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Old 15th June 2024, 09:47   #1
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What is an SUV, really?

With the current craze in India for “SUV’s” loads of cars are being marketed as SUVs. It got me thinking - what really is an SUV? While the moniker has always been a loose term, with no generally accepted definition - it still feels wrong to brand almost every non sedan car in India an SUV.

I mean - can the Hyundai Exter, for example - a tiny little car with a 1200cc engine, 114 nm torque, 80 bhp with 0 off-roading capabilities really be labeled an SUV?

Or even the Taigun / Kushaq for that matter - 0 off roading.

We in India seem to have made everything that’s not a sedan and has even slightly raised seats a “SUV”

I think a SUV should have at least a 4 wheel drive and have some off road capabilities, and should be worthy enough of scaling some rough terrain.

Do you guys think it ok to call the likes of the Exter, Taigun, X1, Creta an suv or should we call a spade a spade - and acknowledge that car manufacturers are using .. slightly unethical marketing techniques and branding vehicles that are not suvs, suvs?

Last edited by thirdmainroad : 15th June 2024 at 09:49.
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Old 15th June 2024, 11:09   #2
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re: What is an SUV, really?

Not based on any science but to me-

Exter/Punch, Sonet/Venue and Creta/Seltos segment- Hatchbacks on stilts

Compass/Harrier/XUV700/Tucson/Tiguan/Evoque/Velars/Macan- Crossovers

Fortuner/Endeavour/Isuzu/Thar/Scorpio/Wrangler/Defender/Land Cruiser- SUVs

X5/GLE/X7/GLS/Range Rovers/Cayenne- Somewhere between Crossovers and SUVs

I feel the SUV tag is essential to sell a car in any segment nowadays and hence we are seeing the onslaught of these new body types. And not to forget, an SUV costs the same money to build and sells for a higher price.
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Old 15th June 2024, 11:29   #3
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re: What is an SUV, really?

I thank you from the bottom of my heart for starting this thread. The question you have posed here has troubled me for oh so long! What is an SUV really? From what I've heard, SUV in the early days used to stand for Sport Utility Vehicle. I don't know where that name came about, but I assume it had something to do with people with an active lifestyle, i.e., carrying skiing, surfing, cycling equipment into some remote region to enjoy these activities.

But today, SUV has become synonymous with a jacked up vehicle, that looks large and hence, safer and more appealing to the masses, irrespective of its ability to actually be utilitarian. Also, perhaps its the manufacturers that are trying to pull a fast one on the masses by these cleverly mislabeling what are clearly crossovers, as SUVs. Every single car you've mentioned in your post should truthfully be called a crossover. But, that term has earned a fairly negative reputation for being used by mothers on a school route.

In the Indian context, the answer to why "SUVs" are popular is simply- ground clearance. Roads in India are perceived as atrociously poor, and it's true to a large extent. This means people want to play it safe by getting a car that can clear the large craters, potholes and poorly designed speedhumps without damaging their cars. This is perhaps the most practical reason for buying an SUV. I suspect VW and Skoda caught onto this trend quickly and offered high ground clearance on the Virtus/Slavia sedans. That may be another reason why they still manage to sell decent numbers.

The next reason is a bit murkier. Image. With cars still being aspirational to the majority, having a car that also looks the part is a huge reason why SUVs have taken off. Imagine spending a couple of lakhs more, and getting a much larger and imposing looking vehicle. This enamours people to stretch their budgets to the SUV instead of a sedan, or an equivalent hatchback.

The last reason that just makes sense to me, is the seating position. When you sit in an SUV, you are perched a few inches higher off the ground than the equivalent sedan or hatchback. This, paired with a larger glasshouse, offers you a better view of the road and your surroundings. A lot of drivers in our conditions prefer this, factoring the chaos on the roads around us.

