Convincing Arguments to not get a SUV for a Family
August 27, 2021 7:08 AM   Subscribe

In my (socio-economic-educational-professional-demographic) world of upper/upper middle class professional people getting an (crossover or regular) SUV as a family with kids is a MUST even in areas where you aren't driving alot (like a huge east coast city), driving through snow, hauling kids to soccer practice etc. Can you provide comments, magazines articles, etc that explains convincingly why a family sedan is perfectly adequate and even some cases much better of an option for someone who would like to keep this vehicle for 10 years or so?

This came out of this question where the SUV market is ridiculous.
posted by sandmanwv to Travel & Transportation (45 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Sure, you can just put storage on top if/when you need it. It's a local joke that you move to Denver and buy a Subaru, but living here I've seen giant rooftop cargo boxes mounted on all kinds of cars: Honda Civics? Absolutely. Giant Thule carrier that's almost the same length as the Mini Cooper it's mounted to? Repeatedly.
posted by deludingmyself at 7:22 AM on August 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

Can you provide comments, magazines articles, etc that explains convincingly why a family sedan is perfectly adequate and even some cases much better of an option for someone who would like to keep this vehicle for 10 years or so?

Unfortunately I cannot, though I don't care for minivans or SUVs. Reasons why:

1) Car development has gone really stale. You have to buy a really expensive car to get features like back-seat air conditioning and it's seriously underpowered (the A/C, not the car). You can get just above the base-model SUV and get the same. The sedan is going to cost more.

2) SUV fuel mileage is really improving while cars have gone stale there too. Honda Accord sedan is 30/38, giant Honda Pilot is 20/27. A small Honda HRV is 28/34. It's pretty sad difference. And the Accord costs more than the HRV (CRV replacement)!

So it sucks but in 2021, buying a car is a compromise for miniscule more gas mileage, higher cost, and less features. You can say you are buying them for better road performance and driving experience to get you through the experience.

On the low end of the economic scale, that difference in gas and maintenance can be enough to offset the higher sedan price, but at the higher economic classes? No.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:30 AM on August 27, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I live in a snowy East Coast city. I drive a Toyota Corolla, while my wife has an SUV. We have a four year old and a two year old, and to me, the only real argument in favor of an SUV is that it's easier to load them into their car seats on the higher-off-the-ground SUV. Everything else, it's sedan all the way. Better gas mileage (although my wife got a hybrid SUV so that's mitigated a bit), easier to maneuver, lower sticker price and registration costs, smoother ride, more options. I will also maintain that the trunk of my Corolla holds more cargo than her RAV4 trunk. I'm not sure if that's objectively true in terms of volume, but in terms of actually putting things in the trunk, I think I win.

The conventional wisdom used to be that sedans kept their resale value longer, although with today's used car market, who knows if that's still true.

Four wheel drive is nice in theory, but let's be honest, if it's a blizzard and the city hasn't plowed the roads, I'm just not going out and driving. The use-case just isn't that realistic.

Remember that many SUVs (e.g., the Toyota RAV4 or the Honda CR-V) are built on sedan platforms, so a lot of perceived differences are imaginary.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:32 AM on August 27, 2021 [6 favorites]

If you're intent on keeping a car for 10 years (same here!) then get whatever you'll feel happy driving. For me it ultimately comes down to having something that feels responsive and zippy vs. having something that comes with greater storage. And honestly the sedan kind of wins here, because you can add storage to a small car, but you can't make an SUV/minivan feel like anything less than a boat that thinks it's a car.
posted by greenland at 7:52 AM on August 27, 2021 [3 favorites]

With a sedan you're less likely to kill/seriously maim someone if you hit them.
posted by threementholsandafuneral at 7:53 AM on August 27, 2021 [41 favorites]

So many SUVs are crossover SUVs now, barely longer and barely taller than a car, with a car frame and a car body and car MPG and car cost. It's no longer Suburban vs All Sedans. Our crossover SUV is smaller and better miliage than a Nissan Maxima I think (A sedan).

