Let’s get something out of the way before we start: you don’t need an SUV. Unless you’re a cattle farmer in the Outer Hebrides, mad keen on caravanning or own a small pack of dogs that have regular appointments at the doggie grooming salon, you don’t need an SUV.
Not that you should let that stop you, of course. Thousands haven’t. Two years ago, the sports utility vehicle – such an American concept – became Britain’s most popular type of car. For years before that, our biggest seller was the ‘runaround’ – small, nimble little motors typified by the Ford Fiesta. A car that’s perfectly adequate for the school run, is cheap to run, easy-ish on the environment and fits neatly into the average supermarket parking bay.
Today, Britain’s runaround is the same size as the sodding Batmobile – Christian Bale edition! Since 2015, SUVs have outsold and outmuscled every other type of car on British roads. Why? Well, the Ford Motor Company, itself keen to explain this head-scratcher, conducted a survey of millennials and found the following:
- 52% of millennials intending to buy an SUV think they’re the only kind of vehicle that delivers toughness alongside lifestyle, rational and emotional appeal in a single package
- SUVs are cars you “want to be seen in”
- SUVs make the driver feel powerful when driving
Unfortunately, all of that sort of makes you sound like dick, so here are three other ways to talk yourself into buying an SUV. Because we all know you’re going to do it anyway.
1. “Safety First”
And who can argue with that? Especially if you have kids, why would you ferry your precious cargo around in anything less than an armoured car? It’s very simple science: if you’re unlucky enough to have a collision with smaller vehicle you come out on top. We’ll keep this light, but a quick Google search will tell you grim but oddly reassuring statistics about how much less likely you are to die in an SUV. Okay fine: you are 7.6 times less likely to die in a head-on collision with a smaller car than the people in the other car. Researchers at the University of Buffalo say so. Told you it was grim. Don’t get too cocky, though. Research has also suggested that drivers of SUVs feel so safe that they are more prone to risky driving.
Test drive this: Tesla Model X (approx £79,000)
In American road tests, Tesla’s green giant recently became the highest-rated SUV ever built with five-star ratings across the board from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These included roll tests, which is important because many SUVs sit so high off the ground that they have a higher risk of rolling in accidents than lower cars. After frontal, side and pole impacts, tests confirmed that even in a serious accident, occupants have a 93% chance of walking away unharmed. And yes, it’s all electric, too.
2. “I actually get surprisingly good mileage”
The Hulk-like proportions of most SUVs mean that there aren’t many people weighing them up against, say, a Prius or frothing over their mpg numbers. These vehicles were originally conceived for off-roading or towing, not doing the big weekly run to Waitrose. But the more popular they’ve become, the more car-like they’ve become in certain aspects. In 2017, it’s a mistake to think that you can’t get respectable mileage from an SUV. And you don’t have to be spending £80K on the Tesla to justify a purchase on efficiency credentials.
Test drive this: Vauxhall Mokka X (from £18,455)
One of the most popular SUVs on the market, Vauxhall’s neat crossover is spacious, has an excellent safety record and has just got a redesign, which makes it look like a Corsa’s stacked older brother.
Opt for the 1.6-litre diesel engine, however, and you’ll also enjoy low running costs. The vehicle boasts 72.4mpg, which is impressive for a car of this size at this price. That’s backed up by CO2 emissions at a surprisingly modest 103g/kg. Alternatively, pay a little more for the ‘Whisper Diesel’ version. The mpg suffers a little, though you could get close to 800 miles on a single tank. But with emissions at 106g/kg, the car is exempt from road tax in year one, which is another reason to be smug.
3. “It’s like a goddamn private jet”
The beauty of the SUV is that it has to be the only type of car that can be a practical family vehicle and a mid-life crisis on four wheels at the same time. Once all the sensible stuff is taken care of (safety, boot space, etc) there’s a lot of fun to be had in the driving seat. There’s the high, superior driving position, of course, from where you can look down on the worms at T-junctions. And the fact that SUVs combine power with aerodynamics and handling to offer one of the smoothest rides around – banish all thoughts of chugging around and bouncing about like you used to in old 4X4s.
At the top end of the spectrum, there’s also a wealth (which is the right word to use) of design touches, tech upgrades and customisations that make these cars feel like private jets, from luxuriously finished interiors to AI-grade tech suites.
Test drive this: Jaguar F-Pace (from £34,000)
Jaguar’s first ever SUV has been a roaring success, winning Car of the Year and sending Jaguar-Land Rover’s profits soaring. We’re not putting that all down to boot space but there is an enormous 650 litres with the rear seat up, more than many of its rivals. In addition, the car handles, well, like a Jaguar, meaning you can take country roads with a smile on your face, while on the inside the family will be kept busy with an impressive infotainment system.
It’s available in a head-spinning number of configurations, with a 2-litre diesel engine working just fine for the majority of owners. Although you can up-spec to a monstrous V6 engine if you want to. Just saying.