To sum it all up, I guess "SUV" is a term that is deceptively used by car companies to push for higher sales. In the process, they have intentionally or inadvertently, changed the definition of the term from being a go-anywhere lifestyle product, to a segment/class of vehicles that offer all of what I described above.
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Old 15th June 2024, 11:30   #4
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re: What is an SUV, really?

In my opinion, vehicles such as the Fortuner, Endeavour, Gloster, X5, GLE, Defender, etc. are true SUVs due to their size and capabilities.

I believe that other vehicles with smaller dimensions are not genuine SUVs, and are simply marketed as such for promotional purposes.
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Old 15th June 2024, 11:53   #5
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re: What is an SUV, really?

Quote:
Originally Posted by thirdmainroad View Post
with zero off-roading capabilities really be labeled an SUV? Or even the Taigun / Kushaq for that matter - zero off roading. I think a SUV should have at least a 4 wheel drive and have some off road capabilities, and should be worthy enough of scaling some rough terrain.
They are calling it SUV, not SOV (Sport Offroading Vehicle). The keyword here is utility, not offroading. Their unique selling proposition is indeed utilitarian (high GC/high seating), which are core features of an offroader (eg: Jimny)

After all, the so called "proper SUV" (eg: Fortuner) too is an on-road vehicle, which just incorporates more features of an offroading vehicle. Go far enough on a tough offroading course, and every vehicle will eventually get stuck. It's just that each vehicle type (sedan/pseudo SUV/proper SUV/offroader) will get you farther.

But I don't get the 'Sport' bit though

CUV makes more sense -> Compact Utility Vehicle, anybody?

Last edited by SmartCat : 15th June 2024 at 12:14.
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Old 15th June 2024, 12:34   #6
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re: What is an SUV, really?

Valid point. In my books, it is just a good marketing technique. As long as one is not getting tricked into purchasing these cars with misleading claims, manufacturers can call them whatever they like. Who cares? No one is buying Exters and S-Pressos to traverse mountains, people are after the extra convenience that comes with a raised ground clearance to tackle speed breakers and broken roads. Because off the road, a Kia Seltos is as capable as an S-Presso. In tricky situations, the Maruti might even have an advantage due to its shorter wheelbase, smaller overhangs and lower weight.

There are no defined parameters to classify a vehicle as SUV. I consider most high GC vehicles with RWD and good wheel articulation as SUVs. One where you don't have to worry about breaking something when going over bad roads. Of course there are exceptions to this, based on factors such as driving feel, level of creature comforts, amount of body roll and crudeness and so on. So the Duster 2WD and TUV300 are quite SUVish for me, the Endeavour is properly SUVish and the Fortuner more so.

On a lighter note, it's good that this sub-micro-mini-tinny concept is limited to A and B segments, sparing the actual big daddies in the process. Imagine Fortuners and Defenders being sold as Ultra/Pro/Max SUVs
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Old 15th June 2024, 13:39   #7
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re: What is an SUV, really?

Like most things on four wheels are called CARS, an SUV is more of a generic term with little reference to the capability of a vehicle. SUV refers to the body style of the vehicle more than anything else. This is what Wikipedia has to say on the topic-

Quote:
There is no commonly agreed-upon definition of an SUV and usage of the term varies between countries. Thus, it is "a loose term that traditionally covers a broad range of vehicles with four-wheel drive."[1] Some definitions claim that an SUV must be built on a light truck chassis; however, broader definitions consider any vehicle with off-road design features to be an SUV. A crossover SUV is often defined as an SUV built with a unibody construction (as with passenger cars); however, the designations are increasingly blurred because of the capabilities of the vehicles, the labelling by marketers, and electrification of new models.[2]
Quote:
SUVs are typically of a two-box design similar to a station wagon. The engine compartment is in the front, followed by a combined passenger/cargo area (unlike a sedan, which has a separate trunk/boot compartment).
People can term such "cars" as crossovers, pseudo-SUVs, or hatchbacks on steroids/stilts, or whatever they deem right. Whether we like it or not is a different matter, but our automobile industry recognizes the kind of vehicles we are discussing as SUVs, and I don't think it is going to change.

