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The Warsaw Voice » Society » March 12, 2008
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Why the SUV is Just So Sexy
March 12, 2008   
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Buyers have come to expect an attractive appearance, a functional interior and four-wheel drive (4WD) transmission from sport-utility vehicles (SUVs). These are the qualities that made this type of car a massive sales hit last year, outperforming every other class of vehicle.

The SUV market is now one of the fastest growing. This stands in stark contrast to the situation of 10 years ago. Only 2,234 were sold in Poland in 1998. This figure shot up to 18,290 two years ago and 28,290 last year. So what is it that has made these cars so popular? Their appearance for one. Their road handling for another. Add to that a spacious and functional interior, an affordable price tag and a huge secondhand market and it's not hard to see why the SUV is a winner.

Attractive appearance

Body designers have been pulling out all stops to give the SUV an easy-on-the-eye, off-road demeanor and in making the interior as spacious and functional as a van. This may be a two-for-the-price-of-one scenario, especially as SUVs come with four-wheel drive, which lets them take on all-comers. Anyone who has ever driven one on a paved road or on a wet or slippery surface can vouch for this. Four-wheel drive improves safety as well as road handling. This is becoming an increasingly important consideration when purchasing a car.

Price is right

Nothing beats price when it comes to swaying a potential customer. A few years ago, a SUV would have set you back zl.20,000 more than a mid-range sedan like a Volkswagen Passat or a Toyota Avensis. This has been whittled down to a couple of thousand and, if you tick all the boxes when purchasing your sedan, you'll find the price is about the same. Little wonder that people have been opting for the added functionality, especially when there are so many secondhand SUVs for sale.

Plenty to choose from

Every major car manufacturer has at least one SUV on offer. Japanese marques rule Poland with Toyota, Nissan, Suzuki, Mitsubishi and Honda occupying the top five spots. Nearly half the SUVs sold here come from the Far East. The most popular models are the Toyota Rav4, the Nissan Navara, the Suzuki Grand Vitara, the Honda CR-V, and the Mitsubishi Outlander. The Jeep is the most popular American SUV, while the Fiat Panda and the Fiat Sedici lead the European contingent.

A closer look

Let's check out some models to see just how stylish the SUV can be. I have selected just three models from the dozens available to take a closer look at.

New kid on the block

General Motors has introduced the Chevrolet captiva along with its twin, the Opel Antara. The two vehicles differ little except in the shape of the grill. The body is attractive despite being a sizable 4,635 mm long, 1,850 mm wide and 1,720 mm high. The interior is spacious with quality finishing. The seven-passenger configuration has leather upholstery. The luggage compartment is 465 liters and has a 735 kg loading capacity. The Captiva has a 2 liter/150 hp Common Rail diesel engine or a 2.41iter/136 hp or 3.2 liter V6/230 hp gasoline engine. Transmission is either five-speed manual or five-speed automatic. The basic 2.0 D 4WD costs zl.106,700, while the top-of-the-range gasoline version costs zl.147,050. The car is well equipped for comfortable and safe motoring.

Touch of class

The Honda CR-V is a compact 4,530 mm long, 1,820 mm wide and 1,810 mm high. The designers clearly went to great lengths to create an original and elegant body with a double bumper and a cabin that resembles a coupe. The interior is very traditional. There is ample room for five passengers and the luggage compartment has a capacity of 524 liters. The quality of the finishing is excellent. The CR-V model has a 2.0i-VTEC/140 hp gasoline engine or a 2.2 liter/40 hp Common Rail turbodiesel that is rated as one of the best available. Transmission is either five-speed automatic or six-speed manual. The basic gasoline model costs zl.106,400, while the turbodiesel is priced at zl.142,900. Fittings include ABS, ESP, airbags, air-conditioning and an audio/CD system.

When the going gets tough

The word Jeep is synonymous with 4WD for many Americans. The Jeep Patriot retains the classic Jeep look despite its petite 4,408 mm x 1,785 mm x 1,668 mm dimensions. The engine is an economical 2 liter/140 hp turbodiesel and the transmission is six-speed manual.

The balance between the front and rear wheels is a constant 50/50 up to 16 kph. After that the ratio is electronically controlled with power being completely transferred to the front wheels over 40 kph. This makes highway cruising and cross-country driving equally pleasurable. Five passengers can fit comfortably but 320 liters is a little frugal for a luggage compartment. The standard Sport version, which is packed with features, costs zl.103,700.

Rallying to the Mitsubishi Cause

The Outlander is only one of several 4WDs in the Mitsubishi stable. The company's longstanding racing success, especially in the grueling Paris-Dakar rally, have earned it a reputation for hardiness. This is especially true of the Pajero Evolution racing models, even though these bear little resemblance to anything you'll see on the road. The Outlander, which also comes in a front-wheel drive version, only just fits the bill as an all-terrain vehicle. Its inability to handle the most demanding off-road conditions qualify it more as a Crossover Utility Vehicle (CUV).

The second generation Outlander hit the showrooms last year. The 4,640 mm x 1,800 mm x 1680 mm body is one of the most stylish on the market. The cabin is spacious and can optionally seat five or seven. The five-seater version has a 771-liter luggage compartment. The car comes equipped with a loud but powerful and economical 2.0 liter/140 ps Volkswagen turbodiesel. The basic model lacks a few features such as power steering and steering wheel adjustment. The cheapest in the range, the 2.0 DID Invite, costs zl.109,900 while the Instyle interior version costs zl.141,990.

Piece of the pie
Every automotive manufacturer wants a piece of the SUV action. Some, like Subaru, continue to fine-tune their offerings and bring out a new generation every few years. Others, like Peugeot and CitroŽn, are happy to draw on the experience of others. Mitsubishi produces the Peugeot 4007 and the Citroen C-Crosser. Peugeot and CitroŽn fit them with their own engines. BMW and Volkswagen are extending their range to include smaller SUVs in an attempt at unification. That is why the BMW X3 looks like a smaller version of the X5, and the Volkswagen Tiguan is reminiscent of the Tuareg. Even companies that have built their reputation on sports cars have been lured into the SUV arena. Porsche pleasantly surprised many of us with their Cayenne. This just goes to show how far companies will go to please the almighty customer.
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