It’s clear looking at any Australian street that 4WDs and SUVs are hugely popular. You can barely move a metre through suburbia without stumbling across a Holden Captiva, Toyota Kluger, BMW X3, Mazda CX-5 or any other of the many SUV vehicles on offer today.
According to VFACTS data for October 2016, SUVs are among the fastest growing segments of the automotive market – with upper large SUVs (up 31 per cent) and medium SUVs (up 12.3 per cent).
Growth is so strong that the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries anticipates SUVs will soon become the largest single segment of the automotive market.
We’ve taken a deep dive into the market to help you decide if an SUV is the right vehicle for you.
What’s the difference between an SUV and a four-wheel drive?
SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle) is the term used for a vehicle that has a higher seating position, generally higher road clearance and sometimes four-wheel drive capability. Most offer flexible seating configurations and some can seat seven passengers. The major difference between a 4WD and an SUV is that 4WDs have been designed for good off road ability and towing capacity whereas some SUVs are better suited to the urban terrain as they are only two-wheel drive.
One of the main reasons people cite for buying an SUV is “safety”. A higher seating position giving you greater visibility is certainly a positive from a safety point of view, but SUVs have been dogged by a propensity to tip when subjected to the evasive manoeuvre test more commonly known as the “moose test”. The best measure of the safety credentials of a car is to check its Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) rating.
Four good reasons to buy an SUV
This style of vehicle has become the choice of families and sporting people for many reasons:
Versatility: For every-day functionality, most SUVs offer a decent amount of load space – people and other – and usually in a very versatile format. From multiple kids and all the baggage that ensues, to bikes, pets and camping gear, the sheer space an SUV offers is a big draw card. Like cars, SUVs can vary greatly in size and function, from three-door four-seaters to five-door seven-seaters and a heap of fancy configurations thanks to fold down or even pull out seats.
Design: While some people simply like the shape of an SUV, the driver visibility that a greater ride height offers can also result in a more confident ride experience. It’s certainly a very different perspective, compared to a low-slung sports car. SUVs can also be either short or long wheelbase, so if you’re opting for a short wheel base, be sure you’re comfortable with the ride as short wheel bases can often result in more body roll.
Off-road capability: Although it’s likely that a good majority of SUVs bought these days never see the dust of an off road adventure, for some it is the number-one reason to buy this type of car. Many SUVs offer two-wheel and four-wheel drive capability along with larger, more powerful engine variants to deliver great off-road performance and towing ability. What you need to consider is whether you want a 4WD that can be driven every day, or do you want a vehicle that can cope off-road and with towing the boat or caravan?
Fuel economy: Some SUVs are guzzlers. The Porsche Cayenne Turbo, for example, gulps about 11.5 litres per 100 kms (combined cycle). The good news is that many of the latest model SUVs are offered with diesel engine variants and are competitive when it comes to fuel efficiency. The Hyundai Series 11 Santa Fe CRDi (manual) only consumes 6.3 litres per 100 kilometres (combined cycle), which is less than some small cars! If you’ve looking for something even more eco friendly, you might want to check out the SUV hybrids on the market such as the Lexus RX450h.
It’s worthwhile noting that diesels are generally more expensive than their petrol counterpart (around $3,000) so it’s worthwhile doing the sums on how much travelling you’ll do in the car. The more kilometres you travel, the more cost efficient a diesel model can be.
The choice is yours
There is a huge choice on the market starting with (baby SUV) Mazda CX-3 from $19,990 all the way up to Australia’s most expensive SUV the Bentley Bentayga which will set you back over $600,000!
Tips for buying an SUV
Before jumping head first into the SUV market, consider:
– Do you need off-road capability – 4WD or 2WD?
– Just how much space do you need – 3-door, 5-door, boot space?
– How versatile is the load space – bikes, dogs etc?
– How economical is it?
– Do you need five or seven seats?
Paul Higgins is the Director of HelloCars.
This post first appeared on Yahoo7.