Just to put things into perspective, if a vehicle needs 4x4 capability to be termed an SUV, what would its 4x2 variant need to be termed? Well, it should be called a big hatch on steroids.
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Old 15th June 2024, 14:00   #8
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re: What is an SUV, really?

Maybe it's because I'm of a generation that hopped onto the car scene when the "new" definition was already widely accepted, but I would rather be descriptive than prescriptive here and define it based on what is widely accepted. So to me, an SUV is, loosely, a car that has above average ride height for its size and some characteristic styling elements (roof rails, cladding).

The world has accepted it for a long time now so instead of pretending to be a purist (which I am not) I would rather redefine SUVs and find a new term for the vehicles that used to be called SUVs a decade ago. Off-roaders? 4x4s? Legacy SUVs? I don't know. Maybe we should have a poll for that.

Then again, I see videos online of people trying to drive their Cretas and -- I kid you not -- Punches up steep dirt tracks and failing, and I wonder how many buyers actually believe modern SUVs are off-road capable because of the name.

Last edited by ron178 : 15th June 2024 at 14:02.
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Old 15th June 2024, 15:16   #9
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re: What is an SUV, really?

I would like to think of an SUV from a utilitarian point of view rather than a sport one. To be a practical utility vehicle the following characteristics are sine qua non.

1. Strong and rugged build.
2. Transcends other vehicle categories such as city runabouts, hatchbacks, sedans, coupes, etc.
3. Has the ability to handle difficult terrains.
4. Can function better than others in harsh climatic and weather condition.

I am inclined to think that the clamour for some sort of SUV in India is linked to the prevailing road conditions. If the road surfacing were really as per laid down engineering standards then SUVs wouldn't have been looked upon as the solution. However, things being what they are, our roads are a geologist's delight. You get the lab scale version of quite extreme landforms, from monster craters, crevasses, and even mini fold mountains labelled as speedbreakers. Many a times during the monsoon, you get to see roads transform into waterways. It is because of this people believe that an SUV is the ideal vehicle for everyday use.

This has diluted the core attributes of an SUV to such an extent that if a vehicle has even a single feature of an SUV, it is marketed as one. Maybe it is a slightly bigger hatchback with a little higher ground clearance? It's a Compact SUV. A small car with butch looks? Well, it's an SUV!

For me, if I can carry people (with or without luggage) without having to think twice, across long distances, and be able to confidently handle all kinds of roads and drive through bad weather conditions, then the vehicle deserves to be called an SUV.
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Old 15th June 2024, 15:34   #10
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re: What is an SUV, really?

Quote:
Originally Posted by SmartCat View Post

But I don't get the 'Sport' bit though
I think the 'Sports' refers to the offroading or 'adventure drives' bit. Going offroading or exploring tough terrains is a activity people do for fun and if the vehicle has 'utility' values like carrying people or cargo, it is an 'SUV'.
Without one of these two traits, either it becomes an MUV (can't go offroad) or ATV (can't carry people or cargo)
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Old 15th June 2024, 15:54   #11
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re: What is an SUV, really?

SUV is a state of mind.


/me thinks, while driving an S-Presso
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Old 15th June 2024, 16:22   #12
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re: What is an SUV, really?

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Originally Posted by ron178 View Post
Then again, I see videos online of people trying to drive their Cretas and -- I kid you not -- Punches up steep dirt tracks and failing, and I wonder how many buyers actually believe modern SUVs are off-road capable because of the name.
I think that’s very true and setting things up for disaster. Many people do believe that stilted hatchbacks are true SUVs and try things that the car isn’t deigned for.

Thing is nowadays even the registration says a stilted Hatch / Crossover is an SUV. I noticed it with a laugh back in 2019 when my WRVs registration said it was an SUV.

