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SUV Full Form

SUVs are fast becoming the most popular form of the vehicle the world over. Here’s how it all began

India and global markets are getting to see unprecedented demand for SUVs. Find out about everything you need to know about this fast burgeoning class of vehciles in this detailed write-up.

SUVs today come in different shapes and sizes and have evolved quite a lot from what they used to be a decade ago. What defines a modern SUV because there seems to be no distinction between a thoroughbred with proper offroad prowess and a hatchback on stilts with body cladding being touted as one. Here is all you ever wanted to know about where and how it all began and what defines a true SUV.

What is the full form of an SUV?

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To new-age super luxurious SUVs

There have been many definitions for a Sport Utility Vehicle, or SUV as it is commonly addressed, in its short forms. Previously, any vehicle which necessarily features a four-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive system used to be defined as an SUV. However, with time, the original essence of an SUV has changed significantly, as today, any vehicle with a high ground clearance or rugged-looking styling and stance is now referred to as an SUV. In today’s day and age, SUVs are not restricted to be based only on ladder-on-frame chassis, but also on monocoque chassis too.

SUV History

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From the rugged uncomfortable vehicles

It all began back in the late 1930s when automakers around the world began making vehicles with four-wheel drive meant as low volume models primarily for military purposes. However, the acceptance of SUVs became more with the introduction of four-wheel-drive station wagons and high riding vehicles, which offered the versatility of usage in both urban and off-road driving conditions. Thigs really took off when they first appeared as combat vehicles to aid the War Effort in the mid-1940s in the form of the Willys CJ

This recipe was later followed by the likes of the MK1 Land Rover Defender and the Toyota Land Cruiser and there was no looking back ever since. Between the 1950s and 1980s, there were many SUVs with bare basic designs in and out, but fully functional four-wheel-drive systems were launched. In all these years, modern SUVs like Land Rover Range Rover, Jeep Cherokee and Toyota Land Cruiser arrived, which evolved in the eventual years to become more suited for urban conditions.

In the late 1990s, SUVs became more popular and expanded beyond ladder-on-frame constructions. In later years, many monocoque SUVs began arriving, which started offering more polished driving dynamics in urban conditions.

Features of SUV

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In all these years, the pure definition of SUVs has changed much. What began as vehicles primarily equipped with four-wheel drive systems being classified as SUVs started becoming more versatile. SUVs of today’s day and age need to have factors like a high ground clearance, heightened seating position on the inside, a tall stance, and off-road design features like body cladding, side moulding, front and rear skid plates, and roof rails. An SUV can be either based on a ladder-on-frame chassis or a monocoque frame – there’s no compulsion on being based on the former anymore.

Classification of SUV

In the Indian context, SUVs are classified under five different categories, which are as follows:

Mini SUV

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All the SUVs in India which measure below the four-metre mark but get all the design highlights and characteristics of a proper SUV, like tall stance, body cladding all around, and high ground clearance, are called Mini SUVs. These are also referred to as sub-compact SUVs many times, with cars like Tata Nexon, Nissan Magnite, Kia Sonet and Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza classified in this category.

Crossover SUV

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These SUVs are usually based on the platforms shared with hatchbacks and generally look like hatchbacks raised on stilts. These SUVs have limited off-road driving ability but have design aspects like a traditional SUV. Cars like Maruti Suzuki S-Cross, Honda WR-V and Nissan Magnite fall in this category.

Compact SUV

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The compact SUVs in India generally measure between 4-4.5 metres in length and have high ground clearance. They offer additional space and slightly larger and more powerful engines over sub-compact SUVs measuring under the 4-metre mark. SUVs like Hyundai Creta, Kia Seltos, Volkswagen Taigun, Renault Duster, Skoda Kushaq, Audi Q3, Mercedes Benz GLA, and BMW X1 are some examples of compact SUVs.

Mid-size SUV

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However, more people are choosing them over the sedans and hatchback

The SUVs which are bigger than compact SUVs in dimensions are measured around 4.4-4.7 metres in length are termed mid-size SUVs in India. These SUVs have better road presence on the outside and space on the inside over compact SUVs, thus making them more comfortable for long-distance driving. Examples of such SUVs are Tata Harrier, MG Hector, Mahindra XUV700, Jeep Compass, Volkswagen Tiguan, Hyundai Tucson, Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Mercedes Benz GLC.

