Does an SUV suit your needs?

Posted by AndiC on 26 June 2014 | 0 Comments

Light SUVs provide the benefits of a 4x4 without imposing the size of one on other traffic.

Being based on hatchback platforms, lighter SUVs like the Kuga and EcoSport are able to go about their daily business without imposing the agenda of a full or middle-sized crossover or 4x4 on other traffic.

Their engine choices are the same as those offered in the Fiesta and Focus models to which they are linked, and part of that link means that unlike the old truck-based behemoths that supply the underpinnings for full-sized SUVs, the Kuga and EcoSport are frameless unitary designs, or monocoques.

Thus, without great cantilevered frames and girders in their construction, they can do without several hundred kilos of unneeded weight, which means they consume less fuel because their engines don't need to work as hard, they don't need as much effort to brake and they go around corners much more precisely.

All the while they can offer the extra space you're after, a much better ride height for a view over traffic and thanks to that compact size and low weight, they're really not much more expensive to maintain and run as the hatches on which they are based.

The extra ride height also means that the EcoSport's seating hip-point is higher, so its seats can be slipped into rather than climbed up to, as they would be in a larger SUV. It also results in a comfortable, legs down rather than down and forward seating position which is a much more comfortable way of travelling, especially over longer distances.

Load space as you'd expect has to be accessed via a hatch or a side hinged door.

The hatch is useful if it's powered and can be accessed remotely in some SUVs, but in cheaper more compact models, a side-hinged door my work better for you.

The body-on frame, often truck-based SUV format is a rare thing in the segment occupied by the Kuga and its competitors, with only the Suzuki Vitara and various Chinese offerings using that method of construction. The move away from such methods has largely been brought about by the need to shed weight and to make the most of the space inside, with the vehicles in this slot being laess able to compensate for the passenger and load volume restrictions brought about by under-floor rails.

It's a bit easier when we move up into the larger Toyota Prado and Mitsubishi Challenger Challenger area, where owners are more likely to be doing serious off-roading and the truck-based designs come into their own, with most vehicles of this type also fronting up with two-range selectable drivetrains which furnish al the goods for rockhopping and genuine off-road work. They are also large enough to furnish space fopr seven, though it has to be said that similarly-sized 2WD and 4WD monocoque designs, like the Toyota Highlander, Ford Territory, Nissan Pathfinder and Mazda CX-9.

Seeing the need for this, Ford is soon to introduce a seven-seat SUV version of its Ranger ute which will give serious working off-roaders an alternative to the Territory, which is more of a traditional Family SUV like the models decribed above.

Even in the size above these cars, makers of luxury SUVs are moving away from or have already doen the deed, with Range-Rover leading the way. Some of that marque's models have saved 500kg and more by going monocoque reducing fuel consumption and emissions as a result and behaving much more like a car on the road, affording much more comfort and displaying very little loss of off-road ability. 

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