By on March 9, 2013

When the Renault Duster came out, I didn’t have to point it out to my wife. As soon as she saw one, she smiled and asked me what car was that. I explained to her that it was nothing more than our very own Logan, which is a sedan, on stilts. I explained how the handling would be worse, how it was less economic than our own car, how the trunk couldn’t hold as much luggage as our car did (but more than its hatch sister, the Sandero can). All to no avail. She listened, interested for once in cars, shook her head gravely, then said the damning words, “I want one.”

She is the target audience the Duster and others like the Ford EcoSport, Opel Mokka, or the upcoming Peugeot 2008 and 500X are aiming at. A mid-thirties, urbanite woman, with a job and a baby. A person with absolutely zero interest in going off-roading or speeding on a track. A woman who hates station wagons, tolerates minivans, but when she saw the unibody, SUV-looking Duster,, not knowing anything about it, decided on the spot to buy one.

What are her reasons? She’s a family woman with multiple obligations. Her commute is twenty minutes one way and soon she’ll be doing school runs. Of course, she lives in Brazil so her route is filled with potholes, speed bumps, radars, beggars and stoplight vendors. Her parking spot at home and work is tight. What does the Duster give her that the Logan or the Sandero, can’t?

It offers her some ground clearance to start with. She’ll be able to run over some of those bumps, float through the broken pavement and even parallel park without thought of scratching the wheels or breaking the car (or so she believes). The Duster is jacked up a few inches more than other regular cars. That gives her a better perch from which to control her surroundings and keep an eye on the traffic and various street vendors that approach her with gusto at every stoplight. When she parks it she’ll be amazed how though it looks so big inside, she can fit it into any standard issue parking spot at the mall or parking garages at places she has to go.

All the while, she’ll be enjoying an interior that is a notch above the regular Logan as Renault can ask more for this car, they can well afford to pay up for the plastic that cost a nickle more than the regular one and throw in a prettier radio for good measure. The seat fabrics will also be a (very small) step above the usual Renault fare and there’ll be some color and flash in the dash that’ll brighten up considerably the monotonous drab gray of most of the cars she’s driven or been in.

Finally, she’ll be the envy of her friends. When she says she drives a Logan, everyone and their aunt know that it’s just a low cost sedan that competes with the likes of a Chevy Classic. When she tells them she drives a Duster, her friends’ eyes will light up and she’ll savor the thought that they’ll think she is such a modern woman, driving such an avantgarde car. She’ll know she’s in tune with fashionistas the world over who somehow can’t buy that Range Rover just yet.

That pretty much sums up the reasons behind the rise of the softcore, car-based, mini SUV that I like to call Urban SUV. They’re not meant to go off road, and to the people who buy them, off road means that 5 km dirt road on the way to the country house. The longer suspension travel on the cars, not only enhances their tough looks, but adds to their comfort when riding along the bad roads prevalent the world over. The higher stance also offers a higher driving position that many equate with safety, not to mention the easier ingress and egress. The big doors make getting baby seats in it that much easier. The Urban SUV is based on a car and drives like pretty much like a car. It’s no biggie for people who have ever driven cars. In place riddled with violence, heavy traffic, tight spaces, speed cameras and little money, it’s a God-send.

Sales of cars like the Duster and others in the same vein grow and grow and then grow some more.  Other makers have observed that little EcoSport and the waves it made in Brazil and other Latin American markets. The Dacia or Renault Duster rubbed it in on the home soil of many makes. Everybody is getting in on the action with their take. Cherokee for America, Mokka and many others for Europe. Even Honda showed a Fit-based, unimaginatively-named Urban SUV Concept in Geneva. They are slowly but surely eliminating enthusiasts’ choices: The pocket rocket, the sporty wagon, the BOF SUV that can go anywhere are finding less favor and funding in OEMs’ planning as they see who is bringing home the bacon.

My wife and the Duster featured in this article are just prototypical archetypes that explain the Urban SUV phenomenon. She is the kind of person the OEMs want. A middle class, young woman, living in a country where the car market is exploding. Potentially, she’s riding the wave of prosperity Brazilians are experiencing right now. BTW, that woman could be anywhere. Brazil, Russia, China, Indonesia, it doesn’t matter. Their worries are the same, they enjoy a lot of the same music. They all watch the same programs on cable TV. Remarkably, they want pretty much the same thing in a car, though what they want is something that enthusiasts don’t. They want practicality, economy, small but useable space. They don’t care for speed or going off road and they want to feel safe. What’s more, car makers want them, not us. They far outnumber enthusiasts.

