Why did you pick a small SUV/CUV or a compact hatchback?
May 2, 2016 4:56 AM   Subscribe

We are looking to buy a new car, and are deciding between a small SUV/CUV (like a Ford Escape) and a small hatchback (like a Ford Focus.) For those who have had to make the same choice, what made you choose one or the other?
posted by smackfu to Travel & Transportation (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
We bought a Scion XB almost 10 years ago. Almost bought a Honda Fit, but wanted room for our bikes in the back, with the wheels on. We love the XB and dread the day we have to replace it.

Personally I would go for whatever has the best gas mileage. Small SUVs tend to cost more, and require more gas (unless you get a hybrid).
posted by metarkest at 5:03 AM on May 2, 2016

I find smaller cars easier to park so I went with a hatchback (although with parking assist these days it is less of an issue.)
posted by Jubey at 5:12 AM on May 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

Husbunny drove a Fit, mostly because he didn't really care about cars and it had clearance for his tall self. When it came time to get new vehicles, we looked at a Fit and at the small SUV built on the Fit chassis the HRV. He really liked the HRV and we were all set to get him one, and then he sat in a tricked out Civic, with leather and butt warmers and a moon roof and...yeah, we have two identical Civics.

It really comes down to functionality. Frankly, I thought the Fit was super-clever with the way the seats configured, which we NEVER did, but y'know it would have been useful if we needed it.

If you only rarely need the hauling capacity of the SUV, get the hatchback. If you're a sporty, Ikea shopping schlepper, get the SUV.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:14 AM on May 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

I had an SUV when I lived in a mountainous area with lots of snow, and often traveled with more than one large dog. Once I moved to the suburbs I got a Nissan Versa hatchback and haven't regretted it for one minute. I would only get another SUV for an identifiable and regular need for both space and four-wheel drive. (If just for four-wheel drive, there are crossovers.)
posted by BibiRose at 5:15 AM on May 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm in the UK, and had a new Ford every 6 months for about 6 years, I had several Focus, then a Kuga (which is the European name for the Escape), then Focus and Mondeos. I had to buy a car last year, and bought a Focus not a Kuga.

The Focus gets better fuel economy, is nicer to drive (corners much better), and is cheaper to buy, tax and insure.
The Kuga is higher up, which some people prefer for getting into/out of, and being able to see further at junctions etc. It's much more awkward to manoeuvre and park, and isn't actually much bigger on the inside. I find the Kuga much bigger on the outside than it is on the inside.
posted by chrispy108 at 5:19 AM on May 2, 2016

I drive a Daihatsu Mira, which I picked because my first ever car was a Leyland Mini and I had got really used to driving something so joyously easy to manoeuvre and park and so gloriously cheap to run. The Mira is only a couple of inches longer than my Mini, the same width, maybe an inch or two taller and has a hatchback. I'm a six foot fat man and I fit in it very comfortably.

Most of what I use it for is solo commuting, so it makes sense to drive the smallest car that gets the job done. It's a bit of a Tardis though - I've driven a 400km trip with a full-height fridge and a chest of drawers packed in with me. I've also taken it exploring on rough bush tracks that I would hesitate to drive in anything less nimble.

It has a 660cc motor and a five-speed manual box. Three cylinders of raw power that only needs 5l/100km. I love it to bits.

Before getting an irresistible opportunity to buy the Mini I had been looking at small 4WDs like the Suzuki Sierra, on the grounds that I wanted to be able to go bush in whatever I bought. A wise friend pointed out that (a) the car I bought should be the one best adapted to what I use it for nearly all the time rather than what I might want for the occasional weekend and (b) four-wheel drives cost more to maintain than two-wheel drives, being mechanically far more complex.

In the finish I bought the Mini and just drove it on the occasional weekend as if it were a 4WD. Didn't get stuck often enough for it to stop being funny.

If you get the tiny hatch, chances are it will save you enough money that you can easily afford to hire the 4WD when you need it.
posted by flabdablet at 5:54 AM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

I went small because my kids are grown and I'm not schlepping their lanky bodies & gear & friends around anymore. A small hatch is all I need to get around town; with a roof rack it still schleps as needed.
posted by headnsouth at 6:14 AM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

I absolutely love my Honda Fit. The seat configuration allows for ikea trips that otherwise we would have to rent a truck for. I can move things in it and haul dogs in it, etc etc.

I also love how easy it is to drive and park, and the parking spaces I can fit into in the deck at work. :)

My last car was a Saturn station wagon, and I really love having room to fit a lot of stuff into my car. I'm not sure I can go back to a regular car at this point.
posted by needlegrrl at 6:18 AM on May 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

I decided on a hatchback based on gas mileage, and also not wanting to drive around something a lot larger than I needed just to make things easier the couple times a year when a larger vehicle might be convenient… borrowing or renting in those situations makes more sense. I also installed a trailer hitch that could hold a cargo rack to handle the gear for family camping trips.
posted by metasarah at 7:05 AM on May 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

