THERE is little doubt that, as far as motoring is concerned, 2015 was the year of the sports utility vehicle, or SUV, and its ‘crossover’ little brother.

These cars that take the style of the hunky 4x4 and smooth it out for, primarily, family use are fast becoming the automotive ‘must have’. Pretty much every manufacturer is joining the stampede to follow the trend begun a few years ago by Nissan with its super-successful Qashqai.

Offerings from Nissan (X-Trail and Juke) Renault (Captur and Kadjar), Jeep (Cherokee and Renegade), Honda (CR-V and HR-V) and Mitsubishi (Outback and ASX), Suzuki (Vitara), and Fiat (500X) were served up for Weekend Wheels’ to sample and proved a tasty tapas treat if ever there was one.

Our favourite was the recently driven HR-V, which falls between the Qashqai and Juke in size. A combination of smooth exterior style, high quality trim and Honda engineering won us over. But there’s an honourable mention for the Vitara, too, which offers true off-road capability in a neat on-road package.

There were full-size SUVs aplenty, too, with the Range Rover Discovery Sport replacing the Freelander, and a new Nissan X-Trail and Kia Sorento proving that big is beautiful. The last of this trio gets our vote. It’s a major leap in style and interior finish over its predecessor, feeling quite limo-like rather than something you need to tow your caravan.

From pulling power to pace. We were lucky enough to drive some truly engaging fast cars, from hatch-pack hotties, including the Juke Nismo and Corsa VXR, by way of the gloriously quick Skoda VRs to the sublime experience of the supercar-paced Audi RS3.

Our car of the year doesn’t fall into any of the previous categories, although it is no slouch in the performance stakes. We are talking about the excellent Jaguar XE, which extends the appeal of the Big Cat marque towards drivers who usually go for the BMW 3-Series or Audi A4, offering the ‘compact executive express’ experience much loved by those buyers.