Sedan vs SUV: Which one is right for you?By Kijiji Autos
Sedans and SUVs are two of the most popular kinds of vehicles on the market today. Sedans provide great fuel economy and handling, while SUVs bring space for passengers and plenty of muscle. Perhaps you need a family hauler with the ability to tow a boat, or maybe you need personal transport for your daily commute to and from work. Depending on what you're looking for in a vehicle, there's probably a sedan or SUV that fits your needs.
This article will examine the different characteristics of sedans and SUVs, highlighting the areas in which each shines and where their shortcomings lie to help you make the right choice for your next vehicle.
What is an SUV?
An SUV, or sports utility vehicle to give it its full name, can take on many shapes and still call itself an SUV. These vehicles started out as rugged, utilitarian work tools (the first Range Rover had an interior designed to be washed out with a garden hose!), but have become more luxurious over time, changing shape and size as fuel economy regulations and manufacturing processes have evolved. SUVs often, but not always, feature four-wheel drive systems for better traction in difficult driving conditions.
There are rugged, go-anywhere SUVs like the Toyota Land Cruiser, upmarket luxury versions like the Cadillac Escalade, and smaller Crossover SUVs like the Honda CR-V that seem more closely related to hatchbacks than the larger vehicles they share a body style designation with. Some SUVs are built on the same body-on-frame platforms as pickup trucks for strength and durability, while others use a more modern unibody structure to maximize rigidity and keep weight lower.
Some SUVs like the Land Rover Defender have simple, flat-edged bodies while others are as aerodynamic as possible to maintain high fuel efficiency. There's more variety across SUVs than perhaps any other body style of vehicle. Whether you're after extra cargo space or want the strength of a truck chassis, there are plenty of reasons to choose an SUV for your next vehicle.
What is a sedan?
A sedan is a passenger vehicle that usually has four doors and seating for four or more people. Sedans feature a "three-box" design separated into three distinct compartments or "boxes." Viewed from the side, the first box contains the engine, the second is the passenger cabin, and the third box is at the back for cargo.
Sedans have been around even longer than SUVs, with the first examples produced in the early 1900s. The driver of a sedan sits lower and closer to the road than an SUV driver, and this lower centre of gravity gives sedans better handling than their SUV counterparts while their longer tails give greater stability at speed than hatchbacks. Sedans generally get some of the best fuel mileage across any vehicle segment due to their lower height and slippery aerodynamics.
Like SUVs, sedans take a number of forms. There are small economy sedans like the Honda Civic, mid-size offerings like the Mazda 6, luxurious limousines like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, and thrilling performance sedans like the BMW M5 which can give bonafide supercars a run for their money. The common thread that runs through all these rather different vehicles is their three-box sedan design. From their easy handling to the wide variety of makes and models to choose from, it's easy to see why many people are sedan fans for life.
What to consider when choosing a sedan or an SUV
Sedans and SUVs have their strengths in different areas. Below you'll find a list of the ten most important vehicle characteristics that Kijiji Autos shoppers look for, along with some words on how each body style performs across that metric.
- Lower ride height means that a sedan takes corners smoother and more comfortably than an SUV.
- Lower centre of gravity and overall height means that sedans experience less body roll than SUVs in corners, keeping passengers from being moved side to side.
- Sedan seats can provide more bolstering and a laid-back seating position to keep passengers comfortable.
- Longer suspension travel than sedans allow SUVs to soak up bumps on rough roads, smoothing the ride and increasing comfort.
- Heavier weight makes an SUV planted on the road, leads to a more stable ride for improved comfort.
- Luxury SUVs (Range Rover, Mercedes-Benz GLS) have brought levels of comfort akin to the finest sedans with active suspension and luxury interiors.
There's no hard and fast rule on one body style being more comfortable than the other thanks to the sheer range of vehicles encompassed by both labels.
2- Gas mileage & fuel efficiency
- Lower ride height and aerodynamic body shape give better fuel economy than SUVs.
- Sedans often feature engines that prioritize efficiency over outright power, again helping gas mileage.
- Lighter weight than SUVs also aids fuel economy.
- Taller and less aerodynamic than sedans giving less gas mileage.
- Large SUVs are often designed with towing in mind and have powerful, thirstier engines.
- Heavier vehicles use more fuel.
- Lighter and more aerodynamic crossover SUVs close the fuel economy gap somewhat.
For more on how fuel economy is calculated click here.
3- 2WD vs AWD or 4WD for different terrains
- Can be FWD (efficiency), RWD (performance) or AWD (better traction, more assured handling).
- FWD is good in low-grip conditions because the engine's weight pushes the drive wheels into the road for better traction.
- RWD is best for dry roads, less weight over the rear axle can cause fish-tailing in snow/mud.
- AWD is the best all-rounder with the most traction across all conditions.
- Usually AWD, some smaller crossover SUVs are FWD-only. Dedicated off-road SUVs (Jeep Wrangler) have 4WD.
- AWD powers all four wheels but can alter the amount sent to the front/back as conditions dictate.
- AWD is automatic, can disconnect the front or rear wheels altogether, and is good for light off-roading
- 4WD sends power equally to the front and rear axles for better traction in serious off-roading. Can be switched to 2WD for on-road efficiency with a cabin switch or with locking hubs on older 4x4s.
- Sedans are typically hampered off-road by their lower ride heights.
- FWD can provide good traction but RWD is not ideal.
- However, vehicles like the Subaru Impreza and Mitsubishi Lancer can hold their own off-road with rally-derived AWD systems.
- Higher ride heights gives better ability off-road, SUVs can wade through deeper water and climb over obstacles better than sedans.
- AWD is great on loose, low-traction surfaces and 4WD is even better.
- Some modern SUVs come with a wealth of electronic control wizardry to make them extremely capable off-road.
- Lower centre of gravity gives better stability when cornering or making emergency maneuvers.
- Some sedans place emphasis on handling and stability is a cornerstone of this.
- Longer wheelbases provide more flowing, predictable driving manners.
- Higher centre of gravity makes early SUVs more likely to roll over in an accident.
- Modern SUVs are designed with suspension geometry that greatly reduces this risk.
- Crossover SUVs with taller ride heights and shorter wheelbases can exhibit less predictable handling in emergencies.
6- Ease of driving
- Low centre of gravity and responsive, agile handling makes it easier to control a sedan.
- Low seating position and sloping rear roofline can impede visibility.
- FWD or AWD help maintain control in slippery road conditions.
- High seating gives a good view of surroundings as well as stopped traffic ahead on the highway.
- Large rear window aids visibility.
- Less agile handling requires gentler inputs, SUVs tend to not like sudden changes in speed/direction.
7- Space - number of passengers
- Usually tops out at five passengers, unless we're talking about a stretch limousine and not many of those are daily driven.
- Five passengers at a minimum, though many larger SUVs now offer three rows of seating with room for up to seven passengers.
- Many sedans come with a suite of safety assistance technology as standard equipment.
- Lower vehicles can sometimes end up under other cars or trucks in crashes.
- Larger, heavier vehicles tend to come off better in crashes.
- Higher seating position gives drivers a better view of the road and a greater chance of avoiding accidents.
9- Costs (maintenance)
- Generally lower than SUVs thanks to smaller, lighter components.
- Lower brake and tire wear because of lower vehicle weight.
- Larger parts are more expensive than smaller ones.
- Higher brake and tire wear than sedans.
- Lighter vehicles are easier to tow.
- Front wheel drive vehicles can easily be towed by lifting the front wheels.
- Requires a stronger vehicle to tow heavy SUVs.
- All-wheel drive makes it necessary to use a towing dolly or even a flatbed truck.
Advantages of a sedan
Sedans have a different range of advantages over other vehicles, with lower prices, better fuel economy and more engaging handling to name but a few. Read on for a list of sedan advantages.
Sedans typically cost less to buy than an SUV with the same level of refinement and features because of their smaller size. Crossover SUVs, many of which are built on the same platforms as hatchback vehicles, come with lower starting prices than full-size SUVs that are capable of seating seven or more passengers and pulling heavy loads.
Sedans generally come with suspension designed for handling and comfort, as well as interiors that fit around passengers to make travelling as comfortable as possible. Some of the most comfortable vehicles on the market like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and the BMW 7 Series fit into the sedan category.
Sedans often have good fuel efficiency thanks to their low, aerodynamic profiles cutting down on wind resistance that can cause excessive fuel consumption. Sedans also benefit from the fact that they are rarely called upon to tow heavy cargo as adding extra weight to a vehicle causes it to use more fuel when getting up to speed and cruising.
Sedans can provide drivers with engaging and enjoyable handling thanks again to their lower centres of gravity and longer wheelbases which, as mentioned above, improves vehicle stability. Performance sedans like the BMW M3 and Audi RS4 take this focus on handling further with higher horsepower, lower weights and improved suspension over their standard counterparts.
Car designers have more room to create attractive designs with a sedan because of its flowing shapes which are less boxy than those of an SUV. Sedans can be angular and aggressive like the Dodge Charger, curvaceous and flowing like the Maserati Quattroporte or sleek and rounded like the Tesla Model S to name but a few styles.
Sedans tend to have better driving ranges than their SUV counterparts thanks to the efficiency savings that come with slipperier aerodynamics, smaller engines and not being called up to tow or carry heavy cargo.
If you're heading out on a warm summer morning for a drive to your favourite roads you'd be better off with a sedan than an SUV thanks to its more engaging driving experience, efficiency and more nimble handling. Sedans still have plenty of room for everything you need to bring with you and can get you there without breaking the bank on fuel.
Advantages of an SUV
SUVs provide a range of advantages over other kinds of vehicles, giving drivers the ability to take on difficult driving conditions with good visibility, AWD and off-road capability. The list below outlines all the areas where SUVs shine.
SUVs, especially towards the luxury end of the segment, tend to have more room for their passengers. Roomier cabins provide more space for their occupants and affords them a more comfortable ride. Some SUVs feature soft suspension to soak up bumps without jarring the passengers inside.
SUVs are larger than sedans and therefore have more room for passengers and cargo. Many SUVs feature fold-flat rear seating which maximizes cargo space and makes them more versatile.
Larger SUVs, especially American vehicles like the GMC Yukon and Chevrolet Suburban, are often built on the same platform as full-size pickup trucks giving them the strength and durability needed for towing heavy objects such as boats and trailers. Some SUVs come with tow hitches from the factory. Although kits exist to add tow hitches to sedans, the amount of weight they can tow is limited by being a vehicle mainly designed to transport people. An SUV is the ideal combination of daily driver comfort and towing ability.
Many SUVs have taller ride heights than sedans meaning that the vehicle's body rides higher. This gives SUVs the ability to tackle more challenging terrain off-road. Some SUVs are designed to stay on the pavement, while others play to their rugged roots with off-road electronics/drive modes, locking differentials and chunky tires that, while less efficient on the road thanks to their greater rolling resistance, are much more grippy in sand, mud and snow.
Driving an SUV can lower the likelihood of getting stuck in deep snow thanks to greater ground clearance and all-wheel drive. While all- or four-wheel drive improves traction a good set of winter tires are invaluable for maintaining control in icy conditions.
Explore the top SUVs for Winter, snow, and ice driving in Canada.
SUVs have more room for seating thanks to their larger interiors. This means that larger, more comfortable seats can be fitted with more space for passengers to recline. Anyone who has flown with an economy airline will know the difference that a little extra space can make when travelling.
SUVs ride higher than sedans and therefore give their occupants a better view of their surroundings and the road ahead. Better visibility can lead to more time to slow down and avoid accidents.
Full-size spare tire
Thanks to their larger size, many SUVs have room for a full-size spare tire. The space-saver tires that many sedans are equipped with are limited in their range and the top speed they can safely handle. A full-size spare tire allows drivers to continue on to their destination without having to stop and get the flat tire repaired or replaced.
When are sedans a more suitable choice over SUVs?
Your individual needs and driving habits determine whether a sedan or SUV would fit your needs better. Here are some examples of conditions that could make a sedan the better vehicle for you.