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111 Comments on “Urban SUVs: Giving The People What The People Want...”


  • avatar
    thelaine

    I believe that when they lose all off-road capability, they are just small station wagons. Station wagons were once very popular too. These are just more economical versions. Calling them an SUV is, I guess, just arbitrary. Come to think of it, what the hell did “station wagon” ever mean?

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      My mother-in-law has a FWD Pontiac Torrent. I’ve told her it is simply a station wagon in hooker heels. Fortunately she has a great sense of humor and appreciates my wise-guy streak.

      On the other end of the spectrum I saw a metallic blue turbo Beetle the other day that someone had put a bright red grille guard on. Very strange looking and the total opposite of the SUVs that usually wear them.

      • 0 avatar

        I have the AWD version of the Torrent. It is in no way an SUV but it isn’t really a station wagon either. It is tall and unwieldy like an SUV and gutless like most old station wagons. (no I’m not talking about the big top of the line versions here)

        I generally like it, but it is pretty much what Marcelo describes, a car with a couple inches more ride height and four wheel drive.

        • 0 avatar

          “I generally like it, but it is pretty much what Marcelo describes, a car with a couple inches more ride height and four wheel drive”

          And that pretty much sums up why you and I (enthusiasts) don’t like it. No matter, it’ll sell its ways into OEMs’ hearts.

          Considering your work for TTAC, I’m honored to have you reafing. Thanks!

          • 0 avatar
            Dynasty

            “And that pretty much sums up why you and I (enthusiasts) don’t like it. No matter, it’ll sell its ways into OEMs’ hearts.”

            Why can’t enthusiasts come in more than one flavor?

            Why can someone not be enthusiastic about a vehicle with a nice ride, rides well over rough broken pavement roads, sits high so it has good visibility, and has a decent amount of utility?

            Is a “true” enthusiast someone who can only appreciate and get excited about a vehicle with a stiff suspension, sits low to the ground, and is a chore to get in and out of?

            Personally, I’m not into mommy mobiles, what I call what you refer to as Urban SUVs. But I can understand why women like them. And I think woman who like these types of vehicles are enthusiasts as well, just different than the classic definition of a car enthusiast.

            Everything is always changing.

          • 0 avatar

            Hey Dinasty!

            I agree like 1000+! I’vw always been in favor of what’s been called the working class hero. Things like the Renault R4, Citroen 2CV, Simcas….(just to stay in French territory) are endlessly fascinating and beautiful in MY eyes. A working class hero that does everything you stated, that’s my praia! Love em. A Duster is just a gussied up version of that. As is EcoSport et al

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            Dynasty said: “Why can’t enthusiasts come in more than one flavor?”

            Welcome to the internet. You must be new here.

            I completely agree with you. And I believe most enthusiasts IRL would agree with you, too. But the internet is not a reflection of reality, nor is it even a close approximation.

    • 0 avatar
      Landcrusher

      The station refers to a train station.

    • 0 avatar
      ToxicSludge

      Decades ago,even before side windows in cars,there was the ‘station wagon’,which as was mentioned,the station was the train station.usually hotels,and resorts etc would pick up their guests at the local train station,along with their luggage.It used to take several wagons (or more) to get the passengers,and their extensive luggage to where they needed to be.As time went on,modified trucks were used to do the job,which eventually evolved to the enclosed station wagons,most notably the ‘woody’.Which in turn evolved into the huge land yachts of the 50′s through the 70′s.

      • 0 avatar
        thelaine

        Thank you TS. What is funny is that I went my entire life without even considering the issue until yesterday. Appreciate the history lesson. Our old station wagon was truly huge.

    • 0 avatar
      ect

      “I believe that when they lose all off-road capability, they are just small station wagons.”

      Agreed, and it’s not a bad thing. When our A4 Avant (Audi-speak for “staion wagon we can charge more money for”) packed it in a few months ago, we woumd up test driving a variety of these, simply because there is nothing available in conventional station wagon format.

      Much as I don’t like having to climb down into a car (if only because then you have to climb back out), beither do I like climbing up into one. It gets very annoying to exit a vehicle when your feet don’t contact the ground while your body is still inside. Once inside, though, the performance, ride and handling weren’t bad in some. The Kia Sportage SX particularly impressed.

