The SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle) is a somewhat of modern day paradox. While consumers are facing increasing cost of petrol, the demand for SUVs, otherwise known as gas-guzzlers, is equally growing. Because SUVs consume far more petrol then other cars, and because they emit too much harmful gas, environmentalists are lobbying for consumers to downsize from their SUV for the good of the environment, at least.
Unexpectedly, the green movement found ally in car manufacturers and it happened few years ago when the concept of a crossover first hit the salons. Today, the weird amalgamation between an off-roader and a city car accounts for over 10% of new car sales worldwide. So, what prompted this change?
Paris wants us to go green
The revolution has been brewing for quite some time but it’s only recently that the whole “downsizing” vibe has received a more official character. The concern about the effects of too many SUVs on the road was recently put to the fore when news was released that the city of Paris was considering putting heavy taxes and possibly even completely banning SUVs from central Paris streets.
The mayor of Paris is considering implementing this move due to the high pollution contributed by the 4x4s, primarily the old-school diesel engines that cough up soot and other heavy particles wherever they go. This move has gained ground because other cities are also considering implementing a similar heavy tax for SUVs. Other cities in France are considering following the move should Paris go ahead, and so are cities elsewhere such as Singapore, London and Berlin.
So, should you really give up on your favourite off-roader and opt for a smaller car? For many people SUVs make a lot of sense, so don’t succumb to the pressure of the lobbyists and tree-huggers just for change’s sake, however, there are many benefits of downsizing your car.
Pros of downsizing
You may have got the hint from the title – it’s the environment. Large cars do burn more fuel and emit more harmful gases. In order to meet the government’s 2020 target of CO2 cuts, we all need to contribute. Choosing a car that emits less harmful gases is a great way to do your bit for the environment.
Safety – big cars are more difficult to handle. You’re in charge of more than two tons of metal propelled by a 200bhp-strong power plant. One wrong move and a disaster could be lurking around the corner. Besides, SUVs usually have wider blind spots requiring a higher level of concentration from the driver.
Fuel consumption – by switching from a full-size 4×4 to a crossover, you can expect to save more than $1000 a year at the fuel station. If we’re comparing cars with petrol engines, most SUVs will struggle to reach 20mpg. Some crossovers, however, can achieve over 30mpg.
Money – crossovers are cheaper to buy and cheaper to maintain. Even the best SUV breaks down sooner or later – in a situation like this a big garage bill is inevitable.
Parking and manoeuvring – finding a spot where your truck can fit in is sometimes very difficult. To add insult to injury, some multi-storey car parks have accidentally (or maybe on purpose) introduced height restrictions meaning that your car is literally banned from getting in.
The main cons of driving a small car
There are two sides to every coin. Although downsizing is a sensible thing to do, if you’ve driven 4x4s for a long time, the first thing you notice with a crossover is that there’s simply not enough space and comfort. Most full-size SUVs can seat 7 adults and tow a 3.5-ton trailer – something that you’re unlikely to accomplish with a crossover.
You suddenly cannot go where the big guys go. Although the crossovers are often advertised as all-wheel drive vehicles, all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive is not the same thing. SUVs are built to perform on rugged terrains while crossovers are mainly city cars that are designed to look cool. A large 4×4 performs confidently on all surfaces, including wet tarmac. It will never lose control the way front-wheel or rear-wheel drive vehicles would.
Safety – yes, although safety was previously mentioned as an issue with large cars, it’s proven that SUVs are safer especially in serious crashes. Smaller and lighter cars won’t be able to protect the passengers the way 4x4s can.
Versatility – smaller cars are not as flexible as SUVs and if we’re looking at a large family you may end up owning two smaller cars, which will actually be more expensive in the long run.
It will be down to everyone’s preferences eventually, however, the current trend seems to be in favour of a more compact crossover. The real question is whether owning a large car is an actual necessity or merely a way to boost the driver’s ego?