Does anyone remember when this trend of calling and registering crossovers as SUVs started?

What did the registration of the Etios Cross say it was?

And what’s it like abroad - are cars like the Creta registered as SUVs?

Last edited by thirdmainroad : 15th June 2024 at 16:26.
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Old 15th June 2024, 16:49   #13
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re: What is an SUV, really?

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Originally Posted by thirdmainroad View Post
I think that’s very true and setting things up for disaster. Many people do believe that stilted hatchbacks are true SUVs and try things that the car isn’t deigned for.

Thing is nowadays even the registration says a stilted Hatch / Crossover is an SUV. I noticed it with a laugh back in 2019 when my WRVs registration said it was an SUV.

Does anyone remember when this trend of calling and registering crossovers as SUVs started?

What did the registration of the Etios Cross say it was?

And what’s it like abroad - are cars like the Creta registered as SUVs?
This is what happens when you mislabel products to improve sales. I think these "SUVs" are one expensive lawsuit away from re-classification if enough people try dangerous off-roading with them. Think about it... It was normal for everyone to be blissfully unaware of rear seat safety in cars. Practically nobody belted up back there. But a high profile accident and subsequent death of an important personality later, everyone suddenly woke up to the perils of not strapping up in the rear. Sure, people still don't do it anyways, but it atleast started a national conversation for stricter safety legislation, didn't it.

Answering the question of how pseudo-SUVs are classified by authorities abroad, I think it is based on weight. I have talked to my cousin in the US about their concept of registration. Apparently, you pay tax and registration charges every year, based on the weight classification. So, a Corolla might draw different fees, as supposed to something like a 4runner. Our members from abroad might be able clarify on this.

Last edited by Sensible_Speed : 15th June 2024 at 16:53. Reason: Forgot to add a point to the first paragraph
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Old 15th June 2024, 17:24   #14
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re: What is an SUV, really?

Quote:
Originally Posted by revsperminute View Post
Not based on any science but to me-

Exter/Punch, Sonet/Venue and Creta/Seltos segment- Hatchbacks on stilts

Compass/Harrier/XUV700/Tucson/Tiguan/Evoque/Velars/Macan- Crossovers

Fortuner/Endeavour/Isuzu/Thar/Scorpio/Wrangler/Defender/Land Cruiser- SUVs

X5/GLE/X7/GLS/Range Rovers/Cayenne- Somewhere between Crossovers and SUVs


Er, a how would you classify a Fortuner which does not have the 4x4 kit? Or rather a Compass with 4x4? And to make it even more interesting, where does the Jimny fit into this? Thatís a 4x4, Body on Frame vehicle, right?

Large Size and being of a Body on Frame architecture alone does not indicate a vehicle being a SUV.

In my view, the definition of SUV has evolved, overused and over abused. And we will have to now make peace with the fact that manufacturers and many customers are going to be calling most cars with high ground clearance cars as SUVs.

I had a Creta earlier, people said its not a SUV, its a crossover since it doesnít have 4x4. Yes, agreed. I switched over to a Jeep Compass 4x4 recently, now people say itís a cross over since its not body on frame. So, now I just say, i dont have a SUV and nor a sedan, infact its not even a Car, its a ďJEEPĒ. Thatís it !
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Old 15th June 2024, 17:42   #15
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re: What is an SUV, really?

Who cares if it is a genuine SUV or a duplicate one as long as it serves each one's purpose.

When I crossed Hosur road river last week after the torrential rain, I just smashed through without any hesitation on the Nexon with 209 mm of ground clearance when many Sedans and hatches were hesitating.

From the driver's seat, I get a great view of the circus around.

When a Rakshas like a Fortuner or an Endeavour lines up beside, I turn around and can see the driver eye to eye from a sub 4 meter sub compact crossover branded as an SUV .

Not to mention the respect people give when they see a butch looking car (hatch on stilt, jacked up, whatever).
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