, and other slippery surfaces.

The lock mode is for when you wish you had stayed at home, helping to extricate the car from snow, mud, or sand. A limited slip differential is fitted which helps brake any slipping wheel and transfers torque to the gripping wheels.

Standard equipment on all Vitara models is hill hold control that prevents the vehicle from rolling backwards for two seconds as soon you move your foot from the brake to the accelerator pedal.

Hill descent control is also standard on S and SZ5 Allgrip models. When the vehicle is travelling down a steep downward slope and engine braking is not sufficient to slow the vehicle, the system automatically applies the brakes to restrict vehicle speed, leaving you in full control.

Four-wheel-drive is clearly far from an everyday essential, but when winter drags on and road conditions deteriorate it is mighty comforting to know it is there.

Auto facts

Model: Suzuki Vitara S

Price: £24,599

Insurance group: 16E (1-50)

Fuel consumption (combined): 51.4mpg

Top speed: 124mph

Length: 417.5cm/164.4in

Width: 177.5cm/69.9in

Luggage capacity: 13.2 cu ft

Fuel tank capacity: 10.3 gallons/47 litres

CO2 emissions: 128 g/km

Warranty: Three years/60,000 miles