Ford’s aspirations of being a significant player in the SUV market in Europe are quietly being achieved.

While some of its more mainstream cars are creaking in their respective league tables against stiff competition (read here Mondeo/Fiesta), the brand's small medium and large SUV lines are forging ahead. So much so that last year more than one in five its vehicles sold in Europe were SUVs.

Year-to-date SUV sales up 21% versus 2017, driven by best-ever years for compact EcoSport (up 105%) and mid-size Kuga, up 27% year over year. And, its biggest model, the Edge – which has a new model on the way – is also capturing a slice of that highly competitive sector.

It all adds up to the fact that sales of Ford's EcoSport, Kuga and Edge have reached a whopping 259,200 so far this year – Ford’s best-ever year for SUV sales.

A recent sojourn with the Ford Edge Vignale version, ie the very top of the range, proved just why Ford really is getting the 'edge' on SUV sales.

With a price tag in the early £40k's, and some pretty damned high specification levels, this is a very serious contender and should not be overlooked by rural buyers. And, it should be no surprise to learn that Ford has sold more than 34,000 Edge SUVs to customers across Europe since its launch in 2016.

First impression is that this is a fairly big car. While it is aimed at competing with the likes of Audi's Q5/3 and BMW's X3, it certainly looks bigger than they do and at a comparable price.

The Vignale designation adds a bit of pizzazz to what is already a well-stocked inventory for the Edge, which also comes in ST-Line and Titanium versions.

The Vignale badge includes some pretty hefty 20-inch wheels and if, like me, you travel on roads infested with giant potholes, then this is the very dab for taking the shock out of the all too common bone-shuddering badger-sized holes in the road. Those wheels look pretty swanky too, being of a polished chrome finish, a theme which carries through on to styling feature on the rest of the Vignales – things like a big chrome grill and accents around the outer rims of the Edge.

There's adaptive LED headlights and tinted windows – a feature which elicits comments in Scotland about whether or not you are a drug dealer! – but all adds to the final look.

Inside, don't expect shiny walnut to feature too much, but it is quite a stylish and well put together offering. That includes some of the comfiest seats I've sat in for some while and, of course, leather features highly in the trim.

There's a light and airy feel about the interior, too. It's exterior size means there's tonnes of space inside and it's much better than some of the Land Rover products which tend to squeeze the front occupants because of their giant drive trains.

This also translates into load space, with 602 litres in the boot area, which is accessed via a powered tailgate – this works off the key, the boot itself, or that awkward one of waving your foot underneath it (I never quite got the hang of that!).

So, despite the big space up front and the massive rear luggage area, does that means the second row space is compromised. Not a bit of it. There's acres of space for the rear passengers, who have the ability to recline the backrests, but not much more adjustment than that.

Up front, the seats are powered and heated (bliss on a cold morning) and there's a nice layout on the dash, with much of the visual display digitised. It has an eight-inch touchscreen, with Ford’s latest Sync 3 system installed and a pretty easy to operate satnav. Similarly, Ford has one of the easiest hook-ups for your mobile phones – just a couple of pops and you're in.

Power comes from Ford's well-proven 2.0-litre diesel engine, which is rated at 207bhp – that is just about enough for this big girl to show a fine turn of speed. Towing with it, though, I'm not so sure that there's enough oomph to be comfortable with 'agricultural' work. There is, however, a 235bhp, bi-turbo diesel version on the way for 2019 and that would go a long way towards cancelling out those fears.

It's not a lightweight either, crossing the weighs scales at a hand bag under two tonnes and the standard auto gearbox struggles to achieve the nominal 9.4s/0-62mph time.

But, it's still a pretty nimble and agile vehicle for its size and part of the spec' includes the use of microphone sensors around the cabin which can gauge the engine sound and road noise. The clever diagnostics then filters a sound through the speakers which cancels that out. Don't ask me how that works, but it does.

Ford reckons that you can get just short of 50mpg with this version of the engine (a de-tuned one of 148bhp is also available), but I struggled to get into the early 40s – which is still quite good for this size of motor.

There’s also a range of safety systems – active lane assist and traffic sign recognition to keep you on the straight and narrow, though the lane assist can give you more than just a gentle reminder of when crossing a white line without any indication. It's actually one of the things I switch off now.

So, there it is. It's quite a machine. The question is: Would you rather spend about £40k on a good looking vehicle with great spec' – or £60k on one with the same spec', but maybe a 'better' name?

And what's new for 2019:

• The Ford Edge gets innovative driver assistance technology plus new powertrains. It features an even more comprehensive range of camera- and sensor-based driver assistance technologies.

• There's adaptive cruise control allied to Ford's Co-Pilot360 driver assistance technology package. Plus a host of 'smart' technology, like wireless mobile phone charging

• More power comes from the latest version of the 2-litre EcoBlue diesel at 235bhp, with bi-turbo fitted to match a new eight-speed automatic transmission.

First carried July 12, 2018 – updated December 13, 2018