OK, own up! Who's been hiding this thing? Where has this car been and why isn't it outselling everything else on the market?

Suzuki's Liana GS is one big surprise package – a fully loaded five-door hatch with a willing 1.8-litre engine and lots of room and comfort. Even the Koreans would be amazed.

Mind you, it has taken a while for the Liana to reach this level. Previous versions weren't as physically attractive and had so-so performance and ordinary equipment levels.

They were exceptionally reliable and fuel efficient but looked awkward, with a bulbous body and weeny wheels.

As a fight back, Suzuki upped the engine size and started loading the interior with accessories to create the GS with a startling $19,990 price tag.

Off the mark the GS sparks down the road with a lovely revvy engine and a slick five-speed manual box. Auto is optional.

The steering is well weighted and though it has some vagueness the wheel is light and easy to twirl through the Subi Centro maze.

Despite the test car being a manual, this was one of the easiest cars I've driven.

Some spectators thought the Liana – I just knew you wanted to know that it stands for Life In A New Age – a bit bulky.

Certainly it's a bulbous shape but it has been tamed by the use in the GS of a bodykit and big alloy wheels.

The bonus is the interior room. It will seat four adults with excellent headroom and sufficient legroom and there's not much complaint when you add a third adult to the rear seat.

The boot is accommodating, helped by the welcome feature of sliding – and reclining – rear seats that allow a flexible interior for people or cargo.

I like the Liana's dashboard, which has excellent items such as general instrumentation and ventilation controls, though the radio switches are fiddly.

Some may not like the gloomy all-black interior of the GS but there are some silver plastic highlights and – above everything else – the fine cord-clothed seats have excellent support, feel luxurious and look great. Running through the standard gear in this car – and remembering this is a sub-$20,000 carriage – you get airconditioning, electric windows and mirrors, central locking, CD player, sliding rear seat, alloy wheels, a full bodykit and dual airbags.

On the road the 1.8-litre engine runs clean and fast, and though the manual version can hiccup off the mark if you don't feed in more revs, the rest of the rev-band is all about releasing power.

There is some understeer and, when pushed hard there is bodyroll but I won't overly criticise here because that's not the market for this car.

It fights hard against cars from Toyota, Hyundai, Nissan and Mazda and I recommend giving this car a decent try.