      Fortunately, Mercedes launched the new B-class in Canada, so we were spared the urban SUV experience, but the Kia was a very close second.

      • 0 avatar
        thelaine

        Have to agree with you as well ect. My wife has a Toyota Highlander, which I believe is a rebodied Camry. It leaves me absolutely cold, but it is the most practical vehicle imaginable for our family and has been dead reliable. There is no rational argument to be made against it. May it burn in the fires of hell.

        • 0 avatar
          ect

          Amen.

          Of the ones we drove, the Sportage and Tiguan had significantly the best pep and handling (but Kia’s value proposition is way ahead of VW).

          At the other end of the scale,the Rogue was unbelievably bland and boring. But then, so was the Altima. Maybe it’s a Nissan thing….

    • 0 avatar
      Skink

      Really? OK; they were originally made for lugging people and bags to and from the train station. The moniker stuck.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      Station wagon was a car that had extra seats and was used by hotels to ferry guests back and forth from the train station back in the day…hence the name…station wagon.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    A company gives people what they want, and makes more money. Thus the world is a bit better.

    More please.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Well written article Marcelo, I was looking for an answer to “why” with regards to the Opel Mokka/Buick Encore.

    • 0 avatar

      Thank Derek not me, he provoked me into it. :)

      I don’t know if I extensively or conclusively answered as to why, but at least I like to think I scratched the surface.

      The reason why you or I or some phantasmagoric them buys a car… I find that fascinating.

  • avatar
    nickoo

    I’d take a modern version of my old 1981 malibu classic wagon anyday over one of these jacked up poser vehicles, it’s hard to cheat center of gravity so they still handle like shit compared to the car equivalent.

    • 0 avatar
      ixim

      You’re kidding – a 1981 Malibu Classic wagon that “handles” better than the cute utes under discussion? OK for the era, maybe, but way under suspended for a full load. Bigger and thirstier, too. In no way up to the needs of the lady described here.

    • 0 avatar

      Go drive a CX-5 and tell me that. It handles better than a fair number of passenger cars.

      • 0 avatar
        thelaine

        POS compared to the Old Man’s 1968 Ford Country Squire station wagon with seat belts removed and empty beer cans all over the floor. CX-5 sounds like some sort of experimental nerve gas.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        The CX-5 is upright, but it isn’t jacked up – big difference.

        For a valid comparison, try my 328i wagon vs. a same generation X3. The wagon will run RINGS around an X3, while having similar interior space and riding far better and getting better real-world fuel economy. TANSTAAFL.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey nickoo! I guess you lost it somewhere, “a modern equivalent of…). well that’s exactly ehat these are. Wrapped in a packaging, these girls and guys, too, can take. I drive a Ka and listen to Faith no More and Andrea Bocelli while at it. I modernize some, keep it traditional some, I have found my peace.

      • 0 avatar
        Les

        I was just thinking that…

        How DOES the ground clearance of any of modern CUV ‘car on stilts’ compare to the average car of the 50′s and 60′s? For one, compared to modern cars chasing better CAFE numbers through aerodynamics, we can actually see underneath them.

        I wonder if the CUV craze isn’t really a rage for ‘soft-roading’ and just ‘We really really want our Old cars back, oh well, this is close enough.’

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    So this thing is basically a Nissan Juke, right? Too bad for Nissan US sales the Juke does not look like this.

  • avatar
    Lampredi

    “She listened, interested for once in cars, shook her head gravely, then said the damning words, “I want one.””

    Time for a divorce, methinks.

    • 0 avatar

      Naw, she has other points that outweigh this bad decision! She’s happy enough with the Logan, the point here is that, unundertanbly to you guys, the Duster is an aspirational symbol, as is the EcoSport, Mokka, 2008, 500X and scores of that. Go ponder on why is that, then get back to me :)!

  • avatar
    oldowl

    The height of the cabin in crossovers, CUVs, etc., combined with fold-flat rear seats, increases cargo capacity, especially for bulky items, over station wagons (estate wagons, etc.) of the same wheelbase.

    So, anyway, what is the point of sedans?

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      It all depends on rear overhang. My wagon has a longer rear hatch area than it’s cuv cousin, making it far more dog friendly and better for IKEA type runs. Cuv hatch height is less helpful BC you really shouldn’t be loading above the rear seat backs for safety reasons anyway. Esp. Not with a kid in the car.

      Plus there’s a huge handling difference.

