A true SUV is the one which can conquer any terrain without a hiccup.
The biggest dilemma people face is whether they should opt for an SUV or a sedan. The SUV segment is showing a healthy growth rate, while other segments are seeing negative demand. SUVs have come under the limelight many times for being bad vehicles, as they occupy more space and sip subsidised diesel fuel. This has resulted in the SUV tax, which makes these vehicles costlier than before. The birth of compact SUVs mean that a person can get an SUV for sedan money, but should you bite? We spent a day driving both an SUV and a sedan over similar road surfaces to find out if an SUV has any real added advantages.
The term SUV can at many times get misleading. What many manufacturers are offering are crossovers, which are not really SUVs. An SUV is a vehicle which can literally go anywhere, with power being fed to all wheels. There are few examples of true SUVs on our roads, so the SUV tax does seem a bit unfair. The BMW X1 is a crossover, which appears to be a jacked up estate. It is also marketed as an SUV. But when parked right next to a similarly priced sedan, one will immediately notice it occupies similar space, with lengths being almost similar. Just because an SUV has more vertical space, it doesn’t mean its clogging our roads.
SUVs (crossover included) are taller and have higher ground clearance, which has two sides of the coin. Increased GC means higher centre of gravity, which in turn affects high speed stability. However, once you consider our road conditions, the high ground clearance is definitely a boon. One can easily crawl over speed-breakers without getting their heart in their mouth. With a sedan, you have to be extremely careful on bad roads, otherwise you might scrape the underbody. An SUV has no such issues and thus one can drive it without having to worry about bad roads.
The larger dimensions of an SUV mean that it doesn’t handle as well as a sedan, but not everyone pushes their car corner to corner on the road everyday. So an SUV makes more sense since you sit higher up and have a better view of the road ahead. Getting in and out is easier too and one can almost walk into an SUV, while you have to crawl into a sedan. The bigger dimensions of an SUV mean that auto-rickshaws will be scared of you and won’t mess with you, more so if you are piloting something as gargantuan like the Toyota Fortuner or Mitsubishi Pajero Sport. SUV will also give the owner/driver a better self image.
Then there is the driving experience where the sedan simply excels. Lighter weight and lesser height equates to better handling over a traditional SUV. Crossovers drive decently well too and have body roll well contained. Most crossovers could come close to beating sedans when it comes to driving experience. So if you consider a crossover, you need not worry much about dynamics against similarly priced sedans. However real SUVs do lack good dynamics, like the Fortuner which has considerable amount of body roll, did not impress us on the twisties.
The ride quality of an SUV is better as it has higher profile rubber. This also means that you can go quickly over bad roads without having to worry about your rims. At quite a few instances we have seen SUV drivers leave the road to overtake traffic, simply because they can afford to. Meanwhile sedan and hatchback drivers were left with no option but to gaze at them as they manoeuvred pass them. Being heavier, SUVs do return slightly lesser fuel mileage compared to sedans but you also have the flexibility of carrying more people and luggage (thanks to larger loading bays).
Clearly an SUV outshines a sedan in many aspects, most of which are crucial to Indian customers. The added benefits of an SUV are not being seen only in India, but world wide too. That is the reason why we are seeing so many companies bringing out new crossovers. Even luxury car brands (Bentley, Maserati, Lamborghini) are leaving no stone unturned and are working on SUVs. The SUV boon has just started and we feel an SUV easily trumps a sedan, by being more practical and well suited to today’s road conditions. Thus, if you can afford to stretch your budget a bit, an SUV is a worthy alternative to a sedan.
SUVs are more practical with better ride quality, higher ground clearance, more space and better image over a sedan.
Pictures are for representation purpose only.