There is a fast-growing trend in the world – the rise in popularity of SUV cars. In 2019, sales in South Africa reached over 500 000 units alone, while millions of SUVs were sold globally. This includes all kinds – regular SUVs, small SUVs, and even crossovers. Sleek and large, they are a force to be reckoned with under the hood and will take you from bustling traffic on the highway to relaxing on the quieter veld with great ease.
We took some time to find out why SUVs are so appealing to the South African driver and why they fare so well as family vehicles.
What is an SUV?
You probably already knew that SUV stands for ‘sports utility vehicle’. It is a car classification that merges a typical on-road vehicle with the best features of off-road vehicles, such as higher ground clearance and the all-important four-wheel drive.
Having said that, there is no set definition of an SUV, but some of the popular models include the Toyota Fortuner, Ford EcoSport, Volkswagen Tiguan, and Mazda CX-5 – all vastly different vehicles.
Why an SUV is the perfect family car
SUVs typically offer extra seating capacity when compared to sedans and hatchbacks, meaning that larger families are easily accommodated. Most SUV models can comfortably seat around five to nine passengers depending on the model, perfect for those with larger families. They also usually come with generous boot space to cart around the sports equipment, toys, prams, and everything else that comes with every outing when you have children.
Speaking of children, you can count on your SUV to be durable against spills, dirty shoes, mud, sticky fingers – all manner of messes. Many of these vehicles are made with families in mind, providing easy clean-up to keep them looking and smelling good as new.
As well as extra capacity, many SUVs also offer the driver the option of configuring seating to allow for custom arrangements when you buy one brand new. You can often choose the number of rows and seats to add the amount of seating you want, including a roomier capacity for a growing family. This also makes them ideal for road trips and holiday travel.
Advantages of driving an SUV
One of the major benefits when choosing an SUV is it typically offers the driver and their passengers stability and comfort when tasked with driving on South Africa’s not-so-safe roads.
Some of the main benefits include:
Comfort. The ample interiors of SUVs are one of the most luxurious benefits in terms of comfort, whether you are the driver or a passenger. Sleek designs and more room for passengers mean that you do not have to sacrifice style to have a robust car both on and off the road.
Safety. In an SUV, the driver sits higher in the vehicle than in a regular sedan or hatchback. This offers greater visibility for both the driver and other cars on the road. In our experience, sitting higher above the ground is beneficial because you are able to see hazards such as potholes, debris, and any other objects that could be lying around on the road to avoid damaging your car. This is a big advantage when considering that some South African roads may not be in optimal condition.
Versatility. One of the main benefits is the versatility that the SUV offers in terms of peace of mind. The driver will know that their vehicle is safe and comfortable in urban contexts, while also being able to provide an incredible off-road experience. We think this is one of the main reasons why SUVs are so popular. Heading into the bush feels more comfortable knowing you have a vehicle that can handle tough terrain and, if the need ever arises, the ability to safely tow another vehicle. Some models also boast the option of changing between all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive, so you really can have the best of both worlds.
Price. Depending on the model you are looking at, the price of SUVs varies as much as the types you can buy. Crossovers tend to be affordable to buy and light on fuel, making them a great budget option.
Affordable car insurance. Because they often come with the latest safety features, SUVs are often more affordable to insure than you might think.
Boot space. Due to their size, you can expect an SUV to offer much more boot space than a hatchback or sedan.
Enjoyable to drive. Many modern SUVs are not clunky like they used to be. They offer a sleek look and a sporty feel that makes them fun to drive.
Automatic and manual transmissions. Most SUVs are available in automatic and manual transmissions. No matter your preferred vehicle configuration, you can likely find an SUV model that suits your needs.
SUVs in South Africa
Globally, SUVs are on an upward trend in popularity. This is one area of the motor industry that is excelling despite downturns with other kinds of vehicles.
This is also true for the motor industry in South Africa. SUVs are highly versatile and have become increasingly sought-after at motor vehicle auctions and dealerships – it is an incredibly competitive segment at the moment.
We can also see that South African customers are spending more time searching for SUVs on search engines than sedans. With our 30-plus years of experience in the car insurance industry, we can confidently predict this trend will grow beyond 2020.
The popularity of SUVs in South Africa are about more than just their look and ability to be a great family vehicle – more so than other parts of the world. Our country’s expansive network of gravel and dirt roads, along with potholes, can be especially damaging to a car’s suspension and tyres. An SUV can typically survive in this kind of terrain without getting damaged.
Popular SUVs to consider
After reading about all of the benefits, you might be wondering which model you should go for. There are a lot of variables to consider, including your budget, driving style, and vehicle make and model preferences.
So how do you know which one is right for you and your family? When choosing a new car, remember to consider your budget, personal preferences, and overall driving style. No matter what type of car you are buying, it is important to test drive the specific models you are interested in.
It is generally a good idea to consider the resale value of your vehicle when you are shopping for any vehicle too. Because it is such a big purchase, thinking of the long-term makes for a sound financial decision.
The Ford Figo Freestyle and EcoSport Ambiente Auto went on sale earlier this year and have fared relatively well despite the uncertain economic climate in South Africa and globally. These are examples of the mini SUV segment, which is expected to total 10% of all industry sales in 2020, with projections moving upwards after year-end.
Another option is the Mercedes-Benz GL. Interestingly, this SUV is one of the most popular options in the United States, where it is one of the best-selling luxury SUVs.
Of course, there is always the trusty Land Rover franchise, made for off-road adventuring, which includes models like the Freelander 2 and a choice of the Evoque, Sport, and flagship Range Rover.
Another notable SUV is the Volkswagen Touareg, which is now in its third generation and has proven itself highly sought-after in both South African and global markets. Previous models of the Touareg sold around a million units per year, with the hopes that newer iterations perform just as well.
One surprising model to take note of is the Hyundai Creta. It retains its resale value extremely well, even though it may not be the car you think of when you think of a traditional SUV.
As expected, Toyota remains one of the most dominant brands in this category, with the highly desired Toyota Land Cruiser gaining the most traction since 2019. The Land Cruiser is extremely popular worldwide, and is sold in over 190 countries across the globe. Toyota is one of the most popular brands of vehicles in South Africa.
These are just a few great options to consider, but we recommend doing your own research to determine the specifics that will suit your family.
An SUV for your family
When you drive an SUV, there is no reason you cannot bring your family with you no matter where you go, and that is ultimately what makes this segment so sought-after among families.
From its accessibility, added visibility, and large capacity, an SUV could be the best vehicle for your needs. However, with all the different types and options of SUV available, the best way to decide which is best for you is to experience it – test drive as many different models as you can and you are sure to find something you love. Get a car insurance quote with Auto & General online today.
Sources: Wheels24; Briefly
The information in this article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial, legal, or medical advice.