When it comes to proliferating the increasingly erroneous notion that SUVs deserve their own category, I’m more culpable than most. But swallowing one’s pride and changing one’s mind is easy, if you want it to be.
Guys, we need to consider not separating ‘SUVs’ and ‘passenger’ cars any more, in some cases at least, because the lines are blurred to the point of imperceptibility. Sports Utility Vehicle? Well, what if the car isn’t sporty? Or utilitarian?
Road cars and their high-riding, soft-roading brethren don’t develop dichotomously, and it’s time marketing teams and media caught on, late to the party though we may be. They’re 40 per cent of the market’s sales, and yet what are their common denominators?
The idea has fomented in my head forever, spurred on by countless VFACTS market sales wraps where I siphon SUV sales out of the passenger car race and spin them off. But it was at the recent launch of the Suzuki Ignis the seed of this rambling opinion piece was planted.
Suzuki’s marketing, quite understandably, made constant mention of the tiny Ignis’ SUV credentials, even though it’s smaller than most city cars. The truth is, though, its 180mm of ground clearance (more than that of a Mazda CX-3) means the company is within its rights.
Yet, if the current status quo allows a company to call something as diminutive and useless off-road as the Ignis an SUV, then clearly the term needs a revisit, and a solid re-casting. After all, what does the term SUV really denote now, other than a home run for marketing managers?
Does it denote ground clearance? Explain the CX-3 or Honda HR-V. Does it denote cabin space? A Golf wagon kills most mid-sized crossovers. Does it denote a high driving position? Of what relevance is this if SUVs are so popular that this natural advantage, by way of contrast, is tempered?
The answer is, we along with the rest of the industry have fallen into the trap, using the SUV term with feckless abandon. And so in taking stock, it’s clear that new criteria ought to be drawn up.
Yeah, Fonzie, the term SUV has jumped the shark. And my revelation is as dated as that pop-culture reference.
What, then, makes a vehicle an SUV? Clearly off-road ability could be one criteria (Suzuki’s Jimny comes to mind). Hence the utility.
Sports? Well that’s a silly word drummed up by someone with tortoise-shell glasses and a penchant for stripey shirts. Few high-riding wagons that aren’t the Porsche Macan (hot hatch?) are sporty.
Size? Where do we draw the line? Do the Mazda CX-5, Hyundai Tucson and Volkswagen Tiguan fit the bill? They’re notably taller and more family-friendly than a small hatch, so, perhaps. But they trail your similarly priced average mid-sized wagon.
And how in hell isn’t a sporty ute like the HSV Maloo not an SUV in the purest sense? What madness has overtaken the industry and sucked us beyond the event horizon?
What do you think? Should we cut back on using the term SUV? Consider this a straw poll and a moment to take stock.
Comment away, let’s get this conversation started, and consider embarking on a different, hopefully bitumen-coated, proverbial road.