The sporty handling and specialised capabilities of a sports utility vehicle may not be for everyone
Are you game for an SUV?

There’s no denying the handsome and rugged good looks of a sports utility vehicle, or SUV, usually distinguishable by its driving position and off-roading capabilities. But an SUV may not be the right ride for everyone, for example, those who need to ferry elderly passengers around. But if you are sure that it’s an SUV you want, here are some things you should consider.

Size

SUVs are generally classified according to size: mini/compact, mid-size and full-size. In general, smaller SUVs are lighter and have less complex four-wheel-drive systems. Their maintenance and fuel costs are thus generally lower. As you upsize or opt for a luxury model, you also move up in engine power and price.

Seating

Most SUVs can seat at least five people, while bigger ones have a third-row seat that can accommodate seven or eight people. However, leg space in the last row may be tight for adults.

Access

It is fairly easy to get in and out of an SUV because of its wide doors and ample headroom. However, the higher ground clearance can be tricky for shorter people, children, the elderly and those with disabilities. Ladies in short skirts should be mindful of their deportment when entering and alighting unless they intend to show off their underwear.

Cargo space

A foldable rear seat with a split design lets you expand the cargo area when it’s needed. Some models come with a roof rack, but be careful not to overload the roof as it may alter the SUV’s centre of gravity and increase the likelihood of it turning turtle.

4WD or AWD

Most SUVs come with either four-wheel drive (4WD) or all-wheel drive (AWD). Both systems allow all four wheels to receive power from the engine simultaneously, but there are some differences. 4WD can be full-time or part-time and have a “high” or “low” setting which the driver can select depending on the terrain and off-road situation. Unless you’re planning to go off-road often, there may be no need for permanent 4WD.

AWD doesn’t offer the low-range gearing of 4WD, but it is sufficient for bad weather conditions and moderate off-road driving.

Safety

Statistics show that SUVs are more prone to rollover accidents than other types of vehicles, probably due to their height. But the good news is that newer SUVs are now built to be safer, thanks to features like electronic stability control (ESC), anti-lock brakes, brake assist and rollover protection systems. Some models come with side curtain airbags and head protection bags for extra protection.

Having a reverse sensor is useful for alerting the driver when the rear bumper is nearing a solid object. But a rear-video camera offers a better view of the back as you’re reversing, since the high vantage point may not allow you to see small children or pets closer to ground level.

You can do some background research on the vehicles you are interested in by comparing the ratings published by car safety research organisations such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) or the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP).