How to know if a car is an SUV?

Comment savoir si une voiture est un SUV ?

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You’ve probably heard of SUVs, the vehicles that are taking the automotive market by storm. But do you know what the acronym stands for? SUV stands for Sport Utility Vehicle.

This category of vehicles combines the advantages of a 4×4, a station wagon and a sedan, offering a unique driving experience.

How do you identify an SUV among the multitude of models available? What distinguishes it from other types of vehicle? What are its strengths and limitations?

In this article, we explain everything you need to know about SUVs, the versatile, comfortable vehicles that are winning over a growing number of motorists.


Definition: what is an SUV?

SUVs can be identified by a number of essential features that distinguish them from other vehicle categories. Let’s discover the essential criteria for identifying an SUV.

SUV height and ground clearance

SUVs are distinguished by their much greater height than sedans or station wagons. This gives them greater visibility and the ability to negotiate obstacles with ease.

Ground clearance, which measures the distance between the vehicle and the ground, is also greater in SUVs. This is particularly important when driving over a wide range of terrain, from rough tracks to snow-covered roads, adding to the vehicle’s rugged, adventurous appearance.

Design and silhouette

Design and silhouette also contribute to the originality of an SUV. These vehicles are often characterized by a two-body design, with no visible separation between trunk and passenger space, and by dynamic lines reminiscent of coupés or supercars.

SUVs can include design elements typical of 4×4s, such as body protectors, roof rails and large-diameter wheels, reinforcing their distinctive, elegant and personal character.

Space and interior design

SUV interiors are characterized by spaciousness and configuration. These vehicles generally offer between 5 and 7 places, with seats adaptable to the user’s needs.

Their voluminous trunks can be enlarged to increase capacity, making SUVs comfortable and practical vehicles. Thanks to high-quality materials, advanced technology and driver assistance systems, they offer exceptional levels of comfort and equipment, underlining their versatility and practicality.

Comparing SUVs with other vehicle types

The automotive market offers a wide variety of vehicles, each meeting specific needs.

SUVs, sedans, MPVs and station wagons are among the options available, each offering distinct advantages.

Here’s an exploration of what makes each of them different from SUVs.

SUV vs sedan

The sedan, with its four doors and separate trunk, favors elegance and comfort. Lower and lighter than an SUV, it benefits from better roadholding and lower fuel consumption.

On the other hand, the sedan offers less interior space and trunk volume than the SUV. Ideally designed for roads and freeways, it contrasts with the versatility and space offered by SUVs.


The MPV, with its five- or seven-seat configurations, is synonymous with space and practicality. Its structure, which is taller and wider than that of an SUV, offers superior habitability and a large load capacity.

However, this translates into less comfortable driving dynamics and less aesthetic appeal, as well as higher fuel consumption.

So, while the MPV meets the needs of families and urban travel, the SUV seduces with its sportiness and elegance.

SUV vs station wagon

Station wagons, with their five-door hatchbacks, are synonymous with versatility and cargo capacity. Their length is generally greater than that of SUVs, and their center of gravity lower, which favors a voluminous trunk.

On the other hand, they have less headroom and ground clearance than SUVs, making them less comfortable to drive. Station wagons are therefore preferred for their practicality and sportiness, while SUVs gain in comfort and robustness.


What are the different types of SUV?

The market offers a wide choice of SUVs, distinguished by size, power, fuel efficiency and price. Let’s explore the main categories available.

Compact SUVs

Compact SUVs, between 4 and 4.5 meters long, are ideal for city driving thanks to their compact size and ease of parking.

With room for up to 5 passengers, they offer a load space of around 400 liters. Their engines are generally gasoline or diesel and are designed for low fuel consumption, making them more affordable to buy.

Preferred models include the Peugeot 2008, Renault Captur, Dacia Duster and Toyota C-HR.

Midsize SUVs

Offering greater space and comfort, mid-size SUVs measuring between 4.5 and 4.8 meters in length are perfectly suited to the needs of families.

With room for 5 to 7 people and an average trunk capacity of 500 liters, they are extremely practical. Their more powerful engines ensure better performance.

Although they cost more than compact SUVs, they remain more affordable than larger versions. Popular choices include the Peugeot 3008, Nissan Qashqai, Volkswagen Tiguan and Citroën C4 Cactus.

Large SUVs

The most spacious and luxurious, large SUVs exceed 4.8 meters in length and can accommodate between 7 and 9 people.

With an average load space of 600 liters and powerful engines, they offer luxury and performance, but with higher fuel consumption and maintenance costs.

Models such as the Peugeot 5008, Kia Sorento, Ford Explorer and Land Rover Range Rover are very popular.

SUV hybrid and electric variants

Hybrid and electric SUVs are part of an ecological approach, reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

Quieter and more pleasant to drive, hybrids combine electric and internal combustion engines, while electric versions are powered exclusively by rechargeable batteries.

Despite a higher initial cost, these vehicles benefit from significant tax and ecological advantages. Among them, the Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Kona, Volvo XC40 and Tesla Model X stand out.

Now you know what the acronym SUV stands for, and how to differentiate an SUV from the rest of the available vehicles. You’ve learned about the strengths and weaknesses of SUVs compared to sedans, MPVs and station wagons.

What’s more, you’ve explored the different categories of SUV on the market, distinguished by size, power, fuel consumption and cost.

This expertise equips you perfectly to select the SUV that will impeccably meet your expectations, preferences and budget.