Like - take a honda fit - is a Honda Fit a sedan or an SUV? It's high up, has lots of visibility, hatchback, but a bit smaller like a sedan.

Don't think of everything in terms of black and white. Test drive at least 5 different brands. If a Big SUV is too big, find a smaller one.

We are really, really happy with the comfort, driving quality, features, and price of our Nissan Rogue Sport (Sport meaning it's much smaller)
posted by bbqturtle at 7:59 AM on August 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

A Honda fit is a tiny hatchback; definitely not an SUV.
posted by sagc at 8:03 AM on August 27, 2021 [14 favorites]

I would claim that an SUV is not the best solution for most sets of problem except a handful: hauling a quite a large amount of people/stuff in bad weather (4+ human/pet bodies), needed extra clearance for offroad driving, and needing to tow more than about 3,000 lbs. For any other set of problems, your best solution will be (a) a minivan (and even then, an AWD minivan is a viable option for scenario 1), (b) a roomy hatchback, or (c) a sedan--depending on the specific combination of human, cargo, and fuel economy needs of the family in question. The fuel economy is always better. The minivan solution has more capacity than an SUV, and the 2nd/3rd row seating is more comfortable for larger adults. The hatchback/sedan options will get better fuel economy if you don't quite need room for 7 passengers or a sheet of plywood. I personally find smaller cars easier to maneuver and visualize in most driving situations compared to SUVs/minivans/trucks--like it might be easier to see other vehicles on the highway from a taller vehicle, but it's easier to see a pedestrian or a curb from a hatchback, and easier to parallel park, back into a spot in a parking garage, etc.
posted by drlith at 8:03 AM on August 27, 2021 [3 favorites]

Based on your profile, you're in Brooklyn? Do you ever plan to park on the street? A sedan will save you significant parking time and stress. There are tons of spots that will comfortably fit a sedan but not an SUV.

The most usual arguments in favor of sedans vs. SUVs are about crash avoidance -- you are more maneuverable so you are less likely to collide with other vehicles in the street -- but at urban traffic speeds I don't know how relevant this is, and I don't know if the stats on this have changed in the past decade.

Maybe this is selfish, but I would personally like you to get a sedan instead of an SUV so that you don't hit children, old people, me, my dog, etc. when we're crossing the street. In a dense city, the difficulty seeing things that are both low to the ground and close to your vehicle is a serious and potentially life-threatening issue.
posted by goingonit at 8:03 AM on August 27, 2021 [18 favorites]

SUVs are heavily marketed because there are much higher profit margins to the makers

SUVs are 50% more likely to kill

SUVs are also more likely to roll over

A sedan with snow tires is safer than AWD without snow tires

From a sustainability perspective, the sedan is also obviously better on gas mileage, especially if you have AWD.
posted by veery at 8:21 AM on August 27, 2021 [17 favorites]

Best answer: This 2004 New Yorker article Big and Bad by Malcolm Gladwell shaped my thinking about SUVs. He talks about perceptions of safety, how auto makers profited so much more from SUVs than cars, and fuel efficiency. Things may have changed in the meantime though.
posted by olopua at 8:42 AM on August 27, 2021 [3 favorites]

Malcolm Gladwell (I know, I know) wrote an article titled "Big and Bad" about SUVs for the New Yorker. The premise was about how SUVs give a false sense of safety because they are giant hulking steel things but really a sedan is equally or more safe both from crash test data and from driver behavioral standpoints.

From the synopsis:

* S.U.V. buyers found comfort in being surrounded by so much rubber and steel.
* Quotes cultural anthropologist G. Clotaire Rapaille on the reptilian response to S.U.V.s: “if I am bigger and taller, I am safer. If I can put my coffee there, if everything is round, I feel safe.”
* Gives a chart of safety statistics for 33 cars, S.U.V.s and minivans. Among the safest cars are the midsize imports like the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord.
posted by AgentRocket at 8:42 AM on August 27, 2021 [5 favorites]

Aw dang olopua beat me to it by less than 60 seconds.
posted by AgentRocket at 8:42 AM on August 27, 2021 [3 favorites]