Full-size SUVs

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And manufacturers do not differentiate between SUVs and crossovers

In India, full-size SUVs measure beyond the 4.7-metre mark and have a gigantic road presence, which gives them a proper authoritative appeal over other vehicles. These usually have higher ingress and egress over all the other SUVs and have large engines under their hoods. SUVs like Toyota Fortuner, MG Gloster, Audi Q7, Land Rover Range Rover, Mercedes Benz GLS, and BMW X7 are categorised as full-size SUVs.

SUV Pros

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There is a reason why many automotive markets in the world are shifting towards SUVs, including India. SUVs have an authoritative road presence, which gives them a sense of bigger and more premium vehicles. They have higher ground clearance, thus making them much easier to drive over broken roads, potholes, speed breakers and loose sections of roads. Many SUVs also have capable four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive systems, which enable them to conquer the worst of the roads and terrains with ease.

SUV Cons

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Given that many SUVs are large and tall in size, they can be difficult to drive in tight city traffic conditions, due to their bigger turning radius. They are heavier than their sedan or hatchback counterparts, which makes them less fuel-efficient in comparison. They also contribute more towards environmental degradation due to more tailpipe emissions and the requirement of more resources in their manufacturing. Their taller front end is also more fatal to pedestrians in the scenarios of accidents.

Top 5 SUVs

Here are the five most popular SUVs in each category of SUVs in India

Mini SUV – Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza

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The Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza might be existing in the mini SUV category. However, its traditional boxy and upright design, a practical cabin and low ownership costs have made it more popular. There are many new-generation, better-equipped mini SUVs sold by rival carmakers, but the Vitara Brezza continues to top the sales charts with its economical 1.5-litre petrol engine.

Crossover SUV – Maruti Suzuki S-Cross

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Did you know S-Cross is one of the top five SUVs in India?

The sales of crossover SUVs in India is very limited, due to their more laidback styling and lowered stance compared to other SUVs. The limited space of crossover SUVs is currently led by Maruti Suzuki S-Cross. While the S-Cross is seen as a competitor to other similarly priced compact SUVs, it carves a niche of its own with its slightly lowered hatchback-like stance. The S-Cross is a practical car for small families, with its spacious cabin and efficient 1.5-litre petrol engine contributing to its practicality.

Compact SUV – Hyundai Creta

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It came, it saw, it conquered – there is no other SUV that has come close to challenging the supremacy of Hyundai Creta ever since it made its appearance in the Indian car market. The Creta is currently in its second generation version and continues to vow the Indian car buyers with its reliability, wide choice of petrol and diesel variants, and a lengthy list of premium features.

Mid-size SUV – Tata Harrier

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However, more people are choosing them over the sedans and hatchback

The Tata Harrier kicked off its innings in India with a slow start. However, the SUV managed to pick up some appreciable pace with the facelifted version that came in early 2020. This facelift ironed out all the shortcomings of the Harrier, with a more powerful engine, choice of an automatic gearbox, additional contemporary features like a panoramic sunroof, powered driver’s seat and more.

Full-size SUV – Toyota Fortuner

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Indians love Fortuner, and after the departure of Ford Endeavour, its supremacy feels stronger than ever before. The Fortuner is seen as an undisputed choice in the full-size SUV segment, with factors like low after-sales maintenance costs, ultra-reliable mechanicals, and a long-lasting feel. While the Fortuner misses out on many modern features, it has continued to charm Indians with its practicality, reliability and impressive road presence.


How Popular is the SUV?
In recent times, SUVs and crossovers have become the largest segment in the world with almost 37% market share.

What is the difference between SUV & compact SUV?
A compact SUV is generally a 2WD crossover while an SUV is generally a 4X4 capable vehicle.

What is the difference between a compact SUV and the sub-compact SUV?
Compact SUVs are small-sized crossovers like the Hyundai Creta and Kia Seltos whereas the sub-compact SUVs are shorter than 4 metres in length.

What is the seating capacity of SUV cars?
The seating capacity varies on the model and it can be from 2 seats to 7 seats or more.

What are the lowest priced SUV cars?
Basic SUVs offer a capable 4X4 set-up without many luxurious features and can cost around Rs 10 lakh.

Shantonil Nag
Shantonil Nag
Often living out of suitcases, driving one car after the other to bring you the latest in terms of reviews, opinions and photographs, this man even holds a Guinness record for the longest drive in India without repeating the route. If you don't find him reviewing a car or motorcycle, you'll spot him heading to the hills. An in-house Himalaya expert, putting a car through its paces on desolate mountain roads is what thrills him the most.  Read full bio

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