Sedan vs. SUV: Which Body Style Is Better For Your Needs?

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SUVs are all the rage, but what are the core differences between sedans and SUVs, and do you need one or the other?

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When buying a new vehicle, there is always a wide variety of preferences to consider and options to consider, which can make the process daunting. Each type of vehicle available on the market has its advantages and disadvantages depending on your driving needs; do you drive a large family around regularly? Commute to work or go on long highway trips? Any pets in the house? Bulky sports equipment to carry? The factors you must consider before leaving the house to visit a dealership are too many to count, and if you jump into the process without a plan, it's easy to get overwhelmed.

Two of the most popular choices of car are SUVs and sedans: while the popularity of SUVs has massively increased in recent years, to the point where many Americans will consider an SUV before any other type of vehicle when shopping for a new car, sedans have not been consigned to the dustbin of automotive history just yet, and there are plenty of sedans on the market that will function as a perfectly respectable daily driver even for a growing family.

If you're currently shopping for a car and are unsure whether to go for a sedan or an SUV, let's take a look at some of the key differences between them and the pros and cons of each as a guide to help you navigate the SUV vs. sedan comparison.

CarBuzz 2022-2024 Honda Civic Sedan Front Chairs Honda 2023-2024 Volvo XC90 Interior Overview Volvo
2022-2024 Honda Civic Sedan Front Chairs
2023-2024 Volvo XC90 Interior Overview

SUVs: The New Default Option?

Over the past two decades, the SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle) has been steadily taking over from the sedan as the go-to "default" option for prospective car buyers looking for their next vehicle, increasing their market share to nearly half of new car sales in the US.

This process has gone hand in hand with an increase in the availability of more premium SUVs; while up to a couple of decades ago they were considered spartan, off-road machines, modern SUVs such as the Volvo XC90 are more likely to prioritize comfort and safety. SUVs are generally characterized by a larger size and boxy shape, a higher ride height, and a rugged character with varying degrees of off-roading capability. The increased popularity of the SUV is partly thanks to increased emphasis on occupant safety, and partly thanks to aggressive marketing on the part of carmakers, which highlights factors such as cargo space and passenger capacity as an advantage for busy families.

2023-2024 Volvo XC90 Side View Volvo 2023-2024 Volvo XC90 Trunk Space Volvo Volvo
2023-2024 Volvo XC90 Side View
2023-2024 Volvo XC90 Trunk Space

Pros

  • Higher Passenger Capacity and More Interior Space: SUVs generally have a higher seating capacity, as well as more space to stretch out in the rear seats. Some SUVs also have a third row of seats, which is especially useful for the transport needs of a big family: if you regularly have to haul more than five people around and need just a little more room, an SUV might be the way to go.
  • More Cargo Space: Their larger size also translates into a higher cargo capacity, which comes in handy when lugging sports equipment, baby/child equipment, and luggage.
  • Towing Capabilities: SUVs tend to have a higher towing capacity, so if you own a caravan or "outdoor fun" equipment like a four-wheeler or boat, an SUV will likely be your best bet to haul them around.
  • All-Wheel Drive/4-Wheel Drive: Nearly every SUV comes with AWD as standard, and in some cases, four-wheel drive, the latter giving them off-road capabilities other vehicles simply can't match when combined with their raised ride height. AWD isn't exclusive to SUVs by any means, but if you regularly drive on rough terrain and having an all-wheel drive vehicle is a top priority for you, SUVs should be your first category to browse when shopping for a car. Not all sedans are available with AWD as an option.
  • Ride Height: SUVs sit higher and are generally easier to get in and out of (not to mention easier to get small children in and out of). Plus, the raised suspension that creates the commanding position over the road ahead also means you're less likely to damage them over rocks, curbs, or anything else you drive over.
Volvo 2023-2024 Volvo XC90 Frontal Aspect Volvo Volvo 2023-2024 Volvo XC90 Back Seats Volvo
2023-2024 Volvo XC90 Frontal Aspect
2023-2024 Volvo XC90 Back Seats

Cons

  • Poor Maneuverability: SUVs are less suited to narrow spaces and can be more difficult to park.
  • Higher Center Of Gravity: As larger vehicles with a high ground clearance, SUVs are generally top-heavy, which can increase the risk of rollover accidents. They have more suspension travel which also hampers handling ability. And, a final downside to this one point is that the higher center of gravity removes the sensation of speed, drivers will not feel when they are speeding.
  • Poorer Visibility: While they may provide a more commanding view of the road ahead from a higher vantage point, bigger vehicles create larger blind spots.Due to these, your field of vision when driving an SUV can be substantially reduced compared to other types of cars.
  • Fuel Economy: SUVs are likely to have higher day-to-day running costs than a sedan, due to their lower fuel efficiency. This is caused by their aerodynamic inefficiency due to a larger frontal area and higher weight.
  • Lower Crash Safety: While you typically want to be in the SUV when crashing into a smaller car, because of the abundance of space, some occupants like children may not be as safe in an SUV. This is improving, but for now, sedans do a better job.
2023-2024 Volvo XC90 Recharge Side Angle Driving Volvo 2023-2024 Volvo XC90 Recharge Dashboard Volvo
2023-2024 Volvo XC90 Recharge Side Angle Driving
2023-2024 Volvo XC90 Recharge Dashboard

Sedans: The Style-Conscious Choice

Sedans dominated the car market for decades, and for a good reason: with their sleek, stylish lines and low-to-the-ground profile, a sedan is the car to pick if you're looking for something that looks smart as well as being practical. With their smaller size and maneuverability, sedans have several advantages in urban and suburban environments: if your day-to-day driving needs involve more work commutes and highway journeys than muddy off-roading stints, then a sedan will most likely serve you well as a daily driver.

There's also the additional bonus of a (usually) lower price tag compared to an equivalent SUV. The market may currently be saturated with SUVs, but the sedan is not going to disappear completely for a while yet. Toyota has sold 265,244 Camrys so far in 2023 in the US alone, so demand is still present. If you're looking for something different, there are still plenty of options for an affordable, reliable family sedan, such as the Honda Civic.

2022-2024 Honda Civic Sedan Forward View CarBuzz 2022-2024 Honda Civic Sedan Side View CarBuzz 2022-2024 Honda Civic Sedan Rearward Vision CarBuzz
2022-2024 Honda Civic Sedan Forward View
2022-2024 Honda Civic Sedan Side View
2022-2024 Honda Civic Sedan Rearward Vision

Pros

  • Better Fuel Economy: Sedans have a more aerodynamic design, which makes them more fuel efficient and gives better mileage.
  • More Enjoyable To Drive: With a lower center of gravity, sedans tend to provide a smoother driving experience, being more nimble on tighter roads and sharp corners.
  • Safer Handling Dynamics: Sitting lower to the ground also has a positive effect on safety in the form of reduced rollover risk. Evasive maneuvers are thus less likely to end in disaster.
  • Enhanced Visibility: Smaller car, smaller blind spots. This alone makes it easier to see other road users, both pedestrian and vehicular.
  • Better Suited To Urban Environments: Sedans are generally easier to park due to their smaller size and less bulky shape.
  • Safer Personal Item Storage: Valuable items in the trunk of a sedan are usually not visible from the outside because of the car's body shape, which means opportunistic theft is less likely.
2022-2024 Honda Civic Sedan Rear Perspective Driving Honda 2022-2024 Honda