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  • The Driver’s Seat: Mystery of SUV Classifications

The Driver’s Seat: Mystery of SUV Classifications

The Driver’s Seat

Apr 4, 2018
Photographers: Courtesy of Chevrolet
We often refer to this time as a glorious age for pickup and SUV enthusiasts. We are awash in choice, every aspect of these vehicles is being updated with the latest technology and comfort packages, and fuel economy and power outputs continue to improve at an exponential rate. What could possibly be the problem? All the darn acronyms, that’s what!
I, for one, am sick of it. What once was simply a sport-utility vehicle is now being described as not only an SUV but also CUV, XUV, or MUV while also coming in small, compact, midsize, fullsize, and large. Automaker’s websites are starting to read like a McDonald’s menu; we’re almost to the point of having to ask the salesman to “supersize me” to order a Yukon XL. It’s out of control, I tell ya! [Shakes cane viciously at kids walking past porch.]
This wouldn’t be such a problem if we could stick to one set of guidelines for governing these descriptions. But, no, manufacturers all have their own set of designations for what fits their product line and marketing language. Adding to the confusion is that the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety has their own chart, as does the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency—and that’s just in the United States.
To settle this problem once and for all, here’s what I propose. First, we need to eliminate all of the generic marketing terms that have come to be: XUV, MUV, SAV, and so on. The two new standard classifications will be Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) and Crossover Utility Vehicle (CUV). Sport Utility Vehicles will be defined as having a body-on-frame construction and/or a conventionally mounted drivetrain, while CUVs will be anything constructed with a unibody and/or a transversely mounted drivetrain.
Since the SUV class is somewhat of a dying breed these days, it will have two size sub-classes, Fullsize and Midsize. Vehicles such as Chevy’s Tahoe and Suburban and Ford’s Expedition will fall in the Fullsize category, while the likes of BMW’s X3 and Jeep’s Grand Cherokee will fall in the Midsize class.
The CUV group gets a bit more complicated, because it’s growing at such an astronomical rate. This batch of vehicles gets three classes: Compact, Midsize, and Fullsize. The bulk of manufacturers right now have a three-crossover strategy. Honda has HR-V (compact), CR-V (midsize), and Pilot (fullsize); Toyota has C-HR (compact), RAV4 (midsize), and Highlander (fullsize); Hyundai has Kona (compact), Tucson (midsize), and Santa Fe (fullsize). I could seriously go on all day.
Now that we have categories nailed down, we just need to decide on a universally acceptable standard of measurement for defining which vehicle goes where. Sorting them by either wheelbase or gross vehicle weight rating can do this pretty easily. If I had more time, and this wasn’t just my hypothetical automotive utopia, I’d keep going. If anyone reading this has more free time than I do, feel free to draw up a matrix and email it to me—we’ll publish what’s received in a future issue.
Trucks are far easier to simplify. It’s time to ditch the old nomenclature of ½-ton, ¾-ton, and so on, as these are outdated since the contemporary F-150/Silverado-Sierra 1500/Ram 1500 can haul far more than 1,000 pounds in the bed. Let’s drop it to simply Midsize, Fullsize, and Heavy Duty. Again, classify them by gross vehicle weight rating and be done with it. Companies can still use marketing terms like 2500 and 3500 to sell them, but the class structure will be much simpler.
To make my dream come true, this structure would have to be adopted by all of the manufacturers that do business in the States, along with all of the governing bodies that have a hand in the automotive realm. Because of that, it will never happen and we’re all doomed to be confused by nonsensical marketing jargon forever. Sigh.
Chevrolet’s lineup is the perfect example of how my ideal CUV sizing scheme would work.
Photo 2/4   |   Trax (Small)
Photo 3/4   |   Equinox (Midsize)
Photo 4/4   |   Terrain (Fullsize)

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