SPORT Utility Vehicles. Everyone loves them. They’re the fastest growing sector of the car market in every major European country - and have been for more than a decade.

So you can’t blame manufacturers for looking to add a bit of SUV glamour to every model they sell.

Honda’s new Crosstar isn’t a ‘new’ model per se. It’s a ruggedised version of the funky Jazz supermini.

So it has the usual SUV acoutrements: some black plastic on the lower body panels and wheel arches, a increase in ride height and roof rails so you have somewhere to stash your surf board after a long day riding the waves.

The Northern Echo:

There’s no four-wheel drive, so you won’t be venturing onto wet sand for your ‘boarding adventures, and the modest boost to the ride height means the toughest terrain you can tackle with confidence is a steep kerb.

Reinforcing the impression that the Crosstar is a toe-in-the-water it’s only available in one trim level (top of the range EX) and with one powertrain: two, electric motors connected to a 1.5-litre DOHC i-VTEC petrol engine, a lithium-ion battery and a fixed-gear transmission.

It’s as smooth and fuss-free as it is in the standard Jazz; the motors working in harmony with the lean burn engine to maximise mpg. We achieved more than 45mpg in town and nearer to 60mpg on the motorway.

It’s a shame that the fixed-gear auto transmission develops such a racket when you demand full acceleration but the din calms down when you’re just cruising.

Handling-wise it’s as safe and secure as the Jazz hatch. The extra 37mm in ride height isn’t noticable even on gnarly B-roads.

In town it still feels a bit short on suspension travel (a common Honda trait) and the shocks sometimes prefer to crash over poorly surfaced roads rather than absorb whatever is thrown their way.

Nevertheless, the Crosstar is about as benign a car as is possible to get. Driven in the manner prescribed - sensibily and with a degree of mechanical sympathy - it won’t ever give you a moment’s trouble whether you’re tooling around town or bowling down the outside lane of the M1.

It’s not particularly fast, but I had no trouble keeping up with motorway traffic and the electric motors make it surprisingly sprightly away from junctions and traffic lights.

You won’t be surprised to learn that the interior is very much like a Jazz.

That’s a good thing when the donor vehicle is one of the most innovative small cars on the market.

The Northern Echo:

The Crosstar benefits from the same ‘magic seats’ in the back which tumble and fold to create a huge boot space for such a compact car. It also has the same well thought out interior with lots of room for a driver and three adult passengers.

A word, too, about forward visibilty which is excellent. The slim A-pillars and generous glass area combine to give outstanding all-round vision.

Honda has fitted the same touchscreen infotainment system as used in the Jazz. The headline act is wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone control.

The system worked flawlessly with a range of phones and means Honda can get away with selling the Crosstar without a sat nav because your phone is expected to perform that function.

So should you buy one?

There’s no doubting the Crosstar broadens the appeal of the Jazz range. Significantly, it is expected to attracted younger customers than the hatch (although that shouldn’t be too hard).

As a rival to the Ford Fiesta Active and the Audi CityCarver it offers a practical alternative designed with typical Honda attention to detail.

And if it is a success we can expect to see other models given the Crosstar treatment.

How we rated it

PERFORMANCE: Modest. Transmission does the engine no favours under acceleration. **

CABIN: Lots of neat touches and tons of space add up to an excellent small car interior. ***1/2

PRACTICALITY: Very good indeed. Magic seats are oustanding.***1/2

VALUE: Too early to say how the market will receive the Crosstar but the Jazz has a loyal fanbase.  ***1/2