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Ever wondered what an SUV actually is?

Get the low-down on these high-riding cars with Brayleys

What does SUV stand for?

SUV stands for Sport Utility Vehicle.

What is an SUV?

An SUV is a car with a body shape that’s characterised by big wheels and increased clearance height, with chunky, sporty styling.

The SUV generally has a rugged appearance that inspires fun and adventure. The high driving position offers great visibility and there’s plenty of useful space inside. The real meaning of SUV is all about being able to go almost anywhere, for getting out and enjoying life.

SUV cars are also ideal for transporting passengers and heavy or awkward loads. And SUVs cope very well with all types of road conditions, tracks and uneven ground surfaces.

And it’s that go-anywhere capacity which inspires driving confidence when you’re in an SUV. But should you buy one? Find the answer in our handy SUV guide. We’ve answered your questions with everything you need to know about the different types of SUV cars, including Compact, Crossover, Electric and Hybrid SUV.

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So what does SUV mean?

For drivers, the SUV represents an important evolution of car styling and utilisation. And SUV meaning? The SUV definition of Sport Utility Vehicle, suggests a vehicle that is suited to outdoor leisure pursuits combined with everyday practicality. They’re a completely new category of car with a multitude of uses:

    • Previously, 4x4s had a limited appeal to the majority of car buyers. True off-road vehicles have impressive performance going up improbable slopes and down bumpy mountain tracks. But fuel economy was not a priority and parking in town probably to be avoided.

    • If you want length space you could certainly buy an excellent Estate car.

    • A People Carrier is pretty good at carrying people but somehow not very... well, exciting.

    • A Hatchback is practical around town, but fills up fast when you’re transporting gear or people – or both.

    • Saloon cars are super for cruising in comfort and style. And that’s great too.

The point of the SUV is that is they take the advantages of each of these categories of car, all rolled into one. And in doing so, car designers have created a brand new type of vehicle.

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What’s the difference between a Car and an SUV?

They’re both road vehicles. If a car is the traditional Hatchback, Saloon, Estate or Coupé, then the SUV is all those cars, in one.

What’s the difference between an SUV and a 4x4?

Most SUV and Crossover cars are two-wheel drive, although many have AWD – All Wheel Drive options. A pure 4x4 vehicle is specifically designed for off road performance, without necessarily having the efficiency and practicality of an SUV.

So what is the purpose of an SUV?

In being a vehicle jack of all trades, the SUV has become the master of the multi-purpose vehicle. SUVs have pushed the limits of car use to combine the mundane with the extraordinary.

They’re ideal for family jaunts, bike rides, skiing, surfing and outdoor pursuits. You can get off the beaten track thanks to their higher clearance and better visibility. And so their scope for adventure is therefore greater.

And of course, they’re also very handy for going to the DIY store and doing the school run too.

Nowadays, there’s a fantastic selection of SUV and Crossover models available.

Dacia Sandero Stepway

What is a Crossover?

This is an even more modern type of car than the SUV. The term Crossover refers to a new body shape inspired by the SUV, but based on an existing car chassis. It’s a different car body style that shares a chassis, engine configuration and transmission, with a regular hatchback or mid-size car.

OK, so what’s the difference between an SUV and a Crossover?

The difference is that the SUV has a specially designed chassis, not being based on a car version like Crossovers. Some may say that a true SUV also has a 4x4 option. Having said that, now we can often hear the term Crossover SUV. This tends to refer to a compact SUV, which makes the debate slightly irrelevant, as it’s more a question of size.

There are three categories of SUV:

Not forgetting the exciting new world of Hybrid SUV and Electric SUV cars

So let’s take a look at each of those in a little more detail:

All-New Renault CAPTUR side

Crossover and small SUV cars

The Crossover transforms a Hatchback into a more flexible car:

  • Easier to get in and out of
  • Greater driving visibility
  • Sporty, contemporary design
  • Great fuel economy being lighter than bigger SUVs
  • Assured ride and handling being derived from tried and tested reliable car base chassis
  • Light off-road capability having higher clearance
  • Manoeuvrable and easy to park

Crossovers are ideal for town and country, from the weekly shop to getting away for a weekend escapade. If you’re looking for a small SUV have a look at the Renault CAPTUR or all new Honda Jazz Crosstar.

The Jazz Crosstar is one the newest additions to the small SUV cars category, now featuring e:HEV Honda Hybrid technology as standard.

With the Dacia Sandero Stepway you don’t have to have a big budget to get in on the Crossover act.

The Kia Stonic is a great example of a Crossover. Based on the super reliable Rio chassis, the Stonic is everything a crossover should be: friendly, funky and fun to drive.

The All-New Kia XCeed is a new type of Crossover which adds coupé styling to the SUV family.

All-New Kia XCeed rear above

Medium or Mid-Size SUV

The Mid-size SUV is a great idea if a Crossover isn’t quite big enough. For families - transporting adults, children and all manner of gear and luggage, a mid-size SUV is practical and versatile. They’re easy to drive and more than manageable around town too.

The Mazda CX-30 is a superb example of clever styling, making it at home in the town or country. The sinuous upper body lines give a harmonious contemporary SUV shape. Lower down, the protection around the wheel arches and sills give it a robust look.