We had a Fit for a few years and really liked it. Gas mileage was incredible. Only problem was how low to the ground it was. After we mover farther out to the country where unpaved roads and parking areas were common, it really didn't work. Had to trade it in for a CRV which is also a perfectly nice car.
posted by freakazoid at 7:18 AM on May 2, 2016

Having a look through the IIHS Safety Ratings and Death Rates for the particular vehicles that you're interested in may help tip the balance.
posted by fairmettle at 7:27 AM on May 2, 2016

posted by lalochezia at 7:38 AM on May 2, 2016

I am leasing the Ford C-max Energie which is a plug-in hybrid hatchback. I'm getting about 100 mpg.
posted by Sophie1 at 8:23 AM on May 2, 2016

I looked at mostly small hatchbacks and a couple of small SUVs (and the Golf wagon). Wound up getting a hatchback. The SUVs felt too ungainly, and I don't like the high ride height.
posted by adamrice at 8:25 AM on May 2, 2016

Ride height/suspension. I ended up supplementing my hatch with an old SUV because I was regularly going off paved roads, onto some nasty potholed to hell dirt, and I didn't want to shake a nice car to pieces. Other than that, it was handy to have a little more space for bikes and misc on the rare occasion where I had to deal with such, but aside from camping in the back, there's nothing I tried to do with a hatch that had to have an SUV.
posted by wotsac at 9:25 AM on May 2, 2016

I got a Nissan Juke for several reasons:

-Small enough to be easy to drive but big enough to be useful
-Was available with a manual transmission
-Had (at the time-2011) a very advanced engine technology (one of the first cars with a turbocharger, direct engine and intercooler) with a very high output for such a small displacement which makes it about the fastest of the crossovers
-Got pretty good mileage (high twenties/low thirties)
-had a very unique look (it is a strange looking little car) and I have always really liked quirky cars-subaru BRAT, Honda CRX, Rotary Mazdas, Shooting brake styles, bmw R series twin motorcycles, etc. I like nerdy cars.
posted by bartonlong at 10:07 AM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Had both. The SUV we presently have, a Forester, I don't know if we'll replace next time. The extra space is nice, it drives very well, good road car, etc..., but it does cost more to run and insure. I'm not certain the extra cost is entirely worth it. It is a very, very good car in the winter though.

It's also a bigger car that the smaller cars I've owned. It's less nimble in turning, it's more awkward in traffic, less fun to park downtown. I have to worry about how big parking spaces are a lot more now.
posted by bonehead at 11:11 AM on May 2, 2016

I got a Mazda Tribute (essentially a rebadged Ford Escape) because I wanted 4WD for snow and I didn't want a truck, a Jeep, or a European car, and Subarus are too expensive. Also, I like having the space to carry my bike, sacks of mulch, camping gear, etc. The gas mileage seems OK for what it is, but then I don't use it for commuting so maybe I just don't notice.
posted by scratch at 11:24 AM on May 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

I helped my mom buy her last car. She'd had CUVs (and before that, SUVs) for years, and the two big factors for her were passenger/cargo space and ride height. Once she'd gotten up "over the road" in an SUV she felt weird driving at sedan height.

She test-drove a bunch of CUVs this time around, but while we were doing that she hopped into a Chevy Sonic on a whim and—for whatever reason—decided the ride height wasn't as big a deal to her as it used to be, since she still had the space and it was even easier to access than in something a little higher off the ground.

I think it's just a feel thing. You'll probably get better gas mileage in a hatchback, and it seems like they use interior space a little more efficiently than crossovers, but some people just like the way a crossover looks and drives, and feel more comfortable stepping up into the front seat. (For health reasons—my grandma drives an old Endeavor because she can't really duck into a car anymore—and otherwise.)
posted by Polycarp at 12:10 PM on May 2, 2016

I have a Nissan Versa, not the Note, just the regular hatchback. I chose it because Consumer Reports rated it the highest in its class in reliability and I really wanted a hatchback to fit stuff in it, like bikes or whatnot. Gas mileage isn't great, but I love that it's easy to drive, has a tight turn radius, and has really great visibility when parallel parking. I never even considered a small SUV due to higher cost and the fact that I'm quite short and small framed. SUVs are almost universally too big/uncomfortable for me to sit in, let alone drive.
posted by onecircleaday at 1:55 PM on May 2, 2016

I have a toyota yaris stick shift. It's great, I can haul a reasonable amount of stuff, it handles very well and the mileage is great. It's gotten me through the mountains of Utah with zero issue and is fine in a city.
posted by Ferreous at 2:14 PM on May 2, 2016

Have you considered a Subaru? Each model offers all-wheel drive. Some of their models offer ground clearance comparable to an SUV: Crosstrek XV, Forester and Outback. The Forester is about the same size as a Ford Escape. Subarus aren't expensive when compared to a competitor's model with all-wheel drive. Even Subaru's base models come with AWD whereas the competitions' models with AWD are more expensive. The competition forces more accessories on the buyer that accompany the AWD. Subarus that combine the fuel efficiency, ride and handling of a sedan with SUV's utility and the Jeep-type off-road capability: (from small to medium-large) Impreza wagon/5-door, Crosstrek, Forester and Outback.
posted by dlwr300 at 6:50 AM on May 5, 2016

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