The sport-utility vehicle market has undergone a significant shift in recent years thanks in no small part to the skyrocketing price of fuel and consumer tastes shifting to smaller, more efficient vehicles. This shift has led to the automotive industry completely rethinking the way it builds and sells sport utility vehicles. Consumers, not wanting to give up the utility of their family haulers and the fashionable appearance, stopped buying large sport utility vehicles and began purchasing smaller compact sport utility vehicles. These compact SUVs could be parked more easily, filled up with fuel more easily, and still remained nearly as off-road ready as many large sport utilities were.
The change in how sport-utes were being built was from large, truck-based vehicles to primarily car-based SUVs. The resulting smaller overall size and more efficient build of these sport-utes allowed manufacturers to use smaller engines, sometimes simple and efficient four-cylinder engines, rather than the ubiquitous V-8 previously popular for powering SUVs. This resulted in a significant reduction of the amount of fuel that consumers were burning in their daily commute when driving their SUVs.
One of the most significant changes that this allowed in the manufacture of what are commonly called “crossovers” is the use of front-wheel drive as opposed to four-wheel or all-wheel drive. While many current models have optional all-wheel drive systems, the use of front-wheel drive in crossover SUVs allows for lower production costs compared with traditional four-wheel mantap168 drive trucks, as well as a more car-like ride quality for drivers who primarily use a compact SUV on-road rather than off. Since the great majority of crossovers on the road today will likely never tread on dirt until they’re relegated to salvage yards, many consumers skip the all-wheel drive option in favor of the less-expensive front-wheel drive.
Safety has been a significant problem with sport utility vehicles since they were first introduced. In general, most truck-based sport-utes perform dismally in government crash tests for the simple fact that they’re built on truck frames. Crossovers, on the other hand, are typically built using unit body construction, which integrates the frame into the superstructure of the vehicle. This results in a much stronger vehicle that engineers can use to better dissipate the energy of a crash. The effect is particularly notable in side-impact crash testing and frontal-offset crash testing. Most truck-based SUVs had the problem of trapping occupants inside the vehicle when the front structure of the SUV compressed the doors in a crash. Today’s compact SUVs utilize crumple zones throughout the engine bay to act like a spring in the event of a frontal collision, leaving the passenger compartment largely untouched, and the doors fully able to open to rescue crews.
A less noticeable, but equally as important, aspect of compact SUVs being such a good option for four wheel drive cars is the fact that small SUVs typically have lower insurance premiums than their larger predecessors. The reasons listed above all contribute to this unexpected cost savings for many motorists. A hard-to-drive, V-8-powered sport utility, being difficult to see out of for some drivers, can be considerably more accident-prone than smaller compact crossover SUVs, which are easier to drive and repair in the case of an accident. By protecting the occupants of the SUV better, compact SUVs help reduce potential medical-injury insurance claims.
While compact sport utility vehicles do have their deficiencies, namely towing capacity and passenger-carrying capacity, most drivers won’t use those benefits often enough to warrant the additional cost of ownership involved with owning large SUVs.