Can it be? Am I actually enjoying this SUV? I've always been partial to the compact car: practical, closer to the ground, great gas mileage and less surface area to keep clean. I tend not to believe in the notion that "bigger is better," but in this case it might be true. The Suzuki XL-7 is fun to drive and makes me understand the popularity of the SUV.

The things I love best about this SUV are the controls and storage compartments in the front. The entire driver's seating area is as comfortable and organized as my living room, which is my sanctuary. It's not especially fancy; it's just simple and well-planned, yet not boring or plain. There are a lot of driver controls in this car (including the electronically activated 4WD system, 6-CD changer, heated seats, front and rear A/C controls, traction control) and the XL-7 has them positioned effortlessly to make driving a breeze.

There are three cupholders in the front, cell phone storage and sun glass storage. There is also an overhead console for additional storage (which can be turned into an optional sun roof). The center console lid folds open to the back to offer two additional cupholders. It is also big enough to fit my fat CD case. I'm giddy.

The second row is designed for three passengers and folds down for storage. It can also slide forward to offer more leg room for third row passengers, and to allow passengers to access the back row. The downside to this sliding system is that the tracks that the seats slide on are overtly visible, and plainly ugly. They also collect crud.

The third row is built to accommodate two passengers or two car seats, but with little to no legroom. My (6-foot-4) husband attempts to sit back there and literally has his knees to his nose. Granted, he doesn't normally opt to sit where he isn't comfortable but we have to make room for Grandma (who always rides shotgun), my father, my uncle and my son. So in the back he goes.

Here's how the seating configuration works in the seven-passenger XL-7. Front row: driver and passenger (the lucky ones who get to enjoy the spacious quarters though they suffer with seatbelts that cut across one breast and the opposite collarbone, even after being "adjusted"). Second row: three passengers (who squeeze together to fit), or two child car seats and no additional passengers; or one car seat and one other passenger. Third row: two passengers (preferably short people who aren't' concerned with ample legroom), or two car seats, again with no legroom. Confused? Basically it will accommodate seven people but not comfortably. And the third row is probably best for children only, since it lacks legroom.

While I find the second row seats take muscle to fold down and up again, the third row seats easily fold down to offer more cargo space. Since I have a small family the third row isn't really a consideration but for someone who needs good cargo space and has to occasionally accommodate a sixth or seventh passenger, it's good to have.

The tailgate swings open from left to right rather then opening like the trunk of a car (up and down). Once I start to open the door, a hydraulic-like system takes over and finishes opening it so I can free my hands to load groceries. I am also able to load three trees after a trip to the nursery. My son has a twig in his face on the way home, but it is nice not to drive my husband's clunky truck (that he never keeps clean) just to pick up some landscaping supplies.

For the ability to interchange passenger seating and cargo space, I now see why SUVs are favored by many families today. There seems to be a lot of climbing around in this vehicle to get people and things settled, but it's all good up here in front. I get my three cupholders, my steering wheel driver controls and heated leather seats to keep me happily driving.

*For more information on the Suzuki XL-7 and its safety features visit Cars.com .

Let's Talk Numbers

LATCH connectors: 4

Passenger seating (including driver): 7

It's the Little Things That Count

Storage Compartments (puny, fair, ample, galore): ample

Cargo/Trunk Space (puny, fair, ample, galore): ample

Sense and Style

Family Friendly (not really, fair, great, excellent): great

Fun-Factor (None, some, good times, groove-on): good times