Your Guide to Compact SUVs
The downsizing trend in the automotive industry has extended to sports utility vehicles. Here’s a helpful guide to the increasingly popular SUV vehicle style.
What is a Compact SUV?
A compact or small SUV is a downsized version of the hugely popular sports utility vehicle automotive body style. It typically offers greater ground clearance, a taller body, and a higher seating position than other, similarly sized passenger cars such as small sedans and hatchbacks.
Compact 4WD vehicles have actually been around for decades, including those using a unibody (car-like) construction rather than the body-on-frame (off-road-focused) approach.
However, the Small SUV is a newer breed of vehicle – designed more realistically for urban usage than venturing off road. Many models or variants reflect this approach by eschewing all-wheel drive for the better fuel efficiency of two-wheel drive.
Small SUVs have become an alternative option to small cars for buyers considering a city-sized vehicle with the practicality of a wagon.
It couldn’t be a better time for buying an SUV. A vast choice of small SUVs isn’t just confined to offerings from mainstream manufacturers, as there’s now an extensive array of models in the luxury segment.
These include the Volvo XC40 – the Swedish premium car maker’s new compact SUV, which is already garnering high praise from motoring experts just like its bigger cousins, the XC60 and XC90.
A small SUV car can measure anywhere between four to four-and-a-half metres in length, while styling can vary between models. Some opt for a more rugged, mini-4WD aesthetic – including scuff plates and body cladding – while ‘crossover’ type vehicles can either look like a shrunken mid-sized SUV or an enlarged hatchback.
A common denominator is that they all mirror the body-style approach of larger SUVs with four doors and a tailgate.
The Volvo XC40 is also an example of how a compact SUV can take a bolder design direction than larger SUVs, owing to the typically younger demographic attracted to the more compact versions.
Compact SUVs such as the Volvo XC40, provide surprisingly ample cabin space and comfort for all occupants through clever packaging.The XC40 also capitalises on the numerous advantages of compact sports utility vehicles.
Reduced fuel consumption is one bonus for owners keeping an eye on running costs. Small SUVs are not only naturally lighter than larger sports utility vehicles but need only smaller engines to generate good momentum.
Many small SUVs are also front-wheel drive only, reflecting their predominant use in cities and towns and benefiting from the omission of a heavier, more complex and generally thirstier all-wheel-drive system.
They are still aided by a higher ground clearance relative to similarly sized passenger cars, while two-wheel-drive variants can still benefit from advanced stability and traction control systems.
The environmental footprint of small SUVs is not the only advantage compared with larger SUVs. Their physically smaller size also makes them easier to park – a big bonus in today’s congested cities – and easier to manoeuvre.
It’s also common for a compact SUV to offer more cargo space, and therefore greater versatility, than a similarly priced hatchback – especially in the instance where models from the same manufacturer share a vehicle platform.
Many compact-SUV models can also accommodate child seats, and tethering points and ISOFIX anchorage points are commonly provided.
Crucially, most examples of these shrunken SUVs also provide one of the key attractions of sports utility vehicles: an elevated driving position that brings a more commanding view of the road.
The youthful appeal of compact SUVs has also encouraged some car makers to offer models with a wide range of customisation options.
The Volvo XC40, for example, will offer a broad colour palette offering dozens of possible exterior and interior combinations – including the option of a contrasting roof. There will also be a wide selection of distinctive trims and materials.
Volvo XC40 Quick Guide
The XC40 is the first Volvo SUV to enter the compact vehicle segment. It is designed to simplify your life with an ingenious approach to cabin storage, clever connectivity including smartphone integration and wireless smartphone charging, and available with optional technology such as 360-degree camera and Volvo’s Pilot Assist driving system.
Beneath the bold exterior and expressive interior of the Volvo XC40 lies a new advanced, modular architecture, while powertrain options include a choice of turbocharged petrol or diesel engines.