The Low-Down: SUVs Vs Compacts

April 24, 2014

SUVs and compact cars: parkedComparing a sport utility vehicle to a compact car is like isolating the glaring differences between Great Danes and Pomeranians. But while both classes of vehicles are wildly different, there are plenty of selling points that make them aptly suited for everything from dropping the kids off at school and grabbing groceries to weekend escapes and cross-border shopping trips.

If you’re weighing your options between SUVs and compact cars, here’s a handy comparison of the two.

Overview: SUVs And Compact Cars

In a sense, SUVs are perfect for juggling the myriad of roles you play – professional, kid-shuttling soccer mom and intrepid traveller (sometimes several times in a day). Their all-in-one approach to the road is as limitless as the driver behind the wheel. SUVs are even elbowing out the minivan as the ride of choice for many families.

While the lists of most popular vehicles are frequently dominated by SUVs and pick-up trucks, compact cars make their presence felt. From ease of parking thanks to the smaller, more manageable size to fuel economy and fine-tuned handling, compact cars are the perfect ride when it comes to getting from point A to B and buzzing around the waypoints in between.

Price Of SUVs And Compacts

SUVs range from compact versions for less than $30,000 to all-in, luxury, full-sized versions for over $100,000. Even on the low end, you’re sure to get a roomy ride with the standard features.

Compact cars on the other hand often start as low as $15,000 with fully loaded luxury compacts rising above $30,000. When it comes to compacts, whether it’s the ever popular Honda Civic or the gas sipping Toyota Prius, there’s a compact to fit virtually everyone’s budget.

Gas Consumption Trends Of SUVs And Compacts

For the most part, SUVs have a ways to go before they can stack up next to compacts in terms of fuel economy but recent years have watched the vehicles evolve efficiently in the wake of steadily rising gas prices. SUVs like the Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid sip gas with an estimated 1300 litres needed each year, compared to other SUVs that guzzle it at a rate 3960 litres per year to travel the same distance. As you can see, fuel consumption—and how much it will cost you at the pump—varies from model to model.

Compact cars eclipse SUVs in this department. Vehicles like the Honda Civic—one of the world’s most popular compact cars—will need about 1200 litres per year. Plus, there are also plenty of economy/hybrid options for compact cars that will require even less fuel; the Toyota Prius for example, only needs 760 litres per year.

(Fuel consumption estimates found online at the Natural Resources Canada website. Estimated annual fuel use is based on 20 000 km driven, with 55 per cent of it being city driving and the remaining 45 per cent being on the highway.)

Safety and Car Insurance

Auto safety has moved beyond basic seatbelts, and whether it’s a compact you’re looking to buy or a SUV there are a lot of resources at your fingertips online to help you compare vehicles to find out which are safest on the road. However, in general, you’ll likely find that larger, heavier vehicles offer more crash protection than smaller, lighter vehicles. That said, taller, narrower vehicles like SUVs have higher centres of gravity making them more susceptible to rollovers. If you do your research you’ll find a vehicle that meets any safety concerns you may have.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)
Every year, the IIHS releases its Top Safety Picks. The IIHS looks at how well the occupants in a vehicle are protected as well as the vehicle’s technology that can help prevent an accident from occurring or if it does, minimizes the accident’s severity.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
The NHTSA created the 5-Star Safety Ratings Program to help drivers make an informed decision on the crash protection and rollover safety of new vehicles. You can search by model, class, and manufacturer and see how different vehicles measure up.

Whatever vehicle you decide on—be it a compact or SUV—compare more than just the price, gas consumption and safety ratings; compare car insurance quotes also. Auto insurance rates vary considerably, and paying too much for it isn’t the ComparaSaver way.