by John Elford

New contenders on the block

The hour of the Sport Utility Vehicle has come


In the last few years a relatively new breed of vehicle has become ever more popular internationally as well as on the highways and by-ways of Southern Africa.

Sedans in all offerings from entry level models, the likes of the Nissan Go and Toyota Agyo to the top of the range luxury vehicles such as Mercedes and BMW have always been the majority of cars seen on the roads. Other types of cars have also found a niche for themselves. The ever popular and practical station wagon has always been popular as mom’s taxi, family run about and vehicle for the annual holiday. Station wagons were one of the first of the new breed of vehicle after the sedan to be seen on the streets from the early days when cars became part of our lives.

Double cabs too are still very popular as practical and efficient people movers with the added advantage of a huge load area. These vehicles can double as work horses if required and are also popular with people who need to tow a trailer or horsebox for work or recreational purposes. These practical vehicles are still as popular as when they were first introduced in the late 1980s.

Then there is the MPV (Multi Purpose Vehicle). These people carriers are also available in different models and costs such as the iconic VW Kombi-one of the first and certainly most popular vehicles of this type on the roads of SA. The all new Mercedes Benz V Class, Kia Sedona at the top of the market and the smaller, but practical Toyota Avanza. These vehicles fill a multitude of roles from carrying executives to and from meetings or the airport to taking tourists to game parks as well as a practical family car.

All of these modes of transport have a place on the roads of South Africa and beyond, but a new contender for the popularity stakes has gradually been asserting itself as the king of the road. Although they have been around for quite a long time, in recent years there has been a huge increase in the model offerings of the SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle) in South Africa and beyond.

From small beginnings these extremely useful and attractive vehicles have grown in popularity, with virtually every manufacturer introducing at least one model to their line-up. In many cases up to three different model styles to suit South African’s lifestyles and pockets have been introduced.

SUVs fill a multitude of roles. Bold in looks and an aggressive stance is the general first impression one gets when seeing these models for the first time. With larger wheels than passenger cars and a station-wagon type fifth door, all SUVs are infinitely practical. These vehicles can take on any task that previously mentioned models can fulfil, including the ever useful family runabout, day-to-day transport, and great holiday vehicle. Space is never an issue and all of the holiday paraphernalia can easily be stowed in the large load area. Many of the offerings have 4x4 as an option. The high stance and excellent ground clearance makes them ideal vehicles for travelling off the beaten track, able to take on gravel roads and tracks in their stride.

Ford, for instance, features three different models. From the popular Ford Eco-Sport with petrol and diesel power plants, this entry level SUV has become extremely popular.

Although one of the smallest SUVs available it has all of the features of the more expensive models. Ford also offers the luxurious Kuga with all of the features of a luxury sedan and the added advantages of the space and comfort of an SUV. They also offer the all new Ford Explorer, in the mould of the American style SUVs. This model is designed on the popular Ford Ranger floorplan.

As mentioned earlier in this article, virtually all manufacturers now offer SUVs as part of their model line-up.

Toyota, long the market leader in the SUV market , offers a range of four models, the iconic Land Cruiser, the Fortuner, the up market Prada as well as the RAV 4, which, although classed as a soft roader, is capable of taking on the good with the bad.

General Motors with its two stables in SA-Chevrolet and Opel offers three different models: the Chevrolet Trail Blazer and Captiva as well as the all new kid on the block, the sub compact Opel Mokka. Volkswagen also competes with the Tiguan in the mid class SUV stakes. Legendary VW quality and comfort in a mid-size package to suit most discerning customers.

The list of SUVs all extremely suited to their market segment goes on and on. Kia and Hyundai have the Kia Sorrento as well as the Hyundai Santé Fe at the top of the range and the more popular Kia Sportage and Hyundai i35-recently rebranded as the Hyundai Tucson.

One company that has made huge inroads into the SUV market is Nissan. Their sub compact Juke is filled with features and is a strong contender as a hugely popular vehicle in its class.

Further up the list is the Nissan Qashqai, with a multitude of features that make this ever popular SUV one of the top sellers in its market. The top of the range Nissan X-Trail is without a doubt one of the most practical and sort after SUVs in the market. Following the iconic previous model that is still much sort after as a pre-owned vehicle Nissan have redesigned the new model, with both comfort and practicality in mind, powered with both petrol and diesel engines in 4x2 and 4x4 formats, the X-Trail is certainly in a class of its own. Comfort and safety features abound in this well designed and built SUV. The top of the range Nissan Patrol completes the Nissan SUV line up.

Another iconic brand that has a number of off road options is Land Rover with its Range Rover Evogue and Land Rover Discovery models. Other manufacturers such as Mazda, Jeep, Sabaru, Renault as well as Lexus and Infiniti all have models to offer depending on requirements and budget.

The SUV market is expanding at a huge rate as more and more people want to get away from the cities and explore our wonderful country in a vehicle with space, comfort and safety.

Certainly in the future we can look forward to more and more of these highly practical and sought-after models appearing on our roads.


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