SUVs - why are there so many types?

18:06, Jul 02 2014
jeep wrangler
JEEP WRANGLER: Tough as they come.
range rover sport
RANGE ROVER SPORT: Luxury, but can still handle the dirt.
porsche macan
PORSCHE MACAN: A downsized luxury SUV.
land rover discovery
LAND ROVER DISCOVERY: Mid-priced, but still has some serious off-road talent.
toyota highlander
TOYOTA HIGHLANDER: A large sedan replacement.
skoda yeti
SKODA YETI: A C-segment soft-roader.
ford ecosport
FORD ECOSPORT: A B-segment soft-roader - the segment of the moment.

Just as there are so many types of cars and wagons to suit the buyers that require them, the SUV segments have as many customers with different needs to cater for.

 They range from hard-edged working off-roaders, to those who don't really need an SUV at all, but like the extra ride height for access and view ahead, while in the middle there are those who regularly tow trailers and boats and might get off road to a favourite fishing hole now and then.

In other categories there are vehicles which merely offer more talent than a hatchback and reach customers who want somewhere nice for the dog to sit and some ground clearance and easy cabin access.

Then there's the luxury set who may never need to explore the talent of their six-figure wood and leather clad edifice, but enjoy the fact that that it could go off-road if required.

SUVs - The serious ones, tough as they come

Usually possessed of stiff ladder-framed chassis and selectable all-wheel-drive systems, featuring a low range selector, this type of off-roader isn't really an SUV at all, but is often used for one, even if it has less than salubrious accommodation. The fact is they look tough and generally are and many drivers like to identify with that, just as they do when wearing camo gear.


Of course these often truck-based 4x4s can do the job and most active hunters, serious fishermen and the like will only pick from a list containing three heralded names: Land Rover's Defender, the Jeep Wrangler and the 70 series Land-Cruiser.

These models have developed in recent years to offer extra doors, longer wheelbases and up to seven seat options, which probably add to their SUV aspirations more than their already well-known off-road talent. 

OUR PICK: Jeep Wrangler.

SUVs - Luxury cars but still talented in the dirt

The same makers above provide serious off-roaders but with as much luxury as a limousine in the form of the Range-Rovers from Land Rover, Toyota's 200-series Land Cruiser and Lexus LX560, Volvo's XC90, the Porsche Cayenne, VW Toureg, the Audi Q7 and Jeep's Grand Cherokee, each of which are most often seen strutting their stuff in leafier suburbs and transporting children.

They're not often used off road, but in the right hands, they'll outperform some of the SUVs in the section above. As well as the usual suspects, Nissan also offers its huge new Patrol, and while it has nowhere near the class of the Range Rover, the Mitsubishi Pajero is a can-do truck with luxury interior appointments.

OUR PICK: Range Rover Sport.

SUVs - Less talented downsized luxury SUVs

Audi, BMW, Range Rover, and Porsche each have smaller luxo soft-roaders spun-off from their larger siblings and a brief glance through traffic proves how popular they are - selling like hot cakes, despite asking more than the better suited off-roader below.

OUR PICK: Porsche Macan.

SUVs - Mid-priced models with some serious off-road talent

Toyota's Prado and the Land Rover Discovery are the leaders here, with very tough underpinnings and real off-road credentials and slightly lower on the list is the talented part-framed Kia Sorento, Jeep's soon to be replaced current Cherokee and the Mitssubishi Challenger as well as the Isuzu MUX, Holden Colorado 7 and soon to be launched Ford Everest, the latter three being based on trusted and popular pick-ups.

OUR PICK: Land Rover Discovery.

SUVs - Crossover large sedan replacements

Automotive proof of the fact that owners of large sedans are not downsizing at all, these are the five and seven-seater two and four-wheel-drive crossovers they're moving their passenger and load space needs over to.

Holden's Highlander, the new Nissan Pathfinder, Ford's Territory, the Mazda CX-9, Holden Captiva, Dodge Journey, and Hyundai Santa Fe all fit in here.

All of these offer the seven seat and six-cylinder options punters are looking for along with occasional gravel road and soft-roading ability, but only the two Aussie brands and the Hyundai afford a diesel option.

OUR PICK: Toyota Highlander.

SUVs - C-segment soft-roaders

These do the same job in their segement as the large car alternatives above.

Ford fronts up with its Kuga, as do Honda and Toyota with their well-liked respective RAV4 and CR-V models, along with Mitsubishi's Outlander, the Nissan X-trail and Cashqai, the Mitsubishi-based Peugeot 4008, while the four cylinder Caprivas are offered by Holden.

Other Korean-built SUVs in this slot are the Hyundai iX35 and the swoopy Kia Sportage, while in the same price bracket are the offerings from Great Wall and Mahindra.

Volkswagen's Tiguan slots in here with its VAG group cousin, the Skoda Yeti.

OUR PICK: Skoda Yeti.

SUVs - B-segment soft-roaders

This is the segment of the moment with the Indian-built Ford EcoSport being the newest entrant, with a compelling sub-$30k sticker, and working against the Holden Trax, Peugeot 2008, the up-coming new Honda HR-V, Nissan's Juke and you could even slot the new Kia Soul into this area.

Also competing in this the newest segment of the lot is Mercedes-Benz GLA, with Audi and BMW set to create a luxury triumvirate in the segment by the end of 2016.

OUR PICK: Ford EcoSport.