SUV Special: Why are new-car buyers flocking to SUVS?
Search Driven for vehicles for sale
Sport utility vehicles have become more popular than cars, with New Zealanders embracing their elevated ride height, improved visibility and more rugged appearance.
During 2018 SUVs accounted for more than 30 per cent of new vehicles sold in this country, easily eclipsing the combined sales of sedans and hatchbacks.
That trend has continued with SUVs accounting for 36 per cent of total registrations during the first four months of this year.
Among the most consistent performers riding the wave of SUV popularity has been the compact Kia Sportage, which has often taken the title of overall bestselling passenger vehicle during the last few years, challenging popular models such as Toyota’s Corolla and RAV4 on the sales charts.
New Zealanders are not alone in opting for SUVs — automotive research firm Jato Dynamics says the global demand for SUVs reached 34 per cent of global car sales in 2017, and it predicts the sector will continue to grow faster than other segments of the market.
With its rugged good looks, the fourth-generation Sportage illustrates many of the reasons for the popularity of SUVs.
It is distinctively styled, and comes in nine variants, starting with the LX Urban front-wheel-drive, petrol-powered model listed at $35,990 plus on-road costs.
The top of the range model is the 2-litre GT Line diesel all-wheel-drive that sells for $54,990 plus ORC.
Inside, the Sportage impresses with high-quality fit and finish as well as soft-touch materials and stylish piano-black surfaces.
One of the key reasons buyers opt for an SUV is the high driving position, that provides excellent visibility behind the steering wheel.
This position is sometimes called the “command” driving position and is said to be a feature particularly popular with female drivers.
In contrast, the more rugged appearance of SUVs is said to be a primary reason males choose them over sedans and hatchbacks.
The vast majority of SUVs are bought by city dwellers who will never drive them on anything rougher than a gravel carpark.
For older drivers, there is the appeal of being able to get in and out of an SUV without having to stoop or bend down like you do in a sedan or hatchback.
Models such as the Sportage have a higher ride height and taller doors than sedans or station wagons, meaning drivers and their passengers can enter and leave without losing their dignity.
But perhaps the most appealing reason to opt for an SUV is the amount of practical, usable space in them. For example, the Sportage can accommodate 466 litres of luggage with the seats up, and 1455 litres with the second row of seats folded down.
Loading and unloading is also easier in a model like the Sportage compared with a smaller hatchback or even many station wagons.