The CarTalk guy who is still alive thinks SUVs are bad and was disappointed his kids got one. This may be convincing to the right person. I heard this on the podcast "The War On Cars" but unfortunately I can't find the episode now.
posted by Emmy Rae at 8:47 AM on August 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

Your other posts says you "would love to get a smaller hybrid SUV/station wagon or even a hybrid sedan" but here you say you don't want a sedan. Your other post implies that you will only be driving this about 2500 miles per year (30 miles round trip per week, plus one 600 roundtrip miles on a yearly trip). So mileage isn't really a factor (I'd certainly encourage anyone to get a more efficient vehicle over a less efficient one, but at the small number of miles you're driving, it's pretty negligible). And you mention that you don't need to haul around kids to soccer practice (although even if you did, there's no equipment you'd need to haul around, like if your kid played hockey). So it almost doesn't matter what you get. and like others have said, the line between crossover and SUV can be pretty vague, as can the line between those and sedans when it comes down they chassis.

Also, our budget in the other post isn't realistic for a new hybrid (or really anything), and even a used hybrid at that budget seems unlikely, considering the current state of the used market.

You haven't given any compelling reason for needing any particular type of vehicle, so it's hard to offer any reasons not to get any kind of vehicle. I like sedans and think big SUVs are stupid (but I also think the likelihood of you running down small children with them because they're six inches taller is unlikely — they're not dump trucks), but there are a lot of smaller SUV and crossovers that get good mileage, are small enough to park in the city, and are safe that they'd be worth considering if you need to stick to a budget and have limited choice as to what's available.
posted by jonathanhughes at 8:49 AM on August 27, 2021 [3 favorites]

I am a little amazed that this is a question. I live inner-city, so perhaps if you regularly need to scale a mountain in a blizzard with kids in tow this doesn't apply, but SUVs are designed for marketing reasons, without regard to pedestrians or other road-users and I suspect that, mentally, killing people fucks one up.

At speeds of 20-39 mph, 3 out of 10 crashes with SUVs (30 percent) resulted in a pedestrian fatality, compared with 5 out of 22 for cars.

SUVs have a daftly high centre of gravity, which means rollovers are far more common than on sensible vehicles. The quickest-to-google info I found for this was rather old (~10 years), and SUVs have only got taller since.

Choice cuts from that:

1 out of 4 new vehicles sold in the U.S. is an SUV, making it the most popular type of vehicle in America. The Ford Explorer is the most popular SUV in the world.

A Ford Explorer is 16 times as likely as the typical family car to kill occupants of another vehicle in a crash.

If the metric is simply your own physical safety or some social status thing: sure, buy a tank (or SUV if tanks are unavailable).
If you live in a community, and/or might feel bad about killing people, I reckon go with a car (4wd if scaling mountains etc). You'll save money on fuel, the chance of running over your own children is massively reduced, and your chance of a single-vehicle rollover from an emergency stop is massively reduced.
posted by pompomtom at 8:51 AM on August 27, 2021 [12 favorites]

Best answer: I live in NY suburbia and we might be the only family in town without an SUV. Like I'm not exaggerating. At my sons lacrosse the only non-SUV other than us is a divorced dad in his 911 and us. Our family car is a Wagon (my car is intended to be a station car, although that hasn't actually happened yet - the commuting part)

There are so many reason why a wagon is superior as a family car
1) Its just better to drive than a comparably priced SUV
2) Its actually safer
3) Its as comfortable for back seat passengers - if not more
4) You aren't giving up cargo space vs an SUV, and actually unless you take the seats out a minvan you might be ahead on the cargo seat side
5) AWD in a wagon especially if its lifted (or has an height adjustment) is just as good if not better in the snow than any non Body-on-Frame SUV .

Like its so clearly the dominant choice I don't get it. The only downside is that your options are somewhat limited and its usually the lease vs buy math favors buy because the market is limited.

ETA: not only are SUVs bad, Wagons are good.
posted by JPD at 8:54 AM on August 27, 2021 [16 favorites]

My daily driver is a full-size SUV. Before I married my wife and our family size doubled, I drove a sedan as my daily driver - it's more responsive, more fun to drive, easier to park, and met my needs at the time. My wife still drives a small sedan as her daily commuter.