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Chen

      Milady demands a hidden trunk, has a general mistrust of hatches. So, sedan it is.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey oldwowl!

      Better handling and a more “stately” image. Sedans rule!

      • 0 avatar
        oldowl

        Late to reply, to you Marcelo. What does”stately” convey? Sounds like outdated ad copy. Better handling, OK, but for most ordinary driving, the handling doesn’t vary that much. Sedans once ruled; so did “stately” monarchs.

        • 0 avatar

          Stately – exactly what I mean and what you said. Us, men ( I assume you’re a man), for the most part like the grave, stern, conservative, traditional, one could go so out as to venture ‘manly” nature of a sedan. Don’t hate me, that’s just what the people at Fiat tell me a sedan means. In Brazil, on top of all that, a sedan means you’ve made it. Women (and some men) are smarter than that. To them a sedan is just a hatch with an extra box (or extrapolating brazenly, in America, a sedan is just a car). The SUV without the SUV qualities adds that extra that can get a consumer, well, excited. Women and young people are usually more susceptible to that. In Brazil, sales of the Duster will be 50/50. Women love it, and men bored with the usual will get it. It fits nicley as the second car in the family.

          Stately an U-SUV is not. and that’s the point!

          Thanks very much for reading!

  • avatar
    nvdw

    “What does the Duster give her that the Logan or the Sandero, can’t?”

    Your better half is convinced she’d look good in a Duster. That’s the main reason. In a Duster, or any SUV-like vehicle, people look up to you instead of down on you.

    A Logan is a thinking man’s car. And thinking men ain’t sexy.

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    I believe this is simply what people wanted all along. Old cars, from the beginning up to 1950s or so, was about SUV or crossover height. People slides naturally into them, not climbing down into them. Then, I believe it was Detroit folks that convinced everyone that lower, longer, wider is ‘in’, and cars like today’s sedan came into being, even getting lower and lower with time. I guess people don’t really want them, and when finally someone made taller cars like they used to be, people flocked to them. You can only influence consumer’s preference for so long.

    So, Marcello, have you upgraded into the Duster yet, or is it still in the future? If you have, how was it? It’s coming to Indonesia too. We’ll see if if can succeed here too, just like it seem to be everywhere else.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh, I’m prettu sure the Duster will be a hit in Indonesia, too. Like I sais in that article, that up and coming woman is here, there and everywhere. They are unstoppable! Plus, the are more than a fey guys who fit the description.
      ythi
      No, I haven’t gotten that Duster yet, but if everything works out, I’m sure that in the next 2 yrs it’ll happen. Watch these pages!

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      I agree. I sat in a 40 Ford not too long ago and it was closer to my wife’s Tucson than a Fusion.

  • avatar
    akatsuki

    I’d buy a wagon if they actually came large enough to fit the third row in them… I remember sitting in those rear-facing seats as a kid on road trips, and damn if they weren’t useful. Now Tesla is the only car that has them and I am basically stuck deciding between a Ford Explorer or Mercedes GL as my only real options. I’d go minivan cause I don’t give a crap, but my wife doesn’t want one.

    What I’d like to see is Jaguar take that long XJL, and make it into an Estate. Or even make it into a damn full sized crossover instead of just these mid-sized things that barely sit 4 comfortably and have third rows for midgets. Give me something ridiculously luxurious.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      There’s always the ford flex for that…although it is almost cuv like in its design. I always thought a wagon at the magnum size range could offer more rows with a more spacious greenhouse and rear overhang. Might require a transverse layout though to free up enough leg room.

    • 0 avatar

      @akatsuki,

      So would I but my wife, for some uninmaginable reason just hates wagons. I’d have one, but maybe by the time we get around to changing the Logan, maybe, I can steer her into a 500X, but I don’t see a wagon as a reasonable alternative for now.

      I, as a kid, just loved riding in those backwards facing kids of the GM SWs my dad had…Somehow my wife doesn’t share the opinion

  • avatar
    olddavid

    Transferring “mental ownership” is always the goal. She pictured herself behind the wheel, liked the image, and you were doomed. This has been the question without a definitive answer since Ransom E. Olds begat the Curved Dash Special. Figuring this out would be the marketing equivalent to cold fusion.

  • avatar
    WheelMcCoy

    Good article Marcelo. I’ve softened my anti-SUV views a bit over time for the very reasons you cite, but I still don’t like SUVs.

