SUVs have never been more popular. Large, family-friendly and versatile, they’re also incredibly roomy, comfortable, and can go almost anywhere.
SUV stands for Sports Utility Vehicle. They usually have a boxy body with high ride height and greater ground clearance than a large saloon or family hatchback. They’re also often 4x4s, so that means they can tackle slippery mud or soft sand fairly well without getting stuck.
SUVs are often bigger than their smaller saloon cousins, so they can tow or carry heavy loads and have a much larger boot space for luggage. Because they have a bigger cabin than the average car, you may find that they can seat up to seven people in complete comfort.
If you’re on the lookout for all of these features but in a more compact, city-streets-friendly version then most manufacturers have added what are known as ‘crossovers’ to their stables. These share both SUV and saloon characteristics, but packed into a smaller model.
However, a Jeep is a totally different animal to your average SUV, despite the fact that modern Jeeps share some characteristics with the more rugged SUVs on the market. Jeep is a registered trademark, and has been one of the most iconic automotive brands since the 1940s. The first Willys Jeeps were created for the US Army during World War II, but were so successful and so popular with both the military and civilian population that they have been manufactured almost non-stop ever since.
The modern Jeep shares a lot of similarities with its SUV counterparts, and in fact, the original Jeep Cherokee is often regarded as the first SUV. The next-generation Grand Cherokee definitely picks up on the refinements that you’ll find in top-end SUVs from manufacturers such as BMW and Porsche.
Both Jeeps and SUVs have excellent on-road capabilities, but it’s off-road where the differences really become apparent. SUVs - even those that advertise themselves as off-roaders - rarely have the sure-footedness and nimble handling on heavy mud that the Jeep possesses. Nor can they cope with very deep water, or other truly challenging terrain.
Most people will be more than adequately served by the capabilities of the average SUV, and for light off-roading and coping with the occasional sandy track, they are more than able to deal with the conditions. However, for adventure driving and genuine, ‘off the beaten track’ exploration, the enhanced off-road capabilities of the Jeep, especially the Wrangler, are far more dependable.
Both Jeeps and SUVs have their own quirks and foibles, but on paper, they’re pretty evenly matched when it comes to running costs. Fuel-wise, they’re pretty much on a par with one another: the latest Jeep Wrangler delivers 11.7km/L (combined) while the Dodge Durango V8 delivers 10km/L (combined). While the SUVs may have the edge when it comes to speed on the road, the Jeep will always win hands-down when the terrain starts to get rough.
It really depends on what you want to do with your car. If you love family road trips and a vehicle that’s equally at home on the daily commute or taking the family camping for the weekend, the SUV gives you the space, comfort and style you want.
If your idea of a good time is dune bashing every weekend or your work takes you into challenging environments away from the usual tarmac roads, then the Jeep has to be your go-to choice.