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Are SUVs or Minivans safer? Is it because they’re bigger? Does the amount of sheet metal wrapped around a vehicle really afford a higher sense of actual and physical security?
SUVs or Minivans are the preferred vehicles of soccer moms. Dignitaries prefer modified SUVs. There has to be some truth in it, right? If a vehicle is being marketed to protect against terrorist attacks or against the equivalent amount of damage kids can inflict on an inanimate object, it has to be true.
Or are they?
What’s An SUV?
An SUV or a Sports Utility Vehicle combines the off-road capabilities of an all-terrain vehicle and the creature comforts expected in a modern car. It’s basically a station wagon floating on top of a light-truck chassis that can go anywhere you want.
The SUV has been around longer than most people believe. Although the name was coined in the late 1980s, jeeps and other vehicles that were early SUVs were already on the road.
Types of SUV
SUVs come in all shapes and sizes. Most people have this picture in their mind that an SUV is a large vehicle with oversized tires and a rugged exterior. That has obviously changed in the past years. Although the basic concept still remains, the SUV has been fitted to adapt to the times.
A Crossover SUV (or CUV) is built on a unibody platform. This is the same type of body found on passenger cars.
What does this mean?
Well, you have better fuel economy and comfort at the cost of lesser off-road capability. A lot of CUVs only come with standard front or rear-wheel drive instead of all-wheel drive as expected in most SUVs.
Not a bad trade-off for those living in the city. And it shows as this is one of the most popular SUV segments in the market today as of 2010.
Crossover SUVs have better protection than most of the SUVs listed. They come with seatbelts and airbags as standard features. The Crossover SUV segment is reminiscent of station wagons that were popular in the past albeit, with a raised ground clearance and better suspension.
In the event of a side impact, Crossover SUVs are less likely to rollover. The body construction is also more rigid than that of a regular sedan.
Crossover SUVs are marketed as vehicles you can take off-road and still look good on the highway. They look more civilized than their off-road brethren, more masculine than a regular sedan, and more attractive than all the other SUVs in the market today.
On the highway, these vehicles can handle high speeds with little to no body roll when negotiating around corners.
Sadly, their unibody design prevents them from being full off-road machines.
Four Types Of Crossovers
Crossovers come in all shapes and sizes. They’re often lumped into other SUV classes but for the most part have their own segment. The term Crossover has also been widely used to entice more buyers to purchase these vehicles on the merit of being an all-purpose vehicle although in truth, they are pretty much limited to basic road use.
The Subcompact Crossover is the smallest of this segment. An example is the Mazda CX-3.
The Mazda CX-3 is the preferred CUV of yuppies for its civilized interior and sleek looks. The Mazda CX-3 is perfect for road and highway use, but it falters when going through rougher than usual roads and steep uphill ascents.
This CUV is perfect for young people moving up in the world who want to show others they’re doing good.
The Compact Crossover, although small, looks larger than it really is.
The best example for this sub-category is the Nissan X-Trail. The Nissan X-Trail has the looks of a full size off-road machine but sits on a unibody platform. Therefore, off-roading is not advisable for these CUVs.
You can mark your trail plans with an X for this CUV.
Mid-size Crossovers are pretty limited these days, as vehicles of this size tend to have a separate platform instead of the unibody design.
The Toyota Highlander is one of the best examples for this sub-category. On the road, the Highlander handles high speeds with ease. Off-road, excessive body roll happens.
Too bad the Toyota Highlander doesn’t really live up to its name and can’t really go high up in the mountains like the fictitious Immortal Warrior on TV.
Like the Mid-size Crossover, Full-size Crossovers are also limited.
The Chevrolet Traverse is a prime example for these oversized Crossovers. The Chevrolet Traverse was ridiculed for the excessive body roll and this was primarily the result of mating a large body to the chassis.
Seems like the Chevrolet Traverse can’t really cross over to the off-road segment.
