Why SUVs are outselling sedans

SUVs are the new king of the road. In 2016, they outsold sedans for the first time, knocking that category off its long-held throne and becoming the best-selling segment in America.

Much of the credit for this ascension goes to small SUVs. Car buyers purchased more than 2 million of them last year, including the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4, according to Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports busts a few of the more persistent myths.

Myth: SUVs are gas hogs. Reality: Small SUVs approach the fuel economy of midsized cars. The current Toyota RAV4 manages a respectable 24 mpg overall, and the RAV4 Hybrid gets an impressive 31 mpg.

Myth: SUVs aren’t as safe as sedans. Reality: Consumer Reports has raised concerns about SUV handling and safety since the 1980s, but today’s models benefit from electronic stability control, a technology proven to prevent rollovers. Today’s SUVs are also designed to do less damage to cars in a collision.

Myth: SUVs perform poorly. Reality: Today it’s common for a small SUV to meet or even exceed the performance of a comparably priced midsized sedan. For example, the Kia Sportage slices through Consumer Reports’ accident maneuver test at 52.5 mph vs. the Optima’s 51.5 mph.

Myth: Cars are more comfortable than SUVs. Reality: Because small SUVs are basically tall-roof versions of compact cars, most have the ride comfort of cars and drive much like them. Consumer Reports’ top-rated small SUV, the Subaru Forester, has a spacious interior, a supple ride and secure handling.

Features That Make a Favorite

Small SUVs combine small carlike road manners with added utility. Here are attributes that have made them the most popular type of SUV.

Generous Cargo Room. An SUV’s tall roofline and expansive cargo opening provide more luggage space than even most large sedans. Split-folding rear seats increase flexibility.

Available All-wheel Drive. It helps keep a car sure-footed in snow and on slick roads. Rare on compact and midsized sedans, all-wheel drive is available on every small SUV.

Parking-friendly Size. Although small SUVs are often a good 6 inches to 10 inches taller than sedans, they’re the length of a compact car, making them relatively easy to squeeze into tight parking spots.

Elevated Driving Position. Small SUVs may be compact but they ride high and give a commanding view of the road. Tall windows offer excellent front and side views, although thick roof pillars typically compromise rearview glances.

Increased Ground Clearance. A taller ride height than the average car makes SUVs better at coping with dirt roads and modest off-road trails, and provides room to manage daily challenges from curbs, potholes, snow and road debris.

Easy Cabin Access. You have to duck to enter sedans and climb up to get into old-school SUVs. But the seat height and tall roofline of small SUVs make them easy to slide in and out of, which is one reason they’re a hit with seniors.

To learn more, visit ConsumerReports.org.

2017, Consumers Union Inc.

Distributed by Andrews McMeel Syndication for UFS

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