With that said, an SUV is an answer to a certain set of requirements that you may (probably?) not need. A real SUV (not crossover) with quality tires will check the following boxes:

- Can move 6 people (we have 4 kids, blended family) comfortably.
- Fully functional in snowy/inclement weather (we live in the mountain west, so snow is a big factor).
- Enough ground clearance to go down dirt roads or other mountain roads (mountain country, we go camping a lot)
- Enough storage to take 3-4 days worth of stuff on said trips.

If you don't need ALL of these things, an SUV is probably not the right choice. If you aren't driving rough dirt roads, a sedan/wagon/van with AWD and good tires will be a good people mover in any weather. If you are interested in hauling/going off-road, a truck or Jeep wrangler is a better option. Based on your location, an SUV seems really unnecessary - a family sedan checks every realistic box you probably have and is more reasonable in about every way.

I would bet that most SUV owners/drivers own them because of the perceived status symbol. If you're old like me, you remember when SUVs first came out - people were crazy about them because they were something new and special. Nowadays, it's seen (at least in my area) as a sign that you've "made it" or are a "real adult" - even though 95% of SUVs will never go off the pavement or be at full capacity in their entire existence. All the above points are based on functionality only; moral responsibility adds a whole other layer that to me would make an SUV a last-option in your probably circumstances.
posted by _DB_ at 8:55 AM on August 27, 2021 [3 favorites]

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have a table of Driver death rates by make and model, playing around with this I noticed a few trends:
  • Very large and very small vehicles have the highest death rates and mid-size cars the lowest.
  • 4WD have very slightly worse death rates compared to 2WD. Probably the additional weight.
  • 4 Door cars seem to be significantly safer than 2 door cars.
  • Some SUVs are better than equivalent sedans and some are worse, I think the suspension problems which plagued early SUVs have been largely solved but once the size gets above a certain point the visibility issues still apply.
None of those figures consider pedestrian deaths and injury. One other consideration is that a higher driving position lowers your perception of speed so they feel safer, but less fun and you will tend to compensate by driving faster.
posted by Lanark at 9:09 AM on August 27, 2021 [3 favorites]

We own both a AWD SUV and a sedan. The sedan trunk could not hold two large suitcases and a stroller, so the SUV was our choice for our airport car for a long time. Now that our kiddo is older and forward facing, that's less of a problem. They are the same year and built on the same platform, so they handle identically.
posted by notjustthefish at 9:17 AM on August 27, 2021

A sedan will save you significant parking time and stress. There are tons of spots that will comfortably fit a sedan but not an SUV.

This is not true.

A 2022 Honda Civic sedan is 184 inches long. (Corollas are an equivalent 182)
A 2022 Honda CRV, on the same Civic platform is 180 inches long.
A 2022 Honda HRV, built on the Fit's platform is 171 inches long.

There are tons of parking spaces too small for a civic that will easily fit an HRV or a Mazda CX-3 (168 inches) or Kia Soul or Jeep Renegade (166").

Many "crossover" or "subcompact" SUVs are built on car frames, and, because they're basically high-roofed hatchbacks, they tend to be shorter than sedans built on the same frame. These are not the truck-based SUVs of 15 years ago. The high roofline, aerodynamics and overall geometry tend to make them a lot less fun to drive and less fuel efficient than an sedan. More than anything else, that's the disadvantage of the modern SUV.

