You know you want or need a new SUV, but you are left contemplating what size is right for you. Should you find something that takes advantage of the full size and cargo space of large SUVs? Maybe something smaller and more fuel efficient like a compact or crossover SUV would be better? These decisions can be hard to make if you do not have some obvious size restraints. Lacking a large family, for example, opens up a number of possible options to choose from. Depending on the size that you choose, you will get an SUV that offers better fuel efficiency, more cargo room, tighter handling, greater engine performance, etc. The differences between SUV sizes are more than just physical. Larger SUVs come with a different feel than smaller versions. Something like the 2018 GMC Yukon will feel like a true SUV versus something like a Toyota Rav4.
How do you choose? It all depends on what you need or want from your next SUV purchase.
Thinking About The Size Requirements
The best place to start when making this critical decision is what you need from an SUV in the first place. Thinking about more than just the size alone, what is your list of must-haves with this SUV? Will it be your primary vehicle? Do you see yourself using it to haul a lot of people or cargo around?
Will it go off-road or be used for road trips?
The size of the SUV largely influences how much passenger and cargo space you have to work within your vehicle. If you know roughly how much room you will need for both the usual trips around town or on vacation, this will help you judge whether a specific SUV model will be large enough. The size of your family is a great place to start since you will likely need a single transport for the entire family most days.
Overall performance is another area that can help you decide between small, medium, and large SUVs. This area is tricky since most SUVs come with terrific engine and drivetrain options these days. Still, full-size SUVs tend to offer more powerful options such as V8 engines since they have more mass that must move around. The most important to think about in terms of performance is fuel efficiency. Many SUVs can guzzle down a gas tank rather quickly. If you need something that is more efficient, a smaller SUV may be the way to go.
Finally, think about the general feel and handling you want from the SUV. How the SUV drives is largely dependent on its size, particularly the length of its wheelbase. Larger vehicles will not turn as well as smaller crossover SUVs. For urban environments with a lot of traffic and challenging parking spaces, a tighter turning radius can reduce more headaches and driving dangers at the same time.
On The Smaller Side
It is easy to think that a full-size SUV is your best bet to get everything you want or need from the vehicle. Larger SUVs do have many advantages, but you should not discount the benefits of going smaller when it comes to your next SUV purchase. Small, crossover SUVs have several distinct advantages that are similar to how cars and small trucks handle and perform on the road.
Many crossover SUVs excel during daily commutes with more fuel-efficient engine options and better maneuverability than their larger cousins. Some engines like inline four-cylinders and V6 options are better suited for crossovers because of the lighter chassis that does not take as much to get up to normal cruising speed. This saves money at the gas station since you are using less gas over the same period of time.
The handling of a smaller SUV is more similar to a car, making this a great option if you want a smaller transition or learning curve from smaller vehicles. You will not have to relearn how to park the SUV or worry about judging acceleration and braking distances correctly with a larger vehicle. This can make it much easier to enjoy the ride right out of the gate.
For some people, a smaller SUV is not enough vehicle to get the job done. More cargo room, a spacious interior, and more power are all necessary for individuals with larger families, specific performance requirements, or who want the feel of a full-size vehicle at their fingertips. A full-size SUV is also the best way to escape the feeling of driving a car.
It should go without saying that full-size SUVs are large. They take the best qualities of cars like comfortable interiors and mix them with the cargo space of a truck. In fact, many larger SUVs are built from the frames of full-size trucks. Combined with folding rear seats, power lift gates, and spacious interiors, these SUVs can rival the cargo capacities of many trucks with the added benefit of extra protection.
Top-tier SUVs come with refined, more powerful engine options for owners who plan on towing a lot of cargo or who may want to go off-road on an adventure. More powerful V6 and V8 engines will not be fuel friendly, but they will offer more horsepower and torque for the times when you need the extra pull from your vehicle.
Finally, do not underestimate the benefit of a comfortable interior. Extra head and legroom mean all passengers can travel in comfort for long and short trips alike. More luxurious interior accents like heated seats and infotainment systems make the SUV ride feel more like home as well. This can be a saving grace for larger families with smaller children to entertain during long drives.
Exploring your options
If you are not sure what type of SUV you need, go out and check some options out. The best way to discover what will work for you is with firsthand experience. Get down to your local dealerships and see some SUV models for yourself.