CC Capsule: Future CC Alley? I Don’t Think So…

I was on my nightly walk with my canine companions when I turned the corner and observed this wondrous sight.

There are usually no vehicles parked on this part of the road.  So to see a row of vehicles, not one but many, and all of them “Compact SUV”s, (or crossovers if you will) was surely a sight. Many different makes and models, in all sorts of colours. Nissans, Hondas, BMWs, Jeeps, Kias, Dodges all filled the viewscape.  The rooflines all flowed from one to another as if in a symphony.

Had someone been sleeping under a rock for the last 25 years, and woke up to this view, they may have wondered where all the cars went. Or what happened to vertically stretch and horizontally shorten the cars. To wit, “Where did all the overhang go?” It would be like Back to the Future in reverse.

Hey, I am not here to disparage SUVs, even if I conspire and connive to despise that moniker. They are quite useful little trucks.  However, unless they are really designed to be sporty, eg. a Jeep, most SUVs will never be used off road. The “S” in SUV is really a misnomer. The earliest of their kind were more intended to be pushed and throttled. So they are not really sporty, just boxes on wheels. There are warning signs all over my Escape – “Don’’t drive too fast!”, “Don’t brake hard”, “Rollover hazard!”, “No sudden manoeuvres!”.

A Car and Driver review had this to say about an early 4WD Ford Escape:

Off-road, the Escape is a bit challenged. Essentially a front-wheel-drive vehicle with part-time rear-drive, the Escape has no low-range gearing and can’t be locked into four-wheel drive. That doesn’t mean it’s unable to handle the vast majority of off-roading most casual SUV owners require (which, in many cases, is none).
A tight turning circle and reasonably generous ground clearance–not to mention the down-low guts of the torquey V-6–will let Escape owners go cow-trailing and dirt-roading to their hearts’ content, but if you do much rock climbing and mudhole driving, there are better choices.

Low down guts of the V-6?  If you put your foot into it, you get more tire chirps up front than actual motivation.  If I push the thing to pull out and pass at 80 km/hour or above, it feels as if the front end is going to wheelie on me.

Compact SUVs are utility, yes, but they don’t do utility anywhere near as well as minivans do.  Compare 63 cu. feet, and less than 4 feet width, against a 2019 Dodge Grand Caravan with 158.6 cu. feet storage.  Four feet width is very useful too for those trips to Hardware Depot.

“Vehicle” is just a bland non descriptive term that someone came up with because they couldn’t decide if they were a car or a truck, or somewhere in between.  So it’s really the name that puts me off. As long as we understand what we are buying, (and we all do buy them), there will be no misunderstanding.

I am more in favour of a more correct acronym, maybe Compact Light Truck (CLT), or Small Conveyance Truck, or even Compact Utility Truck (CUT). However the term, SUV has stuck by this point, no matter small, like an Escape, or larger such as an Explorer, or even larger if there is such a thing.

OK, so I have an older Escape, I am sure there exists better technology on these vehicles today.  However most driving review shows that I watch echo my sentiment, 99% of buyers will never take one of these offroading.

As Paul has said before, SUVs are a return to what cars used to be, taller for better ease of entry, better storage area, and the ability to tow light loads without the need for a huge clamshell station wagon of bygone days. To be sure, when my Escape comes due for replacement, my wife has made it clear she likes sitting up higher in a CLT (Oops, sorry) as opposed to a small car.

Minivans certainly had their day, but they never became as ubiquitous as what our SUVs have become today. I do feel strongly that in 25 years time we won’t be seeing many curbside classic SUVs around our neighbourhoods.

In any event, I found this sight and the immediate surroundings kind of eye opening. No, the presence of a bunch of SUV crossovers is not news to anyone, certainly on CC. The future is now for these small trucks.

This graph shows that SUV global sales, while continuing to increase, are nearing peak.  The days of 25% year over year sales increases haven’t happened since 2015.  Growth may slip into the single digits this year.  SUV makers can easily harvest global markets for years to come while they develop the next big thing.

I congratulate those who have purchased these and parked on this street in a nice line.  Some may serve as kid shuttles, or have on board child seats.  Some, or many, likely serve as daily drivers and grocery getters.  Some of these cost much more than a compact sedan.

Contrast these views with a parking lots of a bygone era.  Who here doesn’t long for something as snazzy as this collection?

As with all trends, this one may run its course one day, and carmakers will be convincing us we need something larger, or smaller, or shorter, or something. Like bellbottoms, disco music, Six Sigma, Astroturf, something else – the next ‘thing’ – is I’m sure already being conceptualized.