The majority of current station wagons are luxury models and closer to 190 inches (the exceptions are VW's golf wagon and jetta wagon, which are around 180, and Subaru's crosstrek at 177).
posted by toxic at 9:19 AM on August 27, 2021 [8 favorites]

I just read your last question. Given your use case and budget the best thing for you if possible is to just wait for the used car market to normalize. Then figure out what you want to buy based on what is available to you.
posted by JPD at 9:24 AM on August 27, 2021 [1 favorite]

If you want a sedan, get a sedan. What’s the point of having some article to convince you? Also, what do you mean by SUV? A CRV which is a Civic with a backpack, or a Hummer? These are not equivalent for an argument against.
posted by sageleaf at 10:02 AM on August 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

This thread may interest you.
posted by aniola at 10:03 AM on August 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

"Your vehicle should not weigh more than that which it is transporting"

Huh? All cars weigh over 2000 pounds.
posted by jonathanhughes at 10:05 AM on August 27, 2021 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: This article is for my wife, who doesn't listen to my arguments well but is EASILY convinced by articles and other friends saying exactly what I say.

She thinks we have to get a car. All my urban young family friends in my yuppie bubble not only have cars but also have SUVs.

For the same reasons everyone mentions above, I don't want a SUV (I don't want to get a car and continue to rent, but I will not win that-- we are also moving to DC which will be 30 mile round trip from parents as well). I'm interested in learning if things like the Honda CRV/HRV and car-chassis based crossovers have some of the same danger to others.
posted by sandmanwv at 10:18 AM on August 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

I have a crossover (Subaru Outback). My previous car was a Toyota Sienna. My teen still drives the Sienna.

I like the Outback because my husband does a lot of runs to Home Depot/Lowes. It can fit almost anything. I can still tote around 4 teens if I need to.
posted by heathrowga at 10:26 AM on August 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

If you like the amuse-bouche that is a Malcolm Gladwell essay, I might also recommend the gluttonous feast that is Keith Bradsher's 2002 book High and Mighty: SUVs The World's Most Dangerous Vehicles and How They Got That Way.
posted by box at 11:11 AM on August 27, 2021 [1 favorite]

If you're moving to DC soonish, maybe you can kick the can down the road: "hey, let's settle in to the new house/lifestyle in DC and see what makes the most sense vehicle-wise after that". If your wife is someone who tends to value the opinions of people around you / the culture of the community, she may rethink things in your new place. Not quite clear to me if you're moving into the city itself or suburbs (and I've never lived on the East Coast, just thinking about city vs. suburb culture), but that may make a difference to how she feels.

That being said though, I think it's ultimately about the values that each of you have and that's probably where the conversation will be most productive.

Why do you want a sedan over an SUV? Safety for pedestrians, cyclists and other users of the road generally? Opposition to wastefully large vehicles which promote environmentally unsound land use? Cost?

Why does she feel differently? A feeling that SUVs are safer? Blending in with the Joneses? Some other reasons?

Talking about the situation at a values level may help you to understand each other's feelings better and make a mutual decision that honors both of your concerns and priorities.
posted by tivalasvegas at 11:21 AM on August 27, 2021 [3 favorites]

I'm not sure articles and books from the turn of the century about off-road vehicles and monster trucks are what your wife needs to read. I would guess she's more concerned about getting your family safely and conveniently from place to place.

If she's the primary driver, her vote should be weighted more, and if she thinks something like a RAV4 or CRV is better suited, she wouldn't be wrong. If you're the primary driver and just want a sedan for reasons, get the sedan. Newer models of either style will have collision avoidance systems available.
posted by sageleaf at 11:46 AM on August 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

I am a little amazed that this is a question.

I was too, until I realized that people aren't in agreement about what an SUV is.

is a Honda Fit a sedan or an SUV? It's high up, has lots of visibility, hatchback, but a bit smaller like a sedan.

A Honda Fit is hardly what I'd call "high up" -- in North America it's what's called a Crossover (of which there are now many kinds). I agree with _DB_'s definition of SUV.
posted by Rash at 12:03 PM on August 27, 2021

The Honda Fit that they sold in the US was a subcompact hatchback, not a crossover. It's a tiny car with tiny wheels. The HRV is a crossover.
posted by jonathanhughes at 12:10 PM on August 27, 2021 [7 favorites]

If you're moving to DC soonish, maybe you can kick the can down the road
In that vein: DMV Issues Warning as NYC Vehicle Thefts Surge in 2021 (NBC, July 13, 2021)
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:23 PM on August 27, 2021

A sedan made to handle well is much more fun to drive than most SUVs. For example, a Subaru WRX, the higher-end Mazda 6, an Audi S4 and up, a Tesla sedan*, and so forth all just handle in a much more satisfying way compared to a most SUVs, in part thanks to the much lower center of gravity. I'd argue that being able to negotiate traffic nimbly in a dense area is very much a safety consideration, too. A sedan with a backseat pass-through hole to fit long things like skis from the trunk narrows the advantage an SUV might have even further.

