I hate SUVs. Here's why
For me, recent rise of SUVs is a marketing success that I struggle to find any logical arguments for.
SUVs and crossovers are on the rise, there is no doubt about it. Many manufacturers whom we would never traditionally associate with off-road vehicles, such as Aston Martin, Maserati or Bugatti have announced or already made an SUV. This is a sign of times - if you want to survive as a car manufacturer, you have to have at least one SUV, favourably more.
But this is not the issue...
I don't know about you, but in my opinion one should get a car that suits his or her needs. Similarly, when you go on the summer holidays, you take light and airy clothes, not thick down jacket and a pair of ski pants. When you plan to listen to the music on the bus or on the train, you prepare a pair of headphones rather than a loudspeaker (but this one in particular isn't that obvious for everyone). However, in recent years car manufacturers managed to convince hundreds of thousands of people that the ideal city car is a lumpy, raised SUV. And whilst I might be a bit bitter about it, as the rise of SUVs kills my beloved mid-size sedans and station wagons segment, there are some true disadvantages to the SUVs.
Aston Martin DBX. I wouldn't buy one, would you?
Two main problems: weight and height
There are many reasons why I think the SUVs are ridiculous creatures, most of them arising from their weight and height. Initially, the SUVs and crossovers were supposed to be a nice compromise for people, who needed a car for travelling both on and off-road. This suited some markets, like Russia, really well, as roads there were (and still are) in poor condition or even non-existent. However, to give off-road capabilities to typical cars, manufacturers had to raise them to give them greater ground clearance. This made the SUVs higher and thus heavier, as there was more metal needed to make such machines and keep them on the road. As a result, a centre of gravity also went up, which started to progressively worsen a whole bunch of things.
Everything has gotten worse
High centre of gravity has made driving experience way worse, as such car is more prone to body roll. Higher weight resulted in slower acceleration and worse braking performance, as both engine and brakes have to do more work to get the SUV up to speed and slow it down respectively. Higher structure has also enlarged the frontal area of the SUVs and made them less aerodynamic. Both of these factors have increased their aerodynamic resistance, which has had negative effect on fuel consumption (and has made listening "Despacito" on repeat just a little bit harder due to more prominent wind noise). And the list just keeps going. As a results of these "minor" drawbacks, Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio was nearly 20 seconds slower on the Nürburgring than Giulia with the same engine. The funniest thing is, they are advertising this amazing package as a Sport Utility Vehicle. For me, making a car handle worse and drive slower is as sporty as starting in sprint competition in your wellies.
Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio - an astonishing car, but not as impressive as Giulia
Utility isn't great either
SUVs are often sold as a more practical and comfortable alternative to a regular car. Of course, higher construction usually means that you can fit more stuff in them (but with the recent rise of Coupé SUVs this is no longer that obvious). However, let us not forget about the existence of vans, panel vans and station wagons, which offer similar or even greater cargo areas whilst not requiring their users to lift their cargo few feet up in order to put it in the boot. This year I was selling a bike. The buyer came in an Opel Astra G Hatchback (or Vauxhall Astra if you live in UK), and we managed to squeeze the bike into it. Possible? If you try hard enough. What is more, SUVs may also be considered easier to park thanks to their smaller sizes. However, parking spaces are standardised to fit even the biggest vehicles. The only advantage SUVs truly have is being able to go over obstacles such as curbs and park in forbidden areas like lawns with ease. Lastly, getting into the SUV is easier, but this is the case for all cars with raised roof lines, even those as small as Honda Jazz.
Oh, so you can't fit a dog into regular car? Then explain this
Questionable response to climate change
Whilst our climate is going crazy and in my opinion we should do whatever we can to preserve the environment, car manufacturers seem to have a different idea. Even though both sportiness and utilitarianism of SUVs can be questioned, their negative effect on the environment is undeniable, at least for me. Firstly, they require more materials to actually make them due to their greater weight. Secondly, they need more fuel to run them, which makes both your wallet and the environment rather sad (unless you like spending more money than necessary). Thirdly, they directly contribute to destruction of environment, as they encourage people to drive directly over green spaces and plants. If there are so many disadvantages of SUVs, why do people keep buying them?
Driver comfort number one?
Many SUV drivers like higher sitting position their cars offer, as this supposedly gives them better vision. However, I think that it is more connected with the need to look down on people. Why don't they buy a truck then? This is an altogether interesting issue. Whilst researching for this opinion piece, I stumbled upon an article (I seriously recommend reading it), in which car industry specialists paint the portrait of an average SUV buyer. Would you like to guess which 2 characteristics were the most prevalent ones? Insecurity and vanity. Yep, according to researchers, SUV buyers are self-absorbed individuals, unsure of both their driving and parenting competences. Astonishing, isn't it?
Just look at the height difference! Will lorry driving be the next step for SUV owners?
SUVs seem safer. That's true. In collision with a regular vehicle, SUV is more likely to come off better, mainly thanks to its weight. On the downside, it has no chance when facing a lorry. What is more, it is less likely to avoid such collision thanks to its worse handling. Thus, if you want something safe in case of the crash, buy a lorry. Preferably the American one, with long hood and other bits and bobs. Or buy a regular car and avoid the crash whatsoever.
So why do people buy them?
I reckon it is thanks to the lifestyle car manufacturers managed to sell. Buying the SUV was advertised as a ticket to a new, modern and healthy way of living, full of kayaking, cycling and walking mountain trips. But such change won't occur without the change of habits. One and a half years ago my father got a pineapple cutting tool for Christmas. Results? Two eaten pineapples and five thrown into the skip.
Buying the SUV won't turn you into an athlete. What it can do however, apart from leaving you with a much bigger loan than a regular car would, is make you lazier. Whilst driving the SUV, curbs are no longer an issue. Whilst driving the SUV, every green area in the city is a new parking space yet to be discovered. Whilst driving the SUV, life gets easier. At least this is what it seems like, as nowadays ground clearance of a typical SUV is barely higher than this of a regular car despite much greater overall height. Additionally, low-profile tyres successfully cut any attempts at driving over curbs short, as they make it much easier to do costly damage to the rims of your ride.
SUV lifestyle. What else could you want from life?
What little off-road is left
The best thing is, off-road aspirations of SUVs are systematically limited. Back in the days, higher construction was used to fit an all-wheel drive system, as truth be told, it takes up some space. However, would you like to guess, which car segment was the only one to record a significant decrease in the number of cars sold with the all-wheel drive in the last 16 years? Yes, it were the SUVs, with nearly 60 percentage points drop throughout the years. Some manufacturers, like Peugeot, have even stopped offering the all-wheel drive in their SUVs whatsoever. So, after all these years the only thing left from the rather good off-roader is a lumpy block clumsily driven by its front wheels, somewhere in between off-road aspirations and on-road functionality.
Wrapping things up
To conclude, I would like to congratulate the marketing experts. Somehow they managed to convince many city dwellers to buy gas-guzzling, slow, raised, monstrous blocks on wheels.
When you buy an SUV, you make a choice. You put yourself ahead of the others, ahead of the environment, ahead of everything. Admittedly, SUVs can be useful, for example when one actually travels through wastelands, has to haul a trailer or... that's all I could come up with. Thus, my message is simple - if you need a car, buy one you actually need, not one they try to convince you you need.
Sorry, I had to vent my frustration a bit. I'm better now. Thanks for reading!