    I hated that SUVs were gas guzzlers, but today, many aren’t, so I can’t grumble about that anymore.

    I can’t argue against ease of entry and egress when transporting the very young and very old, but I can argue in favor of mini-vans. I can’t argue that Urban SUVs handle bad roads better, but I do argue that after a heavy snow, tow truck operators often cite their first customers are SUV drivers. I can’t argue that a higher perch improves visibility, but I do argue that once enough Urban SUVs are on the road, that advantage disappears.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      I can’t argue that a higher perch improves visibility, but I do argue that once enough Urban SUVs are on the road, that advantage disappears.

      I can tell you right now, that CUV (uniframe) don’t hurt the improved visibility in True SUV’s such as Suburbans, Excursions, Tahoe, Expedition, HUMMER, I can see just find with a little CUV in front of me as I can with a little 3,5,7 series etc in front of me.

      • 0 avatar
        WheelMcCoy

        >>I can tell you right now, that CUV (uniframe) don’t hurt the improved visibility in True SUV’s such as Suburbans, Excursions, Tahoe, Expedition, HUMMER,

        Can’t argue with that! But in the spirit of the article, I was comparing Urban SUV (CUV) to Urban SUV. Just like a concert where one person stands up to get a better view and thus blocking the view of the person behind, who then needs to stand up, soon everyone will be standing up. Except for the basketball players, no one’s view will be any better than when they were all sitting.

        Fortunately, Suburbans, Excursions, Tahoes, Expeditions, HUMMERs, won’t fill our roads to the point where they obscure each other… at least I hope not.

        • 0 avatar
          stuntmonkey

          This was covered at length in High and Mighty: The Dangerous Rise of the SUV” by Keith Bradsher, arguing that oveall congestion gets worse as the proportion of vehicles get’s bigger and taller, because of the knock on effect of not being able to see around a vehicle turning left.

        • 0 avatar

          Hey WheelMcCoy!

          I’ve often wondered about that myself, but at least in my country, I1′n sure that whoever buys an U-SUV will be in the vantage position for a while yet. Afterall, in Brazil, compact hatches, sedans, SWs and Pus still make up more than 65% of the market. In America, this selling point is not as big, or maybe it’s magnified. What do I know?

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Nice use of anecdotal evidence to reinforce your self-confessed bias. I suggest that anti-SUV scribes are asshats. Just citing poor logic/anecdotal evidence in their replies.

    • 0 avatar
      cgjeep

      My wife always wanted to borrow my Wrangler in the snow instead of her fwd sedan. I told her you won’t get stuck in the Jeep, but you might die. High power, high center of gravity, lousy brakes, no ABS or traction control. If there was 6 inches or less I drove my car.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    The 1g Scion xB (I have one) does all of this except the ground clearance. It gets 33mpg on my daily commute. I’d like something with a little more clearance for taking on hiking trips, but I’m not sure I’m willing to give up the MPG.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      Not that I’m trying to sway anyone one way, but several of these CUV’s are getting in the 30′s now.
      But as far as hiking is concerned I’m kinda confused what that has to do with ground clearence, unless your short…
      JK, But theres a reason why people wouldn’t take one of these vehicles offroad, you’ll end up leaving with quite a bit plastic under that vehicle, if your un protected fluid reserves aren’t punched. I’d rather take an 70′s an older American car, down a trail then a modern CUV, the older American cars had more ground clearence and way more protectional steel on and under them, not some plastic bumpers 5 inches from the ground filled with styrofoam, (reverse engineering doesn’t make something better)

      • 0 avatar

        Hey hummer eggsalad!

        I think modern Brazilian cars are like old Detroit iron in that they have pretty high ground clearance. That said, cars in Brazil and the likes of Duster, surely, get a dedicated steel protection for the frot parts, called in Brazil, peito de aço (steel breast or chest). Brazilians are often surprised that imported vehicle don’t get that all important piece of steel

      • 0 avatar
        kkt

        Eggsalad said, “for taking on hiking trips,” which implies to me driving up some terrible, rutted, dirt or gravel, rock-filled forest service (or other broke agency) road up to a trailhead. A 5-inch clearance vehicle is going to scrape an awful lot. But you don’t really need 4wd or a Wrangler.

  • avatar
    chimichanga

    Glad to see this article.

