Five on Friday – 5 reasons to buy an SUV over either a 4X4 or wagon
SUV sales are booming, so, are they a better buy than either a 4×4 or road-based wagon?
THE TITLE PHOTO is of a Subaru Outback. It’s basically a Liberty roadcar with a suspension lift, slightly taller tyres and some extra offroad features such as revised engine mapping and traction control.
Some would say it’s a better choice than a 4X4 wagon like a Fortuner, Pajero Sport or MU-X, and better again than a wagon like the Skoda Octavia or BMW 3 Series, discounting price differences; just looking at the basic concept of the car. But is this true? Here’s our latest top 5:
5 reasons why an SUV is better than a 4X4
- Cheaper – all else being equal, the SUV is cheaper
- Better on-road handling – while modern 4X4s don’t hold up traffic, and SUVs are not the last word in handling, the 4X4 doesn’t quite match the SUV.
- Better dirt-road handling (provided it’s smoothish dirt) – especially with cars like the Outback the dirt-road handling is just better. Once the road starts to get rough, say speeds required below 40km/h, then the 4X4 takes over.
- Shorter – not as tall
- Less hate – fractionally less nasty comments!
7 reasons why an SUV is better than a wagon
- Handles dirt roads better – modern wagons just aren’t designed for dirt
- No worries – about scrapes around town
- More likely – to have a full-sized spare
- Better visibility – slightly higher seating position
- More choice – there’s many, many more SUVs than wagons to choose from
- May offer 7 seats – no wagons offer seven seats any more
- Easier access – tigher seating position means easier access for the aged and those with child seats
So is the SUV really the best of both worlds? No it’s not, despite the marketing, it really is a compromise between a 4X4 and a roadcar wagon. It won’t tow like the 4X4, probably not much more than its wagon equivalent, if that. As an example, the Outback tows 1700kg braked, the Liberty sedan betters that with 1800kg. The Outback is good for what it is offroad, but compared to a 4X4 it does struggle and scrape. It is however cheaper to buy and operate than a 4X4.
Compared to a roadcar wagon the SUV comes off much better. It may well offer 7 seats, handling will be close, and it’ll do country roads, remote travel and a little rough-road work much better, and even handle deep driveaways around town without a scrape. The wagon is ahead on purchase cost, running cost and handling but not by huge margins.
Final words – towing and offroad capability remain two areas to choose a 4X4 over anything else. If you want a seven-seater only consider a SUV or maybe better yet, a peoplemover. The wagon is the cheapest choice and probably the best drive, but the least capable.