Best cars for urban explorers: the rise of the SUV crossover
There has been a new dawn for Sport Utility Vehicles (what we all call SUVs) in the last five years, with the unveiling of the ‘compact crossover’ – built on a car platform, instead of the SUV truck chassis, and using less fuel.
Combining the versatility of an estate with the space of a people carrier and off-roading capacity of a 4×4, an SUV crossover is the ultimate in flexibility, giving families the scope to enjoy urban convenience with the ability to move large loads, travel long distances in comfort and explore just about anywhere.
Recent figures from the US show that SUVs and crossover model sales have overtaken the traditional family sedan for the first time ever, so we’ve set out to explore what has made the compact or crossover SUV – now often just called ‘SUVs’ – a world-beater.
Ride height of SUV crossovers
While the average height of a conventional car is around 130cm – 150cm, new SUVs such as the spacious Hyundai Santa Fe are typically between 175cm – 195cm. This allows the seats to be raised without adversely impacting on headroom, affording the driver a more commanding viewpoint with greater all-round visibility. This extra visibility is especially handy when cruising round cities, enabling the driver to see over traffic in front, as well as observe more of their blind-spot for the safety of passengers and other road users alike.
Manoeuvrability of SUV crossovers
Classic SUVs were traditionally not known for their advanced handling. That was until the advent of the ‘compact crossover’ era with the Nissan Juke in 2011, a comparatively lightweight and nimble model compared to its predecessors that didn’t compromise on handling performance. While the suppleness of handling on the road has increased exponentially, SUVs such as the rugged compact crossover Range Rover Evoque by Land Rover have chosen to also keep their off-roading pedigree, affording the ultimate flexibility to travel seamlessly between urban and rural environments.
Space in SUV crossovers
Although average cabin space in SUVs has been reduced to 109.9 cubic feet since the appearance of the compact crossover, it’s still a welcome extra 7 cubic feet compared to the meagre average of 102.4 cubic feet for sedans. But, where SUV crossovers including the roomy Ford Edge really win out is in boot space. While sedans have an average luggage volume of 15.7 cubic feet, SUVs more than double this figure with a mammoth average of 35.8 cubic feet. This gives city SUV owners a means to move decent-sized loads without making multiple trips or hiring a man-with-a-van, as well as giving them the scope to load up the car with all they need for a rural family retreat without it spilling over on the passengers.
Safety of SUV crossovers
The sturdy frame, raised vantage point and space for innovative safety features have helped SUVs to streak ahead of traditional family cars as some of the highest ranked by NCAP for safety. Leading this charge is the 5-star NCAP rated Mazda CX-5, which features advanced airbags in the front and rear as well as a host of automated driving support or hazard awareness devices. The weight of the vehicles means they usually come off better in head- or side-on collisions (the most common in city driving), and the advent of ESC (electronic stability control) and rollover mitigation has helped prevent SUVs from rolling sideways during crashes at higher speeds.
Fuel efficiency of SUV crossovers
The average fuel usage of classic SUVs used to be far above that of sedans. Not only have SUV crossovers caught up with the average emission rate of mid-size sedans (currently around 28.8mpg), but compact crossovers including the Ford EcoSport and other emission-friendly SUVs have now surpassed their more slim-line cousins, with an average emission rate of just 26.8mpg. Not only does this lessen the burden on the wallet, it also makes the car an option for more eco-conscious drivers too.
SUV crossovers have given urban explorers a whole new dimension of flexibility, affording them safety, performance and cost-effectiveness as well as the space and versatility to tackle anything from a car-share school run to a family weekend away. With so much more to offer, the rise of the SUV is set to continue.