A drawback to a sedan is that it's trickier to just throw in bikes, paddleboards, and other miscellaneous large and oddly-shaped things you might haul around. This problem isn't solved well with most SUVs though. It's solved with a fancy truck with palatial backseats or with various Thule attachments.

*An all-electric car is a tricky proposition if you don't have a driveway. I'm not convinced the battery housing and fire-suppression systems have been sufficiently hardened/tested.
posted by Last_wave_by at 12:35 PM on August 27, 2021 [1 favorite]

For the record, low slung sedans are perfectly capable of traversing dirt roads, even poorly maintained ones. If they're really bad you have to think about what you're doing a bit more, but it's totally doable. I used to take mine deep into the national forest and never got it stuck.

Where you need an SUV with ground clearance is crawling along backcountry trails that can't really be called roads and are only there because someone cut a route along the side of a mountain back in 1932 to install a power line or something and everything but the rocks has been washed away since then.

If you really would prefer not to own a car, perhaps a combination of ZipCar and traditional rentals would be acceptable to your wife if you were fully responsible for the logistics, ensuring she never has to be the one to deal with booking, picking up, or dropping off the car.
posted by wierdo at 12:38 PM on August 27, 2021

I do not own a car. But my partner did recently rent a "compact SUV" - and it was AWFUL. It had less storage space than my grandfather's little Honda 2-door had in 1991, despite being substantially larger. Even regular SUVs have no more room than a station wagon with a decent trunk.

I also live in a snowy city. You don't need four-wheel drive for snow, you need winter tires. I've been told by an experienced local that 4-wheel drive wasn't even necessary in the mountains on Vancouver Island.

If I had kids, I would get a station wagon with a hatch back - or (if I had three+ kids) a minivan. That's what sensible people do when they need more carrying capacity. My uncle also has worked as a contractor - and he has a work van like this.
posted by jb at 1:02 PM on August 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

People seem to be conflating “SUV” vehicles with the platform that is actually likely what your neighbors are buying, which is called a “CUV” in the trade (“Comapct” utility vehicle).

These are just basically compact hatchbacks with lifts and AWD and maybe slightly more room in the hatch. The Mazda CX-5, wildly popular in your set, I assure you, is the exact same length and width and wheelbase as the Mazda3 compact hatchback. Same for the other brands. The safety stats being cited for SUVs are conflating these very small slightly lifted hatchbacks to Chevy Suburbans and Nissan Armadas.

This is the car American suburbia has settled on for the time being. Its utter apotheosis is the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Prime, which is why those can hardly be found right now at any price. It checks every desirable box and gets better mileage than any compact or mid-sized non-electric car on the market. If I were really intent on keeping a CUV 10 years and not ready to go electric, I’d get that one. But you can’t. Or if you can you’ll pay a ransom for it. So…

You should go drive these things: an Impreza and a Crosstrek; an Altima and a Murano, whatever — the truth is the brands are way more similar than their marketing suggests, in almost every way.

A lower car will always be more fun to drive, safer for pedestrians, and cut a less prominent aerodynamic profile and therefore get slightly better mileage, all else being being equal, than its 3-inch higher CUV cousin. Period.

But the lifted vehicle will always be easier to get in and out of, especially for elders or if car seats are a part of your future (or you have back problems, or you like sitting a bit more upright when you drive generally), offer better visibility in a sea of other tall vehicles, and do better on rougher terrain or in snow (clearance itself being a virtue in snow). And as SUVs and CUVs so command the US market, they are where most of the innovation is happening in drivetrain efficiency, safety tech, and plain old design. Just a fact. If you’re looking to go 10 years, that’s well into the the mostly-electric era that is looming. That could spell trouble for final depreciated value, by the way. But ten years pretty much wrings 70-80% depreciated value out of a reliable car. Less if the style is still desirable in ten years. Hard to know if even a Toyota hybrid drivetrain will have AS much appeal in the used market in a decade, we really are close to that being a factor.