    I am preparing to move to upstate New York, and will need a new car soon. 60% regional driving, probably 5 trips a year to New York City and such, 300-500 mile affairs one way. I came across Alex Dykes’ review of the latest Compass, which was panned by the B&B. It looks OK to me, and I can see that the base 2wd stick shift sport can be (easily?) found for $16 and change, maybe $17k. Now, with snow tires, i am thinking this will be a great car in snow, and OK car for those trips, while still small enough for my tastes (I dislike cars over 175″ and longer), yet adequate if we have a child (similar situation to Marcelo’s – wife is a professional, but we don’t have children yet, and aspire to be a single-car household for the time being).

    So BEFORE test driving it, it totally makes sense to me. (Of course, we may hate it – my wife is a staunch stick-shift driver who dislikes automatics).

  • avatar
    Scout_Number_4

    You nailed it, Marcelo. When I traded my Wife’s Odyssey for a CRV instead of an Accord, it was due mostly to the ingress/egress and higher visibility. I also wanted her to have the ground clearance and AWD living in the foothills. It will never be confused with a sports car or Jeep, but the CRV delivers for all our needs.

  • avatar
    korvetkeith

    We’re approaching peak CUV. In a few years’ time, these vehicles will fall out of fashion with the ladies. They will clog used car lots, sell for fractions of their new price, and only be driven by the extremely destitute and thrifty.

    The massive fleet of BMW X’s flooding the market will crush their resale value and ruin all of the cheap lease deals that pushed them off the lot.

    Former line workers in SC that built them will turn to prostitution and smoking meth. They’d be homeless if it weren’t for the Porsche Cayenne they were able to buy from Steven Lang for $55 week.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    I think you hit it Marcello. I bought a 2002 Saturn Vue because my wife wanted one. We are both happier now driving the cube but it was fun till it broke. Problem was that it was always broken. 75k miles in the cube and nothing wrong. As said above, Nissan may be bland (I do not agree). However, they don’t seem to break much.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey man, really happy to see you reading, I consider you one of my prize commenters as you always dhare something interesting and I think, were I in your situation (living in US and all), our vehicular choices would somehow be very similar. Thanks for reading!

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      I had an 02 Vue v6 AWD and it too was always broken, generally in an expensive way. I will always remember that car for having to remove the intake manifold to change the thermostat and it being the car that finally drove me to buy an import.

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    Sexist? Hell yeah! Inaccurate? Absolutely!
    I am a professional male, I am a car fan, I like to drive fast, I had quick cars, I am 43 with, my wife needed a commuter car for pothole ridden Tristate commute, after all the sedans and we saw she picked TSX wagon. My dad just got a CRV. I wish we got that. It gets much better mileage and we would not have to squeeze the front sit to fit the kid in the back. And considering how everyone drives while yakking on their cell phones and popping prescription pills, I’d be going faster than their BMW and mercies anyway, just like I usually do in my old 240.
    Good try though.

  • avatar
    ZekeToronto

    Marcelo, I missed whatever smaller CUV Honda showed in Geneva. Was it a version of their existing JDM Fit-based Freed ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_Freed )?

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    G’day Marcelo

    My wife also fancies them. Not the Duster, because it isn’t sold down here, but certainly the Patriot which is advertised everyday on TV. Also the CX5. The “everything you do, I can do better” CR-V is not high in her esteem list.

    She doesn’t like conventional station wagons because to her they’re “hearses”.

    I’ve also seen a lot of moms driving CUVs here. From Q3 to XC90, with everything in between, price and size-wise. You’re wrong with the ease of parking, which may be true on the small ones, but the big ones are a hassle. But that’s why more and more they’re equipped with reverse cameras and sensors, and soon enough, assisted parking.

    The Cherokee is not an urban SUV by any measure, it is a midsize one. That role is “filled” by the 2 much maligned (by the press) Patriot and Compass. Jeep doesn’t really have anything that fills the B-segment (yet). Fiat’s idea of moving the Cherokee from SUV to CUV is a good one, and I have no real issues with it, however they need to do something about those headlamps, which in my opinion are hideous (Multipla-ugly).

    Most OEMs already have enough market coverage that we can start classifying them from B to E, and from low cost to premium. Putting them all in the same bag is no longer appropriate.

    But yes, this is the future, or at least until the current generation grows up and realize than their parents cars are not cool and something new arises. Don’t despair, the niches for fun cars will always exist.

    • 0 avatar

      “But yes, this is the future, or at least until the current generation grows up and realize than their parents cars are not cool and something new arises. Don’t despair, the niches for fun cars will always exist.”