The Crossover SUV segment is the most popular SUV category today. These vehicles look like they can handle anything thrown at them and still look like they belong in the city instead of in the jungle. This the perfect car for young professionals, start-up families, and individuals looking for a car capable of light off-road activities.
A Mini SUV is an SUV placed under the microscope or subjected to shrinking rays and set free into the wild roads of the city. To say these are small cars is an understatement. In Japan, these are included in the “Kei” category.
Mini SUVs are built on subcompact car platforms, have simpler suspension systems, and have a more familiar driving feel than what you would expect on a regular SUV.
The major appeal of these vehicles is its cuteness factor. You can deck it out with off-road tires, a rack, oversized bumpers, and overhead lights and it’ll still look cute. You’ll still hear people going ooh and ahh when they see your mini SUV on the road.
Those things will just give the impression that you’re driving a small vehicle except with extra trim to make its silhouette look larger. Like a huffed up cat trying to scare a rival away.
But make no mistake about these vehicles. More men are actually into mini SUVs as opposed to women. This is because these vehicles are a way to own an actual SUV without shelling out major bucks. Of course, that only works if your mini SUV is out alone or only in the company of small cars.
You’ll be the big dog then. Beside a regular SUV, prepare to join the ranks of a regular sedan owner.
Keep that in mind if you’re a guy planning to get a mini SUV.
For girls, it totally works out just fine.
Mini SUVs are equally perfect for men and women.
And they’re cute.
Mini SUVs come standard with seatbelts. Some have airbags in them.
The thing you should be most concerned about is their body construction. It is not as rigid as that of a regular SUV. In the event of a rollover, unless you have roll-bars installed, you’re in for a massive headache.
And forget about head-on collisions, these things crumple like a piece of paper.
For best results, install roll-bars inside and an exoskeleton on the outside.
Mini SUVs have small engines. On city roads, these vehicles do just fine. They’re zippy and their small footprint allows for easy parking in tight spots.
Off-road, equipped with the right tires, these mini SUVs can do just fine. They can go over small obstacles without any problems. Just don’t expect to go bouldering on a stock suspension because you’ll get very disappointed.
Oh, and it can get very bumpy.
And forget about steep angles. Unless you’re in a Suzuki Jimny, your mini SUV is going to struggle, or worse, stall in the middle of the climb.
Mini SUVs are perfect for small families or single people who only need a slightly larger vehicle than a sedan.
A Compact SUV is just slightly bigger than a Mini SUV. A compact SUV is basically a compact crossover built on a compact passenger car. Examples for these SUVs are the Jeep Compass and the Honda CR-V.
The bad thing about these cars is that they have the reputation of being less macho cars. This is totally unfair as they are quite capable of handling a lot more than what is expected of them.
The safety features on a compact SUV is slightly better than that of a mini SUV. Air bags pretty much are standard features though.
They’ll still crumple but the pillars are strong enough to withstand massive impact.
You can place roll-bars in them, but those would look utterly out of place in a more civilized form of SUV.
That’s about it.
Compact SUVs have larger engines than mini SUVs. These vehicles are equipped with, at the very least, 1300 cc engines. That’s powerful enough for steep hills, unless you’re fully loaded with cargo and people.
Compact SUVs are perfect for small families of four with enough space for a dog and groceries.
A Mid-size SUV is considered the perfect size for most people. This is where the SUV segment becomes confusing based on the platforms used. Mid-size SUVs are either based on the crossover platform or a pickup platform.
If you’re looking for a safe SUV to take your kids in, this is the way to go. Mid-size SUVs come with fully rigid bodies, airbags and more seatbelts than you can shake a stick at.
The only problem with mid-sized SUVs is their raised ground clearance. Although this gives you a nice vantage point when you’re out on the road, you’re also more prone to rolling over in the event of a crash. Mid-sized SUVs have very flimsy roofs that can easily cave in.