Transport for one or two people
Sedans are a more suitable choice than SUVs if you only have one or two people and their gear to transport. If you have a large family to transport we'd suggest choosing a larger vehicle but if you only use your car for commuting or other drives with one or two passengers we'd take the extra fuel economy offered by a sedan.
You enjoy driving and want an engaging vehicle
While there are certainly SUVs out there with exciting handling, sedans can often provide some of the very best driver's cars. Whether you're simply travelling to and from work each day or taking your vehicle to a track day there's a great deal of driving enjoyment to be had in the sedan segment.
Long journeys - fuel efficiency
What sedans lack in interior space compared to SUVs they make up for in better fuel efficiency. This means you'll have to stop for fuel less often and the whole trip will cost you less money.
When are SUVs a more suitable choice over Sedans?
SUVs can prove to be more suitable than sedans when you've got a group of people to transport, or you need towing ability and winter-weather confidence. Here are a few factors that can make an SUV the right choice for you.
Transport for families and other groups
SUVs tend to handle more room for people and luggage than sedans. This can be advantageous for large families, or for transporting groups of people regularly for church groups, sports teams, et cetera.
Winter - extra ground clearance and AWD
Extra ground clearance helps SUVs avoid getting beached in deep snow, while four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive help to improve traction and performance when the weather takes a turn for the worse.
Towing trailers, caravans and boats
SUVs, especially ones built on pickup truck platforms, are much better at towing than sedans. Their extra weight, stronger engines geared for torque and towing-specific transmission modes make them well-suited to hauling trailers, boats and other cargo.
If you're looking for a dependable workhorse then an SUV may be ideal for you. SUVs have the space and ability to carry heavy loads while retaining enough creature comforts to be driven anywhere you need to go besides work.
Which has better fuel economy, sedans or SUVs?
Sedans have better fuel economy than SUVs thanks to their lower weight and more aerodynamic shapes. In 2021, the average sedan fuel economy was around 8.8 L/100km while large SUVs averaged around 9.8 L/100km. SUVs tend to have taller bodies with higher, more vertical front ends and upright windshields. These styling features cause more aerodynamic drag and increase fuel consumption.
SUVs are heavier than sedans and therefore require more energy to get moving. SUVs often come with more powerful engines which use more fuel than small ones.
Sedan vs SUVs for insurance: which one is cheaper?
Many factors affect insurance rates but as a rule of thumb, SUVs tend to be cheaper to insure. Insurance companies see SUVs as a safer bet to insure thanks to their good visibility and safety systems.
As SUVs have become more popular with buyers car manufacturers have responded by building more to meet demand. More SUVs being built makes spare parts more plentiful and therefore cheaper, making it less expensive to repair a damaged SUV.
Sedan vs SUV for long drives
Sedans offer better fuel economy while SUVs feature more room for passengers and cargo on long drives. Here are a few things to consider if you'll be using your new sedan or SUV for long drives.
Benefits of SUVs for long drives
- More spacious than sedans.
- Upright driving position gives a better view of the road.
- Extra grip in bad weather.
- Can tow and carry more than a sedan.
Benefits of sedans for long drives
- Solid fuel economy.
- Engaging handling makes driving fun.
- Plenty of room if you only have a couple of passengers.
Mid size sedan vs compact SUV: what’s the difference?
A mid-size sedan is a sedan that has between 110 and 120 cubic feet of cargo space (cabin and trunk) and a maximum length of 196.8 inches. Compact SUVs are generally built using a unibody construction rather than the body-on-frame design of large SUVs, though they retain all-wheel drive and a tall ride height.
How to choose between an SUV or a sedan
Whether you choose a sedan or an SUV as your next vehicle comes down to your individual needs and what you're looking for in a vehicle. Sedans provide better fuel economy and ride comfort with a good amount of practicality and space. SUVs give their drivers the ability to tackle bad weather and road conditions with plenty of room for passengers and cargo, plus the ability to tow heavier loads.
We hope that this guide has given you all the information you need to make an informed decision on the sedan vs SUV debate. Kijiji Autos has a wide range of sedans and SUVs for sale in markets across the country. Start your search for your next sedan or SUV with Kijiji Autos today.
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