What you like to drive is a really personal choice. If you love the craft of driving and get to indulge it, a sedan or hatchback is a MUST in your life, unless you can afford a Taycan perhaps. Or at least a nice Volvo or Audi option for the CUV/SUV.

But if you have kids in car seats or a daily grind of a commute or like to go to the garden center for bags of soil on Saturdays or have a bad back or a million other practical reasons, one of which is indeed not standing out particularly for your car in your social world or on the highway (a fast sedan or compact hatch now stands out on many American highways in a sea of C/SUVs and pickup trucks, and there are all kinds of defensible reasons for looking like everyone else for some folks, conformism is safety as well as submission) well, then an SUV/CUV can be a rational choice and not the mark of Satan and Sam Suburbanite.

The drive will be notably less engaging or sure footed in the higher CUV platform than in the lower sedan or coupe or hatchback. But it is still a car. It still drives like a car, not a truck or a large SUV. Not even close.

So it’s a matter of tradeoffs and choices. But there’s plenty of good reasons CUVS are wildly popular (to the point that some automakers aren’t selling regular cars in America anymore) and they tend to get a biased hearing on metafilter despite — Ill bet — a majority of car-owning mefites owning CUVs. Betcha.

It isn’t all about fashion or being big and bad or dangerous or cheap gas. Those vehicles check a lot of use cases for families — the more so if you only can own one vehicle. You have to drive both cars and CUVs to learn how they differ — slightly. But your situation suggests a CUV makes sense and your intelligent neighbors have probably done a bit of research and thinking too, conformist though they may be.

Personally I drive a compact hatch because I love to rip down mountain roads and dart around city traffic and get 40mpg. And I own a 4WD truck because I have a band and a very large gardening operation and live on a gravel road on a mountainside in snow country. But if I had to only own one vehicle an SUV or maybe a CUV would hack the situation, less well than the dedicated options.

But here’s a tip: minivans are coming roaring back. They make all kinds of sense for families. Better than a CUV/SUV for any purpose that doesn’t include rough terrain, very car-like to drive now, albeit not performers, and available with bleeding edge drivetrain and interior technology; typically hugely reliable and cheaper than comparable SUV models that can carry as many people or as much stuff. Be both distinctive and practical!

But seriously wait out this stupid market if you possibly can. It’s total madness.
posted by spitbull at 3:04 PM on August 27, 2021 [13 favorites]

and available with bleeding edge drivetrain and interior technology

No. They are way behind on interior (Honda has barely changed theirs in a decade) and drivetrain (there are only a few minivans that even offer hybrids). There are more hybrid and electric pickups than minivans.
posted by The_Vegetables at 3:28 PM on August 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

I forgot to mention the other thing SUVs and even some CUVs can do that most cars can’t, which is tow something.

Also the back seat in a CUV/SUV, in addition to being easier to access than in a comparably sized sedan or hatchback, typically has a good deal more headroom, because of the angle of the roof being less raked than in a car or hatchback design (one place the fuel mileage goes). This means both that the back seat is typically a nicer place for adults to spend any amount of time, and that most CUVS can haul a bit more in their rear compartment than you can get in the trunk of a sedan or even the back of a hatchback.

This also makes C/SUVs the choice for people who own large or multiple dogs or haul bulky stuff like sports or music gear.
posted by spitbull at 3:28 PM on August 27, 2021

Check out there brand new Odyssey and the brand new hybrid Chrysler Pacifica, or the brand new 2022 Kia Carnival. The_Vegetables. There is action in minivan-land. I’m not kidding that automotive pundits are seeing a Renaissance looming, partly driven by demand from frustrated would-be SUV buyers during the pandemic.

