Why are SUVs so popular? – A comprehensive overview

Kamilya - November 30, 2023

More and more SUVs are hitting the roads. Especially in cities, a veritable hype has developed around these large vehicles, even though they are originally designed for off-road terrain. Why is that? Primarily due to the elevated comfort and the feeling of security when you hover above the traffic chaos from the raised driver's seat. The spacious interior accommodates larger families and holiday luggage. Learn everything here about the available types of SUVs, the most popular models, and the reasons for choosing an SUV.

What exactly is an SUV?

The abbreviation SUV stands for Sport Utility Vehicle, signifying a sporty utility vehicle. In English, the term "Sports" also includes fishing and hunting, so it does not refer to the same aspect of sportiness as a classic sports car, which aims for speed and sleekness. Instead, these cars combine the comfort of a sedan with the ruggedness and spaciousness of an off-road vehicle. The elevated ground is typical, proving advantageous in uneven terrain. Many SUVs come equipped with all-wheel drive, allowing for good traction in snow and slippery conditions. Besides the elevated seating position, a spacious interior with a large cargo area characterizes the classic SUV.

The Evolution of SUVs Over Time

Originally intended for use in the great outdoors, SUVs soon became a common sight in U.S. city centers, characterized by their long vehicles and massive fronts. Since the 1990s, SUVs have gained increasing popularity, first in the United States and gradually in Europe. Comfortable off-road vehicles are now indispensable on the streets, with many models foregoing all-wheel drive, which is rarely needed in urban areas. Features like reduction gears and mechanical differential locks, providing stability off-road, are also less common in today's SUVs.

While full-size SUVs remain popular in America, smaller and more agile SUV types have emerged in Europe. This is due to the enormous fuel consumption of the giant cars, as well as parking difficulties and narrow streets in historic city areas. The larger turning radius, caused by the longer wheelbase, often poses problems in these areas. Some automakers use the term SAV, which stands for Sports Activity Vehicle, to distinguish from the classic utility vehicle.

Today, there are numerous types and models of SUVs that consider cultural peculiarities of different countries and meet the needs of drivers worldwide. This diversity contributes to the global success and popularity of SUVs.

  • Full-Size SUVs: These very tall, heavy, and oversized SUVs are frequently seen in America, navigating through city traffic with their massive presence.

  • Compact SUV, Crossover SUV: In English-speaking regions, smaller SUV models with dimensions similar to lower midsize cars are referred to as Crossovers. In the German-speaking region, they are often called Compact SUVs. Compact SUVs are usually not suitable for off-road terrain.

  • SUV Coupe: SUV Coupés cater to the desire for more sportiness. With their expressive design, they stand out from conventional SUVs and serve as status symbols in countries like China.

Advantages and Attractions of SUVs

One doesn't necessarily need an SUV in the city. In fact, longer and wider cars tend to congest the streets, and finding parking can be challenging. So, what makes SUVs successful? We at CARIFY examine these aspects for you.

Higher Driving Visibility and Sense of Security

First and foremost, it's the feeling of security. Surrounded by a stable, massive body, SUV drivers sit on the driver's seat above the action. The elevated position provides a better overview of traffic flow, giving you more control over the surrounding environment. This reduces stress in crowded traffic.

Space and Comfort: The Interior of an SUV

For European automakers, the size of a vehicle and luxurious features often go hand in hand, and SUVs are no exception. Comfort begins with getting in: instead of folding yourself and sliding onto the driver's seat, the high entry proves to be much more comfortable, especially for older drivers. Taller individuals appreciate the extra head and legroom offered by the spacious interior. On ergonomically shaped seats, your back won't complain even during long journeys. Additionally, gadgets like cup holders in the wide center console enhance the driving experience. Families appreciate plenty of space in the second row and the spacious cargo area for strollers, sleds, or the family dog.

All-Wheel Drive and Off-Road Capability

The off-road capability of an SUV is a real plus, not only in winter but also when heading for a mountain excursion. Thanks to all-wheel drive, you're less likely to get stuck in mud and can navigate through deep potholes without scraping the undercarriage.

