Sport Utility Vehicles over recent years have soared in popularity.
And whats not to like? They’re practical, safe, fuel efficient and robust.
However, if you’re a new driver, or you’re used to driving a slightly smaller vehicle like a sedan, then you might be wondering how hard it is to drive one.
In this article we’ll analyze the difficulty of driving an SUV, read on to find out more…
Here is the short answer to are SUVs easier or harder to drive than cars:
SUVs are harder to drive than cars due to their size. They have a high center of gravity that reduces their handling, they’re more difficult to maneuver into tight spaces, and have larger blind zones, however becoming a proficient, safe SUV driver is an easily obtainable skill with practice.
Are SUVs Harder to Drive than Cars?
The short answer is yes, however, there are a few good reasons why exactly SUVs are slightly more difficult to drive in comparison to their smaller counterparts.
Outlined below we’ll dive into some of these reasons to give you a better understanding of what makes an SUV harder to drive:
Reduced Low-Level Vision
The height of the SUV offers a better view of the road ahead, however, it also makes it more difficult to see a small child and smaller objects that are low-lying such as a low retaining wall or bicycle.
A good practice is to always walk the perimeter of the vehicle to check for any potential hazards before getting in the driver’s seat.
Doing so can prevent serious accidents and reduce the chance of any unnecessary damage to your vehicle.
In recent years automakers have been installing rear-facing cameras on most of their SUVs, and today those cameras are mandatory on all new vehicles sold in the United States.
If looking to buy an SUV we recommend getting one with both front and rear facing cameras.
SUVs in comparison to cars have much larger blind zones both to the front and rear of the vehicle, as your field of vision becomes reduced, the difficulty of driving increases.
SUVs have been found to have a front blind zone between five and ten feet, which is approximately two to three times more than the front blind zone of a sedan.
Consumer Reports conducted a survey of hundreds of vehicles using both short and tall drivers to determine the size of blind zones behind a vehicle:
- Sedans: 12 feet to 24 feet
- Sport Utility Vehicles: 13 feet to 29 feet
There is also the issue of SUVs having larger blind zones that are ‘over the shoulder’ caused by the pillars of the car, however, many SUV manufacturers offer Blind Spot Detection to counteract this.
Blind Spot Detection utilizes a set of sensors installed on the rear bumper or side mirrors to detect vehicles in the adjacent lanes.
If the sensors detect something, they’ll alert you via an audible and/or visual warning. Some vehicles even use a camera as the main part of the system or to complement the sensors.
Blind-spot monitoring is an excellent tool for keeping safe. If you pay attention to the audible or visual warnings, they can reduce the risk of merging into another vehicle.
A common question, and to a lesser extent anxiety, people have about SUVs is there difficulty to park.
SUVs have larger wheels, are longer and overall are bigger vehicles than a standard car, and for these reasons SUVs are more difficult to park, they’re less agile and your field of vision is reduced at both the front and rear of the vehicle.
Auto manufacturers have provided a clever solution for this though, and many new SUVs offer parking assist cameras and even a self-parking mode.
The self-parking mode is enabled when you approach and select your desired space, the vehicle then prompts you to select a gear and remove your hands from the steering wheel.
The SUV will do most of the parking for you however some require you to inch backward and brake as the car steers the vehicle by itself. Though the car will guide you into the parking space correctly it’s important to remain alert and be vigilant of your surroundings.
Another, sometimes overlooked parking disadvantage of SUVs is due to their size.
Driving an SUV means you won’ be able to fit into tighter spaces and still open the door without hitting the adjacent vehicle.
They reduce the range of parking opportunities that are available to smaller car.
SUVs have a higher center of gravity and are more top-heavy when compared to sedans, this, in turn, makes them more difficult to drive.
A high center of gravity makes maneuvering through sharp corners more difficult and also increases the chance of rollover.
Be cautious when loading an SUV – load vehicles evenly on both sides, front to back to even out the higher center of gravity that makes an SUV prone to tipping.
How Hard is it to Drive an SUV?
Despite all the factors previously mentioned it’s important to keep things in perspective.
Although the question is somewhat subjective it’s important to note that millions of people all over the world drive SUVs, and if it really was that hard, then much fewer people would be doing it.
