A reader is alarmed by the number of SUV reviews on Practical Motoring
We love to hear from our readers, and every so often we answer them via a blog. This one is concerned by the number of SUV reviews…
Reader P writes:
“I came across your site today and scrolled through the car reviews. I was alarmed at the number of reviews for SUV vehicles. Practical motoring it is not.
I have very high contempt for SUV’s and i simply can not understand the attraction to them other than it showing how gullible the buying public is to the sales propaganda from car manufactures and retailers.
SUV’s are a blight on our roads and are a danger to the occupants and more so to the ‘smaller’ vehicles and their passengers they collide with. As well, they are mobile road blocks and for drivers in following cars, obscure all vision of the road and traffic ahead.
I was hoping the the fascination for SUV’s was temporary but after seeing how many of your car reviews were for SUV’s, it appears the car (or should i say, glorified truck) is here to stay and seems to be escalating.
I drive a VW Gold diesel (yes, a polluting diesel VW has informed me) and i read the 2016 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack review. I was extremely pleased to read Mr Murrell’s comment: “offering many of the advantages of an SUV in a practical wagon, and If only people would look beyond SUVs, they’d see that a vehicle like the Golf Alltrack (or Subaru Outback, Skoda Octavia Scout or Volvo XC60) are often a more considered choice.”
Maybe if the motoring press did more to educate buyers of the, dare i say, stupidity, of buying an SUV when they can achieve most if not all of the wanted benefits (hip- height for older people is the only practical benefit for city bound drivers that i can see) in smaller vehicle such as those mentioned above, large SUV numbers on the road might reduce.
Then again, I have always thought that large vehicles and SUV’s purchased for no apparent reason are a Freudian compensation for inadequacies in self esteem and size of …….
Recently, a person i know aged in his late 60’s, 165cm tall and very slim build purchased a large SUV for basically driving to the shopping centre. To me, he looks absolutely absurd, being this, relatively, miniscule man, driving this glorified large truck.
Apparently, it’s all about form before function these days and unfortunately, this is reflective of where society is going or has gone in many things.”
First of all many thanks for writing. We want Practical Motoring to be as useful as possible to Australia’s car buying population, and we can only do that if we get useful and considered feedback. So thank you!
I’m going to address your points, but before I do I’ll declare my interest to give you fair warning.
I’m a member of three 4WD clubs, a 4WD instructor, I own a modified one, most of my mates drive them offroad too and in general I pretty much live the 4WD lifestyle, driving offroad probably twice a month and bush camping when I can. So you can kind of guess where my response to an SUV-hater is going to go, can’t you?
For example, when I reviewed the Honda Odyessy, I wrote this as the summary:
Most of Australia’s SUV owners probably should have bought an Odyssey, because it’s not only more practical but a better drive than most SUVs in the same price range. And, for those considering a large SUV that won’t ever leave the bitumen, then put aside your preconceived notions about peoplemovers and put the Odyssey on your shopping list.
I wrote that because that’s what I believe – peoplemovers should sell much more than they do, so I don’t dispute the gist of your views, and I agree with Paul Murrell’s comment about the Alltrack. However, that doesn’t mean to say I entirely agree with you, and you’re guilty of falling for the usual myths.
Firstly, you have no idea what people use the cars for. That shiny new LC200 which has never been offroad might be used for towing a horse trailer, and that Kluger might be there to tow a camper trailer when the family gets the chance. The Outlander parked at the shops might see regular duty down rough dirt roads. The Captiva at the doctors might have been bought because it offers a higher seating position for the elderly, as you note yourself. Peoplemovers are also pretty ordinary towers – the Honda pictured above can manage just 1000kg, which is at the low end for any SUV. And SUVs offer tall boots, useful for lots of purposes such as larger dogs. A BMW X car might be used for snow runs, like the Santa Fe pictured in the title.
So there is no ‘stupidity’ in buying an SUV – or any other car – unless you are fully aware of the owner’s circumstances, which you can’t tell just by glancing at their vehicle.
Even if you could, we have no committee in Australia that requires potential owners to submit a request to buy a car, evaluates their need then issues a permit to buy if the need is deemed appropriate. No, it’s a free country here, you want it, you can have it. I’ve never understood why what other people do bothers readers like you.
I see you drive a diesel Golf – I presume you did the maths and worked out it was more cost-effective than the petrol, but if you didn’t and just wanted the car anyway I’m not going critique your choice.
It’s a myth that most people buy SUVs to compensate for the size of their penis (you can say that word, it’s allowed). How do I know? Around 50% of SUV buyers are female.
And do you seriously think that even males buy the likes of Klugers or Tucsons as status symbols?
The fact is that the modern SUV is safe, comfortable, easy to drive and the ideal tool for the likes of a suburban family in many ways. It is a lot easier to put a baby into a childseat in an SUV than a roadcar, and the SUV often offers more bootspace too.
The simple reason we review a lot of SUVs is because Australians buy a lot of them, and they buy a lot of them because they meet what people need. We have to follow market demand.
Let’s talk about size. Many SUVs are smaller and lighter than roadcars. The new Mustang, the Lexus RC F, RC350 are all two-door coupes that weigh at least 1666kg. The Outlander, Forester, Renegade and Grand Vitara are five-door SUVs with some offroad capability and real daily-drive usefulness, yet all weigh less (comparison here). Also, their weight, length and width is comparable to roadcars of the same interior capacity. They are taller, but that’s all. If anyone has a problem with taller vehicles on the road and finds they “obscure all vision” then often dropping back a bit behind the car in front will help, and that’s good safe practice in any case. That’s the sort of tip learned on a good post-license driver training programme which will also cover looking ahead and vehicle positioning.
Another myth that the modern SUV is always based on a truck. Most of them are based on roadcar platforms. While we’re at it, those heavier-duty 4WDs that have ladder-frame chassis are now rating 5-star ANCAP safety, like most of the utes for example. We need to drop the chassis from the discussion about safety.
Yes, cars are very much about form AND function. They are an expensive purchase, so why shouldn’t buyers own something they enjoy and also find practical enough for their needs? You’re right, society does like nice things, it’s what makes life worth living. If you applied the function over form logic to drinks, you’d ditch coffee, beer and wine, saying let’s just drink water. Housing too, I’m sure that you could squeeze into a smaller dwelling than whatever you live in now unless it’s a swag. Pick anything you like, we buy and own more than the absolute neccessity. But you know what?
Life’s too short for boring cars.