What SUV is Right For You?

SUV Features Checklist

The sheer number of SUVs available can make choosing one seem overwhelming.   From the number of features they offer to which features are actually meaningful to you can eat up your time and overload you. 

Jump to category: Styling | Performance | Fuel Economy | Seating | Cargo SpaceSafety and Driver Assistance | Off-Road Equipment

SUV Styling

An SUV’s exterior styling is a very subjective quality.   You may love how it looks or you may not, but there is no right or wrong.  Are you looking for a rugged SUV with beefy tires and elevated ride height like a Jeep Wrangler, Land Rover Defender or Ford Bronco?  Are you more drawn to elegant lines, LED accent lights, leather accents and sweeping design?  Do you like a vehicle that sits up high or do you prefer to be seated closer to the road?   How much cargo room do you need?  Is the cargo area easy to use for you?

SUV Performance

You will often find relatively small turbocharged engines in SUVs — the turbo helps generate easy low-end torque, while the smaller size limits fuel consumption. Even SUVs with V8 engines often use turbocharging for the same reasons. It pays to test-drive a few vehicles to see if they are underpowered and if they meet you needs.

SUV Fuel Economy

Fuel efficiency worsens as SUVs grow larger, heavier and more muscular, with combined mpg in the teens for the real bruisers.   Would a hybrid makes sense for you?

SUV Seating

How many passengers do you need to carry?

Generally speaking, you’ll need a midsize SUV or else an unusually spacious compact SUV if you want to ferry adults or growing teens in comfort.

Moving up to larger truck-based SUVs opens up more elbow room, and in the case of extended-length models, lounge-like levels of legroom. As for 3-row SUVs, they offer widely varying amounts of third-row space. Some third rows are suited for adults, while others are too cramped for all but small children. As always, your best bet is to visit the dealership and try it out for yourself.

SUV Cargo Space

Only you know how much cargo space you require.  Every SUV will handle cargo a bit differently.  This is something that needs to be looked at personally at a dealer.  

Cubic footage is not a definitive measurement.  You’ll also want to see how easy it is to load cargo (is the rear bumper too high?) and how flush the rear seats fold into the floor for maximum space. That said, even some compact and midsize SUVs offer space that rivals a small pickup truck’s bed, so there’s no shortage of utility if you look in the right places.

SUV Safety and Driver Assistance

Many people prefer SUVs to sedans because of the elevated height and superior view of the road. But sometimes that’s where the SUV’s advantage ends. The design and styling of some SUVs affect your ability to see, blindspots, etc.

That said, many SUVs offer a blind-spot monitor (a visual or audible alert when another car is in your blind spot) as standard or at least optional. Rearview cameras and even those with 360-degree or top-down views are available in most vehicles.  Rear cross-traffic alert, which warns when a vehicle is approaching or crossing your reverse path, is also a handy feature to look for and often comes bundled with blind-spot warning. Of course, advanced driving aids such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure prevention and automatic emergency braking are also available as are auto-parking aids. 

SUV Off-Road Equipment

Given their elevated ride heights, most SUVs can go off-road, but only a handful are truly off-road-capable. The average compact SUV can handle a modest dirt trail, but you will require much, much more if you plan to go off-road.  

Do you need 4-Wheel Drive? All-Wheel drive?

Next Steps

With SUVs surpassing the popularity of passenger cars your choices are plentiful.  

Putting together a checklist:

  • How many passengers do I need to carry?
  • How important is fuel efficiency?
  • What features are most important to you?
  • Will you be going off-road?
  • How much cargo space do you require?

If you start  with these questions you can narrow down the list of potential SUVs dramatically.