Once upon a time, roads were littered with soccer moms and dads driving family station wagons and minivans to haul around their kids and cargo, but somewhere along the way the love for those vehicles just plain ran out!
Enter the SUV. A better-looking car that holds just as much gear as its counterparts (if not more), the sports utility vehicle took over the minivan/wagon domain and became the most popular choice amongst car buyers craving bigger space and better comfort.
Brandy Schaffels, chief editor and car expert of the female-focused auto blog AskPatty.com, explains that flexibility and attractive design are two of the most obvious reasons behind that SUV preference.
“If you want to take your family members for a trip, you can easily fit them in an SUV with all of their gear,” says Schaffels. “Our love for SUVs also comes down to styling. Nobody really wants to be seen in a minivan, and it’s hard to convince other people to drive one, even though it technically offers the same level of flexibility as an SUV.”
1. SUVs Look Better (Arguably)
They may not have always had the design game figured out (remember the boxy SUVs of times past?), but over the last decade styling for sports utility vehicles has improved and then some! Minivans, no matter what technical improvements have been made throughout the years, always end up looking exactly the same.
Schaffels notes, “regardless of how SUVs look, what people like the most is the higher seating position and perception that SUVs offer greater safety.” But don’t be confused because it’s clear that style matters here too (especially for male drivers). “Despite these truck-like features, SUVs, or crossover SUVs, feel more like cars, which makes them easier to drive. Plus, if you are a man, SUVs do have that masculine, truck-like appeal that you won’t see on a typical minivan.”
2. SUVs are Perceived to Be Safer
SUVs are often thought of as safer vehicles due to their size, especially when compared to smaller cars like sedans or station wagons. And in fact, recent crash test statistics prove that bigger cars do offer better protection in accident situations. But is picking an SUV really an automatic win where safety is concerned?
“Obviously, an SUV is safer than a compact car, because size is definitely a factor, but it’s not the only factor,” explains Schaffels. “Since SUVs are family-oriented, they do generally come with more safety technology, but a lot of the same technology is also available in sedans, minivans and station wagons, so the difference in this regard is minimal.”
But while the tech might not be that different in each of the vehicles, the shape certainly is, which is why Schaffels notes that the design of an SUV could offer a safer overall experience.
“An SUV may also be safer to drive, especially if it’s shaped like a box. For instance, when parking, you can clearly see all the corners without needing to guess where they are. The car-like nature of crossover SUVs also makes them easier to drive than your typical truck.”
3. SUVs Perform Better in the Snow and Off-Road
When it comes to battling the elements most drivers turn to larger vehicles for help, which according to Schaffels isn’t a bad idea as SUVs tend to do better on bumpy terrains thanks to their high ground clearance and all-wheel-drive capabilities.
But don’t confuse bumpy terrains with major off-roading! As surprising as it might sound to the average car buyer, Schaffels says the majority of SUVs (and especially crossover models) aren’t meant for off-roading. Best to stick to the paved roads for the safest experience.
4. Modern SUVs Have Solid Fuel Efficiency
Improved fuel economy has also helped the SUV remain a popular choice, and it’s no wonder! While sedans still get better mileage per gallon, there are many SUV models proving their worth – check out the Mazda CX-5 SUV; it gets around 35 mpg, while the Mazda3 sedan gets 40 mpg. So, how important is fuel efficiency when buying a sizeable vehicle?
“Fuel economy definitely plays a big role,” says Schaffels. “Since many modern SUVs are based on car platforms as opposed to truck platforms, they have become far more efficient. SUVs are not the gas guzzlers they used to be.”
Gas-guzzlers no, but she does explain that if it’s solid fuel efficiency that you’re after when buying a car, sedans and hatchbacks are still better choices.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to preference – technology, safety, fuel economy – the key differences between SUVs and vans or wagons are minimal at best. All perform relatively well (and similarly too).