The popularity of the SUV

STANDING START - Lord Seno (The Freeman) - May 3, 2021 - 12:00am

The SUV or Sports Utility Vehicle has become a hit in the Philippines. If you drive one, you’re probably going to be noticed.  The SUV, according to Wiki, is car classification that combines elements of road-going passenger cars with features from off-road vehicles, such as raised ground clearance and four-wheel drive.

Those big, mammoth of Landcruisers, Patrols and the elegant but simple Pajeros started the trend. Then came the mid-size SUVs like the Toyota Rav4s, Subaru Forester and the Mazda CX-5 that are taking it to new, not-quite-so heights. The medium SUV segment sales may now be on the rise but the Toyota Fortuner grabbed the limelight as the best-selling car in 2020.

But why are these SUVs so popular? Well, we have to note that some of these models are not even All Wheel Drive. Maybe the appeal of adventuring off the roads less traveled is not so viable without all-wheel drive.

We might say its popularity is because it has the capacity to go to the wide blue yonder, the common consensus is pretty much the opposite. As perceived by many, SUVs can actually be a sensible choice as a family van (7-Seater) and perfect for use on city roads. But for the really obvious reasons, it comes down to space. Short of buying a van, there is no better way to cram everything you own and love into an SUV.

The higher wading height (ride height) also contributes to some confidence in conquering floods, without mentioning road hazards like potholes and gutters. Modern SUVs especially have superb suspension engineered to soften the ride and lessen the harshness of the road irregularities.

But don’t even think that the SUVs are just for those who can afford. The popularity has influenced the manufacturers to innovate ways to make smaller and more affordable SUVs. The market of the SUV has become an almost made-to-measure market where there are a myriad of choices of sizes and specs, screwed down to pretty much whatever budget you have. The Toyota Cross or the Honda BRV are examples of the models that have a friendly price point. I might say there are a few bugs that need to be addressed with these models like the terrible legroom, but in every case you'll find that manufacturers are at their best to address the needs of everybody.

Fuel economy might be the poor point for the SUVs.  This is, of course, due to their size and weight. Over two decades ago, SUVs were behemoths, heavy machines with bad aerodynamics.  Today, the gap between these SUVs and the sleek sedans is closing in both the fuel efficiency and the aerodynamics, which are closely related. Well, they will never match the Mirages and the Wigos, of course.

Another drawback is the handling. These bigger cars sit high up with clearances that were made for some light off road journeys. But the higher the car is to the ground, the bigger the sway.  This means this cars are more prone to rollover. The high ground clearance also makes sudden evasive actions more difficult although premium SUVs are equipped with stability control. This function can make these cars handle emergency situations better.

This is what manufacturers are doing now – mixing up selling points from sedans, wagons, vans and off-road vehicles and rolling it into one machinery. Think of the SUV as the “jack of all trades” kind of a vehicle. It might not do all things well, but at least it can do almost all.

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