The Kia Sportage is simply Kia’s best selling SUV. The most recent model really hits the spot, defining the family SUV with its styling, practicality, innovative tech and performance. The Sportage is a legendary SUV, also available with a 4x4 option for greater off-road capabilities.

In this category, check out the New Renault KADJAR, the super-affordable Dacia Duster and don’t miss the fantastic Honda HR-V combining elegance and versatility with sophistication and style.

Kia Sportage SUV

Large SUV

Large SUV cars often meet the demands of families – they’re take-anything and go-anywhere vehicles. They have larger interiors often with 7 seats and big luggage carrying capacity. They’re also great for towing and some have formidable off road capabilities too. Have a look at:

  • All-New Kia Sorento, with acres of space
  • Mazda CX-5 offers fantastic refinement and driving pleasure
  • Renault Koleos with muscular styling and interior space
  • Honda CR-V featuring innovation comfort and style

Will an SUV fit in my garage?

The obvious answer depends on the size of the SUV and the size of your garage.

A typical garage in the UK measures between 8 x 16 feet (2.4m x 4.9m) and 10 x 20 feet (3m x 6.1m) with the door normally being 7 feet (2.1m) high.

Let’s take a Kia Sportage, one of the most popular SUV cars on the market, as an example. The length is around 14 ¾ feet (just under 4.5m), the width is roughly 6 feet (1.85m) and the height is 4 ¾ feet (1.45m).

You should therefore be able to fit a Sportage SUV in most garages. If you have a small garage it might be a squeeze, depending on how full it is with bikes, toys, tools and all manner of stuff that frequently finds its way inside garages.

And if you thought the SUV weren’t fuel efficient, just take a look at our final category.

Honda CR-V Hybrid

Hybrid SUV

We’re often asked “what SUV are available as hybrid? Well, here’s our selection:

The Honda CR-V hybrid SUV to another level of cleaner motoring. The Hybrid SUV, with dual internal combustion and electric motors, reduces emissions and increases fuel economy.

Like other manufacturers, Honda is rolling out proven Hybrid technology across the range. The brand new Jazz Crosstar is a great compact crossover with e:HEV Hybrid power as standard.

The all-new Renault CAPTUR hybrid is the first Plug-in rechargeable hybrid from Renault. This great looking crossover offers up to 30 miles of all-electric driving in SUV style.

Mazda is increasingly integrating Mild Hybrid technology into its SUV range with the CX-30 and CX-5, complimenting advanced Skyactiv-X engine innovation.

Check out our Brayleys hybrid guide to find out more about hybrid cars

In fact, the SUV is leading the way to cleaner driving in the UK - and none more so than the SUV range from Kia.

The Niro is an SUV with everything you’d expect, but with some major environmentally responsible advantages. You’ll find the Niro Self-Charging Hybrid and Niro Plug-In Hybrid, where you can get up to 200 mpg!

Kia Niro Hybrid

Electric SUV

The Kia e-Niro is top of the class and a clear leader in the 100% electric SUV category, with a superb spec, great performance and a range of 280 miles. It’s also a multi-award winner of the What Car? Car of the Year award.

Adding to the Kia Electric SUV line-up is the All-New Soul EV where iconic styling meets zero-emissions.

The All New Mazda MX-30 is a revolutionary and eye-catching electric SUV and Mazda’s first EV. First deliveries are expected in early 2021, so get your order in early to be first on the road in the UK!

And so to the key question:

Should I buy an SUV?

In 2020, the SUV is a great choice of car when you’re looking for a modern vehicle with space for passengers and luggage, capable of getting to more places than regular cars.

To help you decide, we’ve put together our top reasons to buy an SUV car.

9 reasons why your next car should be an SUV:

1. Great all-round Family Car – Transport all the family and associated paraphernalia with ease
2. Modern Design and style – there’s no denying that the SUV is a pretty cool car to own and drive
3. High Driving Position – a little more height really makes a difference in road visibility
4. Inside Space - with up to seats 7 seats plus easy getting in and out, the SUV is great for people moving
5. Luggage Capacity (and towing capacity) – from bikes to boards and beds to big trailers you can fit it in, on or behind an SUV with no problem
6. High Road Clearance – get to the beach, into the forest or fields. The SUV offers better off-road capacity than a regular vehicle.
7. Winter Driving – in slippery conditions such as wet roads, snow and ice, the 4x4 capacity can definitely come in handy, especially in the country
8. Fuel Economy – yes, SUVs feature the best ever technology to reduce emissions and increase mpg that is often much better than older cars
9. Ideal Hybrid Vehicle – with the weight of a battery and electric motor the construction of the suv is ideal for hybrid and electric vehicles.

So what’s the best SUV Car?

    • The Mazda CX-5 is the Best Large SUV, winner of a What Car? award
    • The Kia e-Niro is a What Car? winner of the Best Small Electric Car category, and also the overall winner of the Best Car of the Year.

Browse the selection of SUV's available at Brayleys:

Where can I find SUV cars near me?

Get in touch with Brayleys in Milton Keynes, Oxford, Harpenden, St Albans, Hemel Hempstead, Enfield, Leatherhead, Ewell, Thames Ditton, Ruislip, Grays and Romford.

For more information on SUV cars and choosing the best model, contact Brayleys


Ask the new car team about any of our SUV models