All you need to know about SUVs

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SUVs today trace their antecedents to the rugged but lightweight vehicles built for military use (Willys Jeep) and those designed for farmers (Land Rover).

These SUV’s of old were uncomfortable—they had no doors for instance—and were extremely thirsty. Todays models borrow their pros: a raised driving position, great off road performance, and towing capability, and couple them with modern comforts, style, safety as well as better fuel economies.

There’s a wide range of SUV body styles: large, medium and compact, as well as crossovers (CUV). The latter is really a utility vehicle based on a car platform rather than a truck platform as with SUVs. Crossovers usually provide car-like attributes such as sharp handling, better fuel economy and quieter rides. Truck based SUV’s are bulkier, and generally provide better off-road mobility. The terms are often interchangeable depending on the automaker. For instance the Ford Edge may share some of its features with the Mondeo car, but it’s still an SUV.


Size/Market Segment

The SUV market is classified into subcompact, compact, midsize (which are further classified on the number of rows of seats they have) and full size. Generally, larger SUVs have more engine power, towing ability, passenger capacity  but are also hefty on the pocket.

Full sized SUVs such as the Nissan Patrol, and the Toyota Land Cruiser are purposed for large families, and to haul and tow. Their standard engine should be the diesel. This is to reduce fuel costs, and because diesel offers plenty of pulling power.

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Mid-sized SUVs such as the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV are cheaper on the market and are also more economical to run. They are still quite practical but are easier to drive and snug enough to fill ordinary parking spaces. These SUVs still has the commanding driving position as well as ground clearance of their larger siblings.

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The subcompacts and compact models typically range around sh. 1,800,000 to sh. 3,000,000. Mid-size and full size SUVs have a much wider range from sh. 2,700,000 to sh. 5,000,000. The Luxury models dig deeper into your pocket ranging anywhere from sh. 3,200,000 to an excess of sh. 40,000,000.

An SUV is more expensive compared to a hatchback or a saloon, but they also tend to retain their value for longer.


Engines/Fuel Economy

Compact SUVs offer both four- and six-cylinder engines. Midsize sport-utility vehicles typically come standard with six-cylinder engines, but can be had with four- and eight-cylinder power plants as well. Full-size SUVs feature V6 or V8 engines. The most economical four-cylinder compact SUVs can achieve combined mileage figures in the mid-to-high 20s, while most six-cylinder sport-utes average in the upper teens (though the handful of gas-electric hybrid models do much better than that). Full-size vehicles get between 12 and 20 mpg.

SUVs are typically known for their performance. It is for good measure too, because under the hood lies four to eight cylinder power plants. Compact SUVs feature both four and six cylinders. Mid-sized SUVs come standard with six cylinders, although they have both four and eight cylinder engines as options. The full size SUVs are powered by V6 orV8 engines.

Fuel economy is always a touchy issue with these machines. With the most economical four cylinders returning 24-29 mpg. Most six cylinder SUVs average in the upper teens, although hybrids get much better. Full size vehicles do between 12 and 20 mpg.


Family shoppers should find antilock brakes, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and stability control standard on every model. Rearview cameras are also increasingly standard, while high-tech electronics that warn inattentive drivers of blind-spot intrusion and impending collisions have migrated from strictly in the luxury realm down to mainstream brands. Shoppers should also be aware of crash test scores produced by NHTS the IIHS abroad and the EuroNcap. The scores prove testament to how safe a car is on the road incase of an accident

We have come a long way from the crude fore-fathers of modern day SUVs built …, that didn’t even have a door save an airbag. With so much power under the hood, SUVs have to come with a comprehensive safety kits for their passengers. Coming as standard in SUVs are antilock brakes, front and curtain airbags, rearview cameras and stability control. Blind-spot sensors that were exclusive to luxury SUVs have migrated to mainstream models too. However it is worth mentioning that most SUVs tend to sway around corners mainly because of the additional ground clearance necessary for these cars. Hence if you are looking to get an SUV for racing purposes ..stick to straight line races.


