What is an SUV?
An SUV is an abbreviation for ‘sports utility vehicle’. In the past, SUVs were deemed as light commercial vehicles that were able to handle extreme off-road conditions. Although, with the recent rise of ‘new’ SUVs this definition of the automotive class has changed. Nowadays if someone was to tell you they bought an SUV, your first thought would be a stylish, two-wheel drive car that was a tad larger than a station wagon. As the market became more saturated with SUVs, companies designed new models to appeal to everyday drivers. Do you think that Susie, a mum of three from down the street would want to buy a large 4×4 Toyota Landcruiser? That is why almost all large automotive manufacturers are releasing models classed as SUVs which are more suited for the tarmac than off-road. SUVs can be split into the size variations of small, medium, and large. Examples of a small SUV in Australia is the Audi Q2, a BMW X3 can be classified as a medium SUV, and an example of a large SUV is the Hyundai Santa Fe. All three models are only some of many that have contributed to the rise of SUVs in Australia.
Rise of SUVs
There is no denying the rise of SUVs in this country. Ken Gratton from motoring.com.au has noticed that in 2017, SUV sales had outsold passenger vehicle sales in Australia for the first time. The figures were 425,217 SUVs sold, to only 413,264 passenger vehicles. So why is this the case? For over the last decade passenger vehicle sales have been steadily declining. The Global Financial Crisis in 2008 only rubbed salt into the wounds. As a result afterwards, SUVs were now seen as a ‘do-all’ vehicle. The size of the class allowed more room for passengers and cargo whilst still looking and performing like a regular passenger vehicle. Furthermore, with advances in technology, economical engines have been developed which decrease fuel consumption to a point that the difference to a small passenger car is minimal. In some cases, the engine is shared across multiple classes from the same manufacturer. Summarising the last points made, driving an SUV in 2018 is pretty much driving a passenger sedan with more room. The rise of SUVs in Australia does not look like slowing down anytime soon with more manufacturers entering the market. It is yet to be known how much (or how long) it will take for the market to become saturated. Time will tell if the investment in SUV development of various companies will pay-off.
Should you buy one?
The original function of an SUV classed vehicle was appropriate. Being able to take your car off-road whilst still being in the comfort of a regular passenger vehicle was beneficial. But I do see some merit in the intentions of the new types of SUV flooding the market and why their use might persuade customers to buy them. Firstly, the room that an SUV provides. While still keeping relatively similar dimensions of length and width to sedans, the height of an SUV allows larger interior volume. Hence, providing greater comfort for passengers in addition to extra luggage space. The height of an SUV also leads to my second point which is safety. Driving a larger vehicle will keep the driver safer in the case of an accident with a smaller car. Being seated higher above the road also allows the driver to have more vision of the environment around them. Generally, most drivers will feel more comfortable in this scenario.
The problem I have with the rise of SUVs in Australia is the sheer number of various models. There is no reason why a company should develop an SUV to compete in the market, but is releasing four models with only minor size differences really necessary? BMW is an example of this. Currently, they have SUV models all the way from the X1 up until the X7. The X1 is the size of a large hatchback while the X7 was only developed to take market share from the Audi Q8. I believe that resources could be better used by investing in technology rather than only slight variations in SUV models. But hey, if you have a large family and want to feel comfortable while driving, there is no reason to not purchase an SUV. Just don’t be intimidated by the large (unnecessary) list to choose from.