      I find solace in your words Athos. And I know them true. Since Daniel is not yet 2, maybe he won’t laugh when I talk longly of a Ka or Escort XR3.

      I also agree that they’re not all in the same bag, but this was just a fiction on a reality. A way of showing what’s going down in the real sales world. These cars (big or small) have little to recommend then, yet this si what sellls. SIGH!

      • 0 avatar
        Athos Nobile

        On the contrary Marcelo, there’s a lot going on for them. Actually, your write up is so good I just have to quote:

        “The longer suspension travel on the cars, not only enhances their tough looks, but adds to their comfort when riding along the bad roads prevalent the world over. The higher stance also offers a higher driving position that many equate with safety, not to mention the easier ingress and egress. The big doors make getting baby seats in it that much easier. The Urban SUV is based on a car and drives like pretty much like a car. It’s no biggie for people who have ever driven cars.”

        Just for the ease of putting in the kid in the back seat I’m sold. Being able to insert the stroller in the back without bending is selling point #2. I happen to be close to a Koleos lately, and definitely can see the utility of the thing.

        Easy ingress and egress would also appeal to older people, as is a softer suspension with good travel. And older people also doesn’t need a behemoth to go around since the children (if they had them) already left the nest.

        • 0 avatar

          That’s true Athos. I’m sayiing that they don’t have much to offer to us enthusiasts. Not specially fast, not as nimble as the car version, not really fir to get off the beaten track. But you summed up the selling points nicely, though I believe, for many people, what really sells it is the image, as mentioned by another commenter above.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    Marcelo you did a great job of defining reasons why the Duster and cars like it, are a success because it is tough.
    That Logan really does have a huge trunk for the cars size. I drove one once and was impressed by the smooth (French?) ride, the solid feel of the body and the size of the trunk.
    As to the Duster, I think it would be a run away success in the US for the same hard to define reasons it is success everywhere else. The B&B can spit snakes and shake with rage but it will sell.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Beerboy1

      You know, I can’t make out what sets a Duster apart from a Logan, but my wife sure can. For US I’m thinking way too small. Unfortunatley, or not, that’s what sell there: big.

      Yes, it has all to do with the French ride. Très bon!!!

      • 0 avatar
        Beerboy12

        Perhaps “runaway success” is a bit strong ;-) To clarify:
        The Seattle area where I live has an abundance of small cars. Narrow roads, difficult parking, steep hills, random bends and higher gas prices might have something to do with it. Some would say it’s due to an abundance of ludicrous, tree hugging liberals and some would say people are more enlightened but I think it’s simply road conditions. Road surfaces are in very poor state to, some 50 years of neglect and massive population growth.
        The Duster would work well here, in Seattle any way. And… I suspect there is a bigger market for “good” smaller cars in the US than people realize.

        • 0 avatar

          Yes, now I can see it. It probably could be a mild success. Put it in Nissan garb (the back already looks like a Nissan) and it could sell. From reading this blog and seeing comments on it, I too believe that the US, or some parts and consumers in it, no longer see a small car as a personal insult.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    its all about perception

    i dont like the CRV as its just gotten too big and it traditionally has a poor 4wd system

    i dont mind the CX5 but they have funny configuration issues (ie, no manual fwd or 4wd version with the 2.5) and they are pretty much $40k out the door when you get down to it

    i dont like the Korean twins

    the closest is the Nissan Qashqai but really is just a Tiida on stilts

    my perception is the Duster is a simply no frills car that is easy to fix with nothing cutting edge

    i do like the idea of a small 4wd model, manual and hopefully with a little turbo 1.6 – not sure how the n/a 1.6 goes along with hustling the weight of a Duster

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Tony!

      I know the 1.6 avails itself pretty nicely in Brazilian conditions. The 2.0, though much thirstier, is a speed demon. The 1.6 is a very good modern engine. he 2.0 needs some work, though I’1m pretty sure the next gen will just get the current Nissan 2.o which is some stpes above the Renault 2.0.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    just out of interest i hit the dacia uk site:

    http://www.dacia.co.uk/vehicles/logan-mcv/explore/

    http://www.dacia.co.uk/vehicles/sandero-stepway/explore/

    some interesting cars no?

  • avatar
    d_himan

    Marcelo, the Duster is Renault’s first blockbuster in India as well. There is a waiting period of 30-90 days for a variant and color of your choice. Also, almost all drivers are men here, at least for the Duster.