SUVs as Status Symbols

A grand entrance is guaranteed in an SUV. In the U.S., full-size cars with powerful grilles command respect, while in China, individual design is particularly sought after. Even in our country, driving an expensive SUV signals that you've made it. Many other road users literally have to look up to you.

Are SUVs Safer Than Other Types of Cars?

Subjectively, you do feel safer in an SUV. Indeed, the higher driving position brings added driving safety, and the solid body protects you in a crash. However, due to the weight, SUVs have a longer braking distance. Also, a heavy vehicle causes more damage in a collision than a lighter model.

Why do SUVs Often Have Higher Fuel Consumption?

SUVs are not unjustly criticized as gas guzzlers. Moving the heavy self-supporting bodies requires a significant amount of horsepower and fuel. All-wheel drive adds even more weight. Additionally, the higher air resistance when driving due to the taller body and resulting larger frontal area consumes about 25% more fuel than a midsize car, adding up in terms of cost.

The SUV in the Context of the Environmental Debate

The fuel consumption makes SUVs expensive to maintain and seems outdated in the face of climate change. The many SUVs on the roads have significantly increased CO2 emissions, as measurements have shown. Moreover, most SUVs rarely venture off-road. So, why push such a heavy and large vehicle through the already limited space on inner-city streets? At CARIFY, we have examined modern SUVs and their environmental friendliness for you.

How Environmentally Friendly are Modern SUVs?

The need for greater environmental friendliness also applies to SUVs. This is evident in the efforts of European and Asian manufacturers to reduce the size and weight of vehicles and lower fuel consumption. In addition, many models now forgo all-wheel drive, which increases fuel consumption. Fuel consumption can also be reduced by all-wheel drives that automatically engage only when needed.

Alternatives: Small SUVs and Hybrid SUVs

If you want to drive an SUV and consider the climate aspect, mini-SUVs are an option. They consume much less fuel than their larger counterparts. Nowadays, there are also SUVs with hybrid and electric propulsion.


Whether for status or a sense of security, the trend toward SUVs continues despite space constraints in cities and high consumption. However, manufacturers are now addressing the need for more environmental friendliness with smaller and lower-emission SUV models. With the E-SUV, a generation of off-road vehicles has entered the market, proving to be future-proof.

The Most Popular SUVs at CARIFY

Do you want to experience the feeling of driving an SUV yourself? You can test this out with flexible lease terms starting from 1 month at CARIFY, the largest car subscription provider in Switzerland.

Our selection is extensive, allowing you to easily filter based on your preferred vehicle type, brand, model, fuel type, and other criteria. To make your choice easier, we present our most popular SUVs at CARIFY:

  1. VW Tiguan: A compact SUV that combines space and comfort with compact exterior dimensions. Available in both gasoline and diesel options.

  2. Cupra Born: A compact SUV from Spain, available exclusively with electric propulsion. It impresses with a sporty design.

  3. Jeep Grand Cherokee: A midsize SUV from the manufacturer of robust off-road vehicles. Available as a gasoline, plug-in hybrid, or diesel model.

  4. VW Touareg: Just under 5 meters in length, the Touareg is a classic SUV offering ample interior space. It is available as a diesel model and an eco-friendly plug-in hybrid.

  5. Honda CR-V: One of our price-performance winners among SUVs, featuring an environmentally friendly full-hybrid drive. The compact SUV also boasts a spacious cargo area with an integrated camping table.

  6. VW ID.4: Economical and fully electric, this compact SUV has been impressing since 2021. It received the highest safety rating in the Euro NCAP safety test.

  7. Opel Crossland: A crossover SUV with a petrol engine, on the roads since 2012. It does not have all-wheel drive but offers a foldable three-part rear seat for added usability.

  8. Citroën C5 Aircross: This SUV belongs to the larger category of compacts. Available with diesel, petrol, or plug-in hybrid drive.

  9. Seat Arona: Although only available as a petrol model, this compact SUV doesn't have all-wheel drive, making it more fuel-efficient. Its low price is an additional advantage.

Interested in more articles like this? Learn more about the best electric cars, the best Renault car subscriptions, the best Skoda cars, and the top Volkswagen models.

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