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What is an SUV?

The term SUV is used increasingly often in the motoring world, but there’s still plenty of confusion surrounding its classification.

What does SUV stand for?

SUV is simply the abbreviated term for a sports utility vehicle. SUVs are designed with strong off-road capabilities and the capacity to withstand harder terrains and conditions, while their comfortable interiors and light handling mean they also make ideal all-purpose or family cars.

The unique SUV design is characterised by a hatchback body positioned high off the ground, a sloping back and a spacious interior to comfortably seat five to seven people, depending on the size.


A common misconception is that an SUV and a 4x4 are the same. While they are similar, SUVs aren’t always four wheel drive. Not all SUVs are 4x4s, and not all 4x4s are SUVs. Some SUVs, like the Toyota C-HR, are also available in front wheel drive (FWD).

A 4x4 is a car in which the power from the engine can be distributed to all 4 wheels (contrasted to a 2 wheel drive car where the power is only delivered to the front or rear wheels). An SUV, however, is most often defined by the build, design and purpose of the car.

The SUV shape & design

SUVs can be either truck- or car-based, both having their own individual benefits. Trucked-based SUVs are usually sturdier and heavier with more off-road and towing capabilities, whereas car-based SUVs feature unibody designs which offer a compact, secure feel and a smooth, responsive, hatchback-like drive. 

Toyota SUV models like the Toyota C-HR and RAV4 are compact SUVs featuring a compact body style, fitting into the car-based SUV category.


There are several types and sizes of SUVs available: the mini SUV, the compact SUV, the full-length SUV and the extended SUV. While mini and compact SUVs - or crossovers as they’re often known - have less space than their larger counterparts, they often benefit from greater fuel efficiency. The extra seating space available in larger SUVs often allow up to seven passengers, making them a more popular choice for those with large families.

If you think that an SUV may be for you, you can read more about our Toyota SUV benefits here.


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