Luxury and Convenience Features

There are a couple of things you’d do well to look for when shopping for SUVs. Rearview cameras, automatic climate control, heated seats, smartphone interfaces, navigation systems, keyless start systems, power liftgates and Bluetooth capability are commonplace luxury features in non-luxury SUVs. Also watch out for features such as special storage bins and reclining/sliding rear seats.

Luxuries like rearview cameras, automatic climate control, heated seats, smartphone interfaces, navigation systems, keyless start systems, power liftgates and Bluetooth capability can often be found in non-luxury SUVs. Look for them as you shop. Also keep an eye out for family-friendly features like rear-seat entertainment systems, flat-folding third-row seats, special storage bins and rear seats that slide and/or recline. Don’t forget the kids though you can also insist on getting rear power ports making sure that you can drive safely without having your kids scrambling for the power port in the front to charge their phones and dual zone air conditioning implements for the rear passengers.

Passenger Capacity/Interior Space

SUVs have plenty of space inside to accommodate passengers. Most are designed to carry at least five passengers. Compacts and subcompacts offer adequate leg room for adult passengers with seat adjustments to extend either passenger or cargo capacity. Most large SUVs offer a third-row seat for additional passengers; these are best suited for pre-teens, but several have adult sized third row seats.Consider the Ford Explorer and Nissan Patrol.

All but a few SUVs are designed to carry at least five passengers. Most subcompacts and compacts provide enough rear legroom for full-size adults, with several offering fore/arm seat adjustments to extend either passenger space or cargo capacity. The same goes for larger SUVs, but these wider vehicles are more likely to accommodate three-across seating. Most larger SUVs offer a third-row seat for additional passenger capacity. Such seats are generally best suited for kids, but several have third-row seats that can comfortably fit adults, you might want to test these if you plan to carry more than five passengers regularly.

Cargo Capacity

Every sport-utility allows you to fold or remove the rear seats for more cargo capacity. When the rear seat is folded, compact SUVs can provide as much as 70 cubic feet of capacity, while midsize SUVs can expand to as much as 100 cubic feet. Full-size models offer cargo areas in excess of 100 cubic feet.

All SUVs allow you to fold or remove the rear seats for more boot-space. When the rear seat is folded, compact SUVs offer up to 70 ft3 capacity. Midsize SUVs can expand to as much as 100 ft3 while full size models offer cargo space in excess of 100 cubic feet.

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Drivetrain: 2WD(two wheel drive) vs. 4WD( four wheel drive) vs. AWD(All wheel drive)

SUVs come in three drivetrains. There’s the 2WD, 4WD and the AWD. Two wheel drive means that only the front or rear wheels power the vehicle. 4WD allows the driver to switch between 2WD and 4WD. The four wheel drive system sometimes features dual-range gearing for better off-road experiences. 4WD vehicles tend to have extra mechanical under the floor that can compromise boot-space, making 2WD more sensible for smaller SUVs.   The all-wheel drive (AWD) automatically distributes power to the wheels where it’s needed most, and are made for all-weather driving, rather than off-road terrains. AWD generally weighs less than the 4WD system, but may increase running costs.

Predominantly offered with 2WD, these “soft-roaders” are primarily designed for use on the road. That’s no bad thing. 4WD vehicles tend to have extra mechanical under the floor that can compromise interior space – in particular boot space – making 2WD a more sensible option for a smaller SUV, unless 4WD really is needed.


Running Costs

Since compact SUVs are mostly smaller, lighter and have less complex four-wheel-drive systems, maintenance and fuel costs are usually lower. With larger size and larger engines, midsize and full-size sport-utes by and large get worse mileage and are more expensive to insure. This is especially true of truck-based models.



SUVs are a worthy buy especially if you can afford one here in Africa and SUV would really help deal with our bad roads much better. Though they may consume more fuel better engine options are coming into the market with smaller engines retrofitted with turbos that make the cars much more economical while still maintaining the power. So if you can afford it,buy one.



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