    So, why is this a hit? Let me contrast this with the Accord I own.

    1. Proven diesel engine – diesel is 30% cheaper than petrol here. Honda is getting buried alive and is all set to launch their first small diesel in a month or so. Also, 32 mpg+ in bumper to bumper traffic. I weep with joy if my Accord gives anything more than 15 mpg in my daily commute. Gas is $5.35/gallon.

    2. Superb ride quality and very good handling. Despite the Accord’s double wishbones and all, I felt the Duster to be almost as good over good roads and MUCH better over bad ones.

    3. Pothole, speed bump muncher. Smooth roads are pretty rare here. I wouldn’t need to crawl at 2 miles over a bad stretch and can just blaze past nonchalantly in a Duster. Also, I’m sick of cringing when the underbody of the Accord keeps getting knocked up.

    4. Good stance. Looks much bigger than it is in the flesh. The visibility also helps in cutting lanes. Also, two wheelers and three wheelers usually don’t mess with ‘SUVs’.

    5. A bit of off road cred. Check out those Romanian videos in YouTube.

    6. The interiors are a complete let down for the asking price – ($18000 for the low end diesel) but people are OK with the compromise.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey great sum up! I think all points you made are valid in Brazil. As to point 4, that is ver true. People do not respect me at all in my Ka. When I had a Ranger, even buses gave me the right of way. Point 5 I have seen the Romanian videos, way cool. Finally point 6, I sincerely think that the duster has some of the better interiors for cars priced the smae. The EcoSport interior is more modern and probably uses materials that are a bit better, but it’s much tighter than the Duster.

  • avatar
    oldowl

    I wonder if Renault had to pay a fee to Chrysler/Fiat for using the tag “Duster,” a Plymouth name of the early 1970s for a two-door fastback, sometimes hopped up as a muscle car. If Renault drops a larger engine in the “Duster” will it be a “Road Runner”?

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    CUVs are American MPVs. They don’t look as dowdy and still fit the needs of the typical small American family. No matter how good the Mazda5 is, for example, I would just rather have the CX5.

  • avatar
    azmtbkr81

    Well reasoned article Marcelo. I never thought it would be possible to stir up such an outpouring of support for the CUV on TTAC but you’ve managed to do it.

    Since there have been few responses representing the opposing point of view I will attempt to provide a couple of reasons as to why I believe CUVs are so terrible:

    -CUVs lack the acceleration, handling and fuel economy of the cars that they are based on

    -CUVs are significantly more expensive than the cars that they are based on

    -CUVs lack the space of a minivan

    -CUVs Lack the durability and off-road ability of even a modestly capable SUV such as the previous generation of Ford Explorer

    -CUVs are not sexy; their amorphous shapes are the automotive equivalent of a fat girl with a bad case of pancake butt in leopard print tights.

    In other words the CUVs are pure misguided, tacky style with the illusion of substance. CUVs are a fad that can’t go the way of Hammer pants soon enough and I suspect that some day, in the hopefully not to distant future, we will laugh at them the same way we do the baroque luxo-barges of the ’70s. Can’t women just go back to liking Jettas?

    • 0 avatar

      LOL! I get all your points and in general agree as to their gist, except for the last one. I don’t think they’re sexy either, but the design is not that bad! The Duster specially is quite masculine and tough looking. I don’t mind it.

      BTW, in Brazil women never liked Jettas, or VWs for that matter. VW is seen very much as a man’s car here.

  • avatar
    RS

    Great read and it hits all the reasons these vehicles are popular. The modern Urban SUV/CUV is an evolution of customers needs/wants and are essentially small hatchbacks/wagons with better utility, ergonomics and real world capabilities than sedans. They are the equivalent of hiking shoes instead of hiking boots or running shoes.

    They are popular here in Minnesota where we are changing from snow season to pothole season.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    Cars used to be higher as there were still a lot of dirt and gravel in the US. As the infrastructure continues to revert to this state I am not surprised that people like this sort of vehicle. Not much else you can buy that has a tire with an actual sidewall nowadays.

  • avatar
    corntrollio

    “but adds to their comfort when riding along the bad roads prevalent the world over.”

    There are plenty of bad roads here in the US because we ignore our infrastructure. I’ve driven in developing countries with better roads than certain parts of California.


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Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • Tycho de Feyter, China
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India