Buyer's Guide: 2WD SUV fine for city driving
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John,a retired builder, use to own an old and well-travelled Honda CRV, and now drives a late model Nissan Qashqai.
“The Honda was a reluctant sale at the time of my retirement as I found it ideal to carry my work gear around in and was so reliable and comfortable. It was more a time to reassess, move on and update to a later model vehicle than anything else that prompted the change” says John.
He has no complaints with the Nissan to date as it suits his new lifestyle, but he has always wondered about the lack of Four-Wheel-Drive (4WD) with this vehicle. “When I purchased the CRV, the 4WD system was promoted as a real benefit but I have to say I don’t notice any difference driving the 2WD Qashqai” adds John.
He is asking Driven to explain what he may or may not be missing out on.
For your current lifestyle John, you are missing out on very little.
The hype around the benefits of 4WD for the average motorist all those years ago is a great example of the power of good marketing, in addition to bringing products to the market that can exceed consumer expectations. When the Honda CRV and Toyota RAV4 were first launched in the mid 1990’s, their biggest point of difference over the more traditional sedan and station wagon fleet, was their ability to travel over unsealed roads and even match some of the more traditional truck like 4WD’s in some of the more extreme outdoor conditions.
While the higher seating position and ease of entry and exit were highlighted, the marketing strategy was heavily biased toward travelling in comfort in a recreational vehicle and the benefits of 4WD for the city dwellers. Lack of wheel spin when taking off from the lights on wet roads, plus not having to worry about getting stuck on a soggy grass carpark at the kids footy matches were some of the magical benefits of these simple but effective 4WD vehicles that were promoted to potential buyers at the time.
And it worked a treat. All of a sudden consumers could not only purchase a vehicle with enhanced practicality, they also had this uncomplicated 4WD system at their fingertips.
Did they ever get to use it however, is the big question. To be fair some did and still do. The one obvious attraction was/is winter driving and travelling to places such as ski fields while those who travel on rough gravel roads or in mud and sand did/do so with added peace of mind.
And both the Toyota and the Honda could actually deliver on their promise and go places many off road enthusiasts thought was pretty much impossible.
For other owners however, the many other benefits of SUV ownership were far more valued than the 4WD system itself. It was all part of the package those buyers inherited with SUV ownership at the time and nobody could imagine anything different.
The rest as they say is history, with the SUV market now currently holding a 30% plus market share and pushing the once popular sedans and station wagons to the back rows of the sales charts.
With the acceptance of the SUV’s into the market and continued growth, there also came a change in thinking from the manufacturers. Yes, there was still a strong demand for these vehicles fitted with 4WD capabilities, but there was also an opportunity to retain the same main appeal but offer a more car-like and basic drive line package.
The result was vehicles such as the Nissan Qashqai being bought to the market offering 2WD only, smaller engines, improved fuel consumption and reduced recommended retail prices. Once again the marketing hype kicked in and once again the benefits appealed to consumers.
There has also been a slight change in direction from a marketing perspective with the 2WD SUV benefits now being promoted as the ideal city mode of transport. No longer is a small amount of wheel spin at the lights or the unlikely chance of getting stuck on the grass footy field an issue. In reality it never actually was.
So what is John missing out on and just what are the benefits of 4WD over 2WD?
Buyers need to look at these options very carefully in my view. The 4WD is still a very good option if you’re travelling over a variety of different terrain, enjoy driving a vehicle with a little more power up your sleeve and do a lot of towing on a regular basis. Even having a step driveway could influence the decision to take the 4WD option.
2WD is more for those buyers who simply want to tow the garden trailer, not overload the vehicle and don’t need or want a lot of engine power. They are still a great choice for those who love the occasional road tripbut stick to the hard seal or travel on maintained metal roads only.
Look no further than the two companies who started the SUV invasion into NZ for proof of meeting the various customer needs. Both Honda and Toyota now offer their ever popular CRVs and RAV4’s with a host of different options including 2WD or 4WD these days.
And they are not alone with all the major players having at least one SUV offering in their stable.
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