And Honda just announced a very updated 2022 Odyssey.
posted by spitbull at 3:30 PM on August 27, 2021

And actually the Toyota Sienna is newly available as a hybrid for 2021.

With a radically updated design including a critically acclaimed new interior.

33mpg combined.

Therefore, unless you count the still unreleased Ford Maverick, there are exactly as many hybrid minivans as hybrid pickups available (2), even though there are far more models and unit sales of pickup trucks.

Also Chrysler has hinted at a battery electric minivan (the Portal) coming in 2022.

Minivans are getting attention in a big way for new tech applications, if you follow the automotive industry press.

Just to correct the record.
posted by spitbull at 5:26 PM on August 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

I love sedans and drive a wagon, but people are right when they tell you that sedans are unfortunately kind of withering on the vine (especially in the US, but in the medium-term everywhere) in favor of crossovers. Many companies are in the process of discontinuing their midsize sedans, which used to be the default car and would have been unheard of as recently as 10 years ago.

"Crossovers" are not really SUVs in the way the SUVs from the first early-00s SUV boom were—think the Explorers and Blazers and, most iconically and massively, the Hummer H2 and the Ford Excursion. Those were actual trucks, built on heavy and often ungainly truck bodies, and importantly at the same time they were bigger sedans were smaller—

A 1997 Toyota Camry weighed 3000 pounds, with a wedge-shaped nose riding on 14 or 15-inch tires, and got 23 mpg combined. A 1997 Ford Explorer weighed 3900 pounds, with a big flat grille and a truck ride height, and got 15 mpg combined (with an automatic transmission), so ~40% worse.

A 2021 Toyota Camry weighs 3400 pounds and gets between 28-32 mpg (not counting the hybrid). A 2021 Ford Explorer weighs 4300 pounds and gets ~24 mpg combined in most trim levels (not counting the hybrid), so ~15-28% worse. (Of course you can get a Camry hybrid that'll blow that mileage out of the water, but there are lots of hybrid crossovers out there too.)

In reality this is often even closer for most people, since it's not uncommon to cross-shop compact crossovers (one size down from the Explorer) and midsize sedans. (A Camry seats five and an Explorer seats seven.)

Today's "SUVs" are almost all cars, built on car platforms. I don't have a ton of current information about pedestrian injuries, unfortunately, but the compact (five-seat) SUVs in particular just are not much larger than midsize sedans at this point. (A Honda CR-V is 10 inches taller than a Camry, half an inch wider, 10 inches shorter, and basically the same weight.)

I'm not sure what I'm doing here, since I really dislike crossovers—I guess what I'm offering is a little commiseration and a little "look, ultimately it won't be a big deal to do what your wife wants here because modern sedans also kind of suck." If you're worried about the added pedestrian risk I would suggest ensuring you get all the active safety tech that's available to you when you buy the car.
posted by Polycarp at 11:26 PM on August 27, 2021 [1 favorite]

Anothe record correction: the Chrysler Portal all electric minivan is coming for sure in 2022. Thats likely to be a smash hit.

Brooklyn residents however probably can’t make the case for a plug in BEV platform unless you have off street parking with AC power.
posted by spitbull at 4:36 AM on August 28, 2021

The term "SUV" is essentially meaningless these days. We have two cars that market themselves as SUVs - a newish fully electric Hyundai Kona and an oldish Buick Enclave.

The Kona is about a foot shorter than our previous car (a early 2000s Mazda 3 compact sedan), and our everyday zippy get around car. The Enclave is nearly four feet longer longer than the Kona, has 3 rows of seats for when we need to move around 5+ people, can tow our 4000lb camper easily, and can fit 10' wooden boards inside. Calling them both SUVs is about as descriptive as calling them both "motor vehicles".
posted by true at 6:56 AM on August 28, 2021 [2 favorites]

I recently got a VW ID.4, which is a battery electric small SUV and I like it a lot. I get good range out of it. I can drive from Orange County to Hollywood round trip two times on an 80% charge. And charging from Electrify America is totally free. And in California it qualifies for an HOV decal.
posted by Dansaman at 10:26 PM on August 28, 2021

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