Its understandable to have some reservations or anxiety about driving a larger vehicle but the important thing to keep in mind is that with a safe driving mentality, a good understanding of safe driving principles and lots of practice, driving an SUV will become second nature in a relatively short period of time.
If you’re used to driving a smaller vehicle, then yes, of course, it will take some getting used to, however driving an SUV is an easily attainable skill, that like any skill requires practice.
What are the Easiest SUVs to Drive?
Some SUVs are easier to drive than others for a variety of reasons, here are a selection of some of the easiest SUVs to drive:
Subaru Forester 2021
The Subaru Forester has good handling, excellent visibility and state-of-the-art technology, making it a much easier SUV to drive.
The Forester’s excellent visibility is attributed to its thin pillars that flank tall windows all the way round and also at the back combined with a high seating position.
To add to this, Subaru’s EyeSight system is now standard equipment on models after 2019.
EyeSight incorporates a wide range of active and passive driver-aid features such as:
- Adaptive cruise control that maintains a safe following distance behind the vehicle in front at highway speeds and even in stop and go traffic. The system can even see and detect obstructions or pedestrians in Forester’s path and automatically apply the brakes to lessen or prevent an impact.
- The system also features lane-departure warning with lane-keeping steering assist.
For all but the base Forester, a system similar to automatic emergency braking is also applied when reversing but uses the rear parking sensors to apply the brakes if the driver fails to see an object in the mirrors or reversing camera, including pedestrians or children walking behind the vehicle, for example.
The Forester also features a clever rear camera cleaner, by pressing the rear wiper washer it puts out a spray that cleans the lens for you.
Another good choice when considering an SUV that makes driving a little bit easier, is the countries best selling SUV, the Toyota Rav4.
This is attributed not only due to the Rav4s excellent handling, but also for its outward visibility.
The Rav4 has side mirrors mounted on the doors for improved sightlines to the front corners of the vehicle, as well as large windows to increase the drivers view.
The Rav4 also features technology such as blind spot warning, which can help make driving easier and safer when changing lanes.
For those concerned about parking, the Rav4 has front and rear parking assists with automated braking. This system visually and audibly warns you when it detects objects or vehicles approaching from the rear.
Should the system determine there might be contact with a detected obstacle it will reduce engine power and/or apply the brakes.
The platinum trim models feature a 360-degree surround-view camera system with perimeter view capability and an excellent rearview camera mirror with multiple settings.
Switching to an SUV: Pros and Cons
If you’re contemplating making the switch to an SUV here is a quick run down of their advantages and disadvantages.
Spacious: The biggest advantage of an SUV is of course the amount of space they offer, allowing room for your family and friends and all your gear. The best SUVs on today’s market will provide space whilst also not appearing too bulky or cumbersome. With the increased space and ability to handle more weight, SUVs make great family vehicles especially for camping and outdoor activities.
Robust: The overall foundations of an SUV are much sturdier and robust due to their stronger frames, this makes them more durable and can be a great option if you enjoy trips across the country and are ideal for family road trips. Some SUVs feature four-wheel-drive which means they can power through all terrains.
Safety: Due to their big sturdy frames SUVs do hold an advantage, as typically a heavier vehicle will take the force of collision much less than the impact of a smaller car. The raised seat position is advantageous when driving as it gives a better view of the road ahead.
Towing Abilities: If you’re the owner of a caravan, boat or trailer than an SUV is an excellent choice due to its increased towing ability as they have much larger, more powerful engines.
Price: As a rule of thumb, the bigger the car, the more you can expect to pay for it, SUVs typically average out around $25,000 and the average cost of a small sedan is $20,000.
Fuel Economy: Although manufacturers are working hard to make SUVs as fuel-efficient as possible, by their very nature, bigger, heavier vehicles will guzzle more gas. Sedans are smaller and lighter and will therefore cost less in this department.
Parking: Bigger vehicles will have fewer options when it comes to finding a parking space, and there is also the issue of maneuverability. It isn’t as easy to park an SUV compared to a smaller vehicle due to its bulkiness, and parallel parking may well be somewhat of a challenge.
CO2 Emissions: If you’re concerned about the future of the planet then this is something to bear in mind. Despite the advances in engineering, SUVs are more fuel-thirsty than their smaller counterparts and will naturally emit more carbon emissions into the atmosphere, which doesn’t make it the most environmentally-friendly possession.