Mid-sized SUVs are also notorious for being responsible for most pedestrian-related accidents on the road today. This is due to the raised ride height and the sturdier bumper construction that does not easily crumple against a soft barrier or in this case a person’s body.
The Toyota Fortuner is actually one of those examples of mid-sized SUVs always figuring in accidents from Sudden Unintended Acceleration (SUAs) to aggressive driving, leading to traffic mishaps. A number of these SUVs have been recalled for factory defects.
This is where we can finally say “now you’re talking”. Mid-size SUVs have very powerful engines making them the perfect for SUV.
These vehicles are also perfect for the highway, as their large engine displacement allows them to reach high speeds with minimal effort.
Mid-sized SUVs are pretty much capable of anything you throw at it and ask for more. Mid-sized SUVs are often modified to use for off-road recreational activities.
Mid-size SUVs are perfect for families as well as single people looking for a powerful vehicle to cruise around in.
A Full-size SUV is the largest and most commonly produced SUV in the market today. These are essentially nicely dressed off-road machines anyone can buy without fear of being called a redneck.
In fact, full-size SUVs are marketed as luxury vehicles in most countries in which they are sold.
This is the safest SUV segment. Seatbelts and airbags are standard features. The body construction is also very rigid and can withstand pressure from all sides.
Full-size SUVs are large and wide giving them a nice center of gravity when on the road. Their large size also results in a heavier weight, making them extremely hard to roll-over in the event of a crash.
Power? You’ll never lack power with a full-size SUV. This is the perfect SUV to go off-roading with.
Slap on some nice tires and a roll-bar and you’ve got a vehicle fit for the apocalypse.
A Range Rover can take on the African Savannah. A Chevy Tahoe can climb up frosted mountains. A Land Cruiser will never die on you even at a steep 45 degree (or greater) angle hill.
Full-size SUVs are the preferred vehicles of doomsday preppers and their oversized families.
Want even more space? Get an extended-length SUV. As if a full-size SUV segment couldn’t get any bigger, manufacturers have added the extended-length SUV into the mix.
The extended-length SUV variants sit on dedicated platforms commonly found in full-sized pickups or heavy-duty trucks.
The additional length gives more space for more passengers and cargo.
You’ll find these SUVs in North America and the Middle East.
Or the streets of LA.
Basically anywhere that poses an imminent threat to the passengers within.
That’s why presidents and popes use the Lincoln Navigator while hip hop artists use the Cadillac Escalade. You can’t get any safer than that.
These are the SUVs you see protecting dignitaries and important public figures. Equipped with armor plated glass, these SUVs can keep anyone alive short of getting blasted with an IED.
These SUVs have the largest engines in the segment to move such a massive body around.
Extended-length SUVs are very expensive and that’s why there are very few on the road today. But, if you value your family’s safety, you can get one and for an additional expense, equip it with armor. Just remember to put up a second mortgage to support the fuel expenses you’ll incur over time.
There are certain characteristics that differentiates an SUV from a regular car or minivan. These specific characteristics are listed below:
Most SUVs sit on a separate body-on-frame chassis. This is because SUVs were initially built to emulate the action of a light truck or an off-road vehicle.
It wasn’t until the Jeep Cherokee was released when the unibody design was adopted to adapt to the changing
Today, smaller SUVs use the unibody design while the larger ones use the body-on-frame construction.
SUVs follow a simple design similar to that of a station wagon. An oversized one to be exact.
The engine compartment is up front. Combined passenger and cargo area
Not like a sedan that has a separate trunk compartment.
SUVs used to come in two door body styles. Today, the four door style has been embraced with only a few sticking to the original.
SUVs have a high ground clearance. This is both an advantage and a disadvantage. For one, because you sit high, you have an excellent vantage point on the road over all other cars. The bad thing is, you have a high center of mass making your SUV prone to rolling over in the event of an impact from the side.
