an SUV parked in the countryside in the UK at sunset

When you think of some of the most classic British cars, you might think of an original Mini Cooper, a Jaguar E-type or an Aston Martin DB5. What all of these cars have in common is their relatively small size. Currently, the most popular car in the UK is the Ford Fiesta, a small yet comfortable car, ideal for city driving and for small families. The second and third most popular models are the Volkswagen Golf and the Ford Focus. Yet big cars, including 4x4s and SUVs, are becoming more popular. Sales of SUVs have increased. In 2015, they accounted for 13.5 per cent of the market and in 2018, this figure stood at just over 21 per cent.

What does SUV stand for?

SUV stands for sport utility vehicle. This name refers to the fact that these vehicles are high-performance passenger vehicles that are made for both general driving as well as off-roading. However, their increase in popularity shows that they’re no longer necessarily used for off-roading but often simply for driving in comfort and style.

What is an SUV?

Typically, an SUV is a large vehicle that has big wheels and a higher clearance height than other cars. This is so the bottom of the car is less at risk of being damaged by rocks and other large bits of debris when driving off-road. They often have a large boot with plenty of space to store everything you need. It’s their practicality that makes these vehicles so popular.

People often get confused about what an SUV is as there are so many variations, including compact, crossover and hybrid designs.

A compact SUV is simply one that’s smaller than standard, but may be classified as one because it still has the typical SUV features. A crossover SUV is a vehicle that’s inspired by the SUV but based on an existing car chassis. For instance, the chassis and engine might be based on a smaller hatchback but the body style is similar to that of an SUV. Hybrid SUVs use both a petrol engine and electric motor, making them more energy efficient.

If you’re unsure about which SUV is right for you, you can read our guide on the 11 best SUVs to help you.

Are all SUVs a 4×4?

A 4×4 vehicle is named because the engine provides power to all four wheels. In most standard cars, only two wheels are powered by the engine (either the two front or two rear wheels).

While most SUVs are 4x4s, not all of them are. For instance, the Peugeot 3008 is a midsize SUV that only has two-wheel drive available, but its all-weather tyres and excellent traction control allows for extra grip when the roads become rough or slippy.

Originally, all SUVs may have been 4×4 but their usage is changing and these vehicles are preferred by people with large families who want to drive a comfortable car that is high up.

What does an SUV car look like?

As described above, there isn’t just one type of SUV. Generally they are large with big wheels and lots of space inside. They’re usually a 4×4, but this isn’t always the case either. So with these things in mind, what does an SUV actually look like?

It’s thought that the 1984 Jeep Cherokee was the first official modern SUV.

old blue Jeep Cherokee SUV parked on a road

You can see from the image how high the suspension is, making it perfect for rough roads and rocky terrain.

Other typical, standard SUVs with four-wheel drive include the Skoda Kodiaq, the Land Rover Discovery and the Jaguar F-Pace. The Land Rover Discovery is pictured below.

the Land Rover Discovery SUV driving along a country forest road

A good example of a crossover SUV is the Nissan Rogue (pictured below). It’s an all-wheel drive, though this is optional and the car comes with two-wheel drive as standard. It’s the perfect example of combining the luxury of a passenger car with the capabilities of an SUV, as it comes with heated seats and a heated steering wheel.

Nissan Rogue SUV parked in a car park

The Renault Captur is an excellent example of a compact SUV. As with the Rogue, the Captur comes with all the mod cons, and is available as a petrol, diesel or hybrid.

a Renault Captur compact SUV driving through countryside