SUV roofs also don’t have reinforced roofs. They are highly likely to cave in if the vehicle is turned or rolled over.
You can counter this by installing roll bars or an exo-skeleton if you’re planning to take your SUV off-road.
Gas Guzzlin’ Geezers
Sadly, most SUVs are gas guzzlers. Yeah, even the smaller ones.
The larger engine displacement in most SUVs means you’re going to have to shell out more for fuel. This is the same for both the gas and petrol variants.
SUV Rise In Popularity
Despite all that, the SUV segment has seen an increase in popularity. It accounts for 36.8% of total car sales all over the world.
This is due to the perceived safety buyers think they have owed to the raised ride height and larger size.
SUVs are also marketed as premium vehicles and command a higher price tag than a regular sedan.
SUVs Recreational Use
Another reason why SUVs are very popular is because of the promise that it is a fun vehicle to have. Aside from its obvious usefulness, an SUV can handle many other tasks thrown at it.
SUVs are used for recreational activities, which makes it an obvious choice for young people with wanderlust. You can find SUVs of all sizes with young people in it in a lot of places like the beach, parks and other places regular sedans can’t reach.
SUVs for Off-road Activities
The main reason why people buy SUVs is the promise that it can take the roads less traveled easily. Equipped with the right suspension, engine and protective additions, any SUV (even mini-SUVs and Crossovers) can go off-roading with ease.
For a great experience, try to limit the use of uni-body platforms to light off-road activities and leave it to SUVs on dedicated platforms instead.
SUVs For Racing
SUVs have larger engines than regular sedans. The additional size results in increased speed and torque. Are they faster than race cars? Some are. Some aren’t.
The only difference between SUVs and racing cars is the amount of body roll presented on the race track when negotiating tight turns.
Good thing SUV racing isn’t just reserved for the race track.
What’s A Minivan?
A Minivan is designed to carry a larger number of passengers from one point to another than you’d be able to in a car. It is also called an MPV or a Multi-Purpose Vehicle.
Does it live up to the name? Yes it does. And more.
A minivan can have two or three rows of seats behind the driver that can be configured as desired to accommodate passengers comfortably. It also has a large space for cargo in the rear. If you fold down the rear seats, you can have even more space for your groceries and other stuff.
A minivan is based on a car platform instead of what you would find on full-sized vans. This is to ensure that it will fit inside the same space the width of a regular car would take.
Other characteristics that define what a minivan is are flat floors, higher roofs, optional sliding doors for rear passengers (recent versions usually have the regular car door configuration), and high H point seating.
A good example of a minivan is the Volkswagen Type 2 bus. Although called a bus (or micro bus), this was one of the earliest minivans in existence and truly defined the segment with its compact length, hinged tailgate, sliding side door, and three rows of forward facing seats.
From The Back To The Front
Minivans used to have a rear-wheel drive configuration. That has changed in recent years to front-wheel or all-wheel drive.
It also took more than 50 years before the minivan became a popular choice over the station wagon for a family car. In 2000, 1.4 million units of assorted minivans were sold all over the world.
That number has since been reduced to 500,000 units sold worldwide.
Here’s hoping that the new decade will bring a resurgence in minivan sales thanks to the exciting developments made by car manufacturers all over the world.
Different Types Of Minivans
Although the term minivan is an all-inclusive one, there are many sub-categories within the segment and knowing which one to get should be a consideration on your part before making a purchase.
Mini MPVs or Mini Multi-Purpose Vehicles are the smallest minivans you can get in the market today. They sit on a small car platform and have smaller engines.
Some Mini MPVs are even listed as “Kei” cars because of their size. A good example is the Daihatsu Hi-Jet.
Although very small, these vehicles still have three rows for sitting (including the driver’s area) with foldable rear seats for additional cargo space.
Mini MPVs also have lower ground clearance and a suspension system that’s equal to cars. Although you have a lot of space, limit the amount of passengers and cargo so as not to compromise your vehicle’s chassis. The tiny tires on a Mini MPV are also prone to blowing out if overloaded with too much cargo.
Mini MPVs have rudimentary safety features. Although equipped with seatbelts, their flimsy construction is still an area of concern you should think about before buying one.
Mini MPVs are also relatively taller in comparison to their tires. This affects their center of gravity making them a bit top heavy. Expect excessive body roll on these vehicles when maneuvering tight corners.
Collisions should be avoided at all cost to protect the passengers inside because mini MPVs are constructed with very thin sheet metal.
Mini MPVs should never be used on the highway. Their small size and slow speed poses a hazard to you and everyone else around. Steering wheel clearance is also dodgy for these vehicles.
Use these vehicles within suburban areas only.
Compact MPVs or Compact Multi-Purpose Vehicles sit between Mini MPVs and regular sized MPVs. These vehicles are very popular in Latin America and Asian markets because of their size. In the States, only the Ford C-Max made it through to the market.
Compact MPVs have the same safety features as regular sedans. Seatbelts are standard for all passengers. Airbags can be found on some models.
The lower center of gravity and wide body configuration make compact MPVs safer than SUVs.
Compact MPVs have a nice car-like driving experience which explains why this is the preferred minivan of small families and soccer moms.
It is powerful enough for lugging cargo and 5 passengers without the engine straining. The engine size is also perfect for highway use.
Mid-Size MPVs are perfect for small families. This is the sweet spot in terms of size, comfort and price point.
Mid-size MPVs are more luxurious in terms of comfort and safety. They have seatbelts for all seats and airbags for both the driver and the front passengers. Deluxe mid-size MPVs have airbags all over the cabin.
Mid-size MPVs provide a lot of comfort to all the passengers within the cabin. Most mid-size MPVs have sophisticated suspension systems, so ride comfort is definitely improved. Steering is also more responsive and driving up hill is done with ease.
Although the existence of Large MPVs seems like a contradiction to the term mini, the sub-category does exist.
Large MPVs are definitely safer than all the other Minivans. Large MPVs relatively have a wider body and base as well as a lower center of gravity. Their suspension systems are also more sophisticated than all the other minivans in this list.
The large interior is a big factor in keeping passengers safe as well as insulated from road noise and the elements.
Large MPVs are the best minivans to drive in. Their sophisticated suspension systems, steering and powerful engine makes these massive minivans a joy to drive.
LAVs or Leisure Activity Vehicles
LAVS or Leisure Activity Vehicles are the smallest minivans in existence and are usually not offered to the public due to its small size.
LAVs only have seatbelts to secure passengers in the body construction is significantly weaker than all the rest of the MPVs in the market today.
LAVs have a 600 cc or smaller engine which means they will never be able to match highway speeds. These vehicles have very basic body, suspension and steering wheel systems so handling one will feel like a go-Kart.
So Which One Is Safer?
Between the two, your best bet is to go with an SUV.
SUVs have more safety features in them than minivans could ever hope to have. Think of a minivan as a sedan lifted off the ground, given more space, equipped with a more powerful engine, and with more features than you can shake a stick at.
Now double that on an SUV.
But this guarantee is only for events where your vehicle encounters a collision.
For passenger safety, the minivan trumps the SUV.
There are more safety belts and airbags within a minivan than that on an SUV. Minivan drivers also tend to be more relaxed as compared to those driving an SUV. This is based on an assumption that the subtle styling of a minivan affects the mindset of the person behind the wheel.
Or perhaps this is because minivans have a larger interior therefore offering more shock absorption.
SUVs or minivans are definitely bigger than sedans. This increase in size calls for a more rigid body construction to ensure that warping doesn’t set in due to torque.
Elevated Ground Clearance
The elevated ground clearance SUVs or minivans have affords you the luxury of going over ordinary obstacles that fully loaded sedans would have an issue with. Take for example the common speed bump. A car with five passengers in it would no doubt scrape its bottom.
More Sophisticated Suspension System
Although most SUVs or minivans have a unibody construction and car-like platform, their increased size demands a larger, tougher suspension system.
Want More Safety? Get A Station Wagon.
One of the oft ignored car segments today is the station wagon. Station wagons, before SUVs or minivans started dominating the market, were all the rage in the past. You basically had an extended sedan with more than enough cargo space to haul groceries, an entire family, and the family dog.
Station wagons became unpopular when they started becoming funeral hearses. I mean, who wants to drive around in a car associated with death?
Why Get One?
Aside from the emotional aspect of buying a car, you need a really good reason why you have to get a Station Wagon. Luckily, a station wagon has features that are equal to or greater than those offered by SUVs or minivans.
Here are some features found on a Station Wagon:
The number one reason why you should get a station wagon is because it affords you a lot of space in a conventional form factor. A station wagon is just as wide as, or a little bit wider than a conventional car. The extended length increases passenger comfort and usable cargo space.
Station Wagons Have Larger Engines
Station wagons have larger engines than their smaller sedan counterparts. This is because you have a larger engine bay to house a more powerful unit to sit in. This is also needed because you’ll be moving a larger mass and the horsepower and torque needed to do that is significantly greater.
Station wagons may not be as fuel efficient as a conventional car but they’re not gas guzzlin’ geezers either. It sits comfortably between sedans and SUVs or minivans in terms of fuel capacity and efficiency.
Excellent Ground Clearance
Station wagons basically have the same ground clearance as a sedan. This leads to a better center of gravity and stability on the road.
Station wagons handle more like regular cars than SUVs or minivans.
This is where station wagons fail. A station wagon will always look like a sedan with an oversized rear. It will never look sporty, sleek or cool enough to appeal to most youngsters.
The major downfall of the station wagon segment is that they failed to adapt to the changing times. They opted to keep these cars Spartan bare. The look didn’t become as sleek as expected of newer cars coming out. It was basically a rolling rectangle that your grandparents would drive in.
There has been a recent rise in station wagons produced by car manufacturers like Mercedes Benz and Volvo but these have failed to capture the market’s interest for now.
One of these days, they’ll get it right.
Although SUVs or minivans are indeed safer than most cars, the difference isn’t that vast. In fact, some sedans are deemed even safer than most SUVs or minivans.
In a collision, the body composition and the pillars will play a major role in keeping the inhabitants inside safe from the external impact. Mass and weight also play a role here. The velocity and the angle of the opposing body too.
It all comes down to the actual safety features within the vehicle itself.
Would I recommend SUVs or minivans for your family’s safety? Sure. Just make sure that when you get one, you will really consider the actual safety features in and outside the vehicle. Don’t just base your reasons for purchasing one on looks and the fancy doodads included.
Better yet, get a Volvo. You can never go wrong with a Volvo.
Or a tank. Yeah, a tank should do the trick.
Why Do I Always See A Minivan Broken Down On The Side Of The Road?
Minivans are notorious for having mechanical problems. This can be due to a factory defect or poor preventive maintenance. Everyone thinks vehicles can go without doing a daily check up on their car’s state of condition. Do yourself a favor. Learn the BLOWBAGS system and you’ll never have to worry.
Can You Go Off-Roading With An SUV?
Yes. SUVs have powerful engines and robust body constructions. They also have a more sophisticated suspension system that allows the wheels to travel vertically at extreme lengths. Although, modifying your SUV for off-road purposes is the best solution if you really want to rough it out there.
Why Do Most Guys Not Like A Minivan?
This is due to the fact that minivans, over time have developed a reputation for being a soccer mom car. A minivan isn’t as agile, or fast, or sleek, or as macho as most cars on the road. It’s primarily a people carrier. What not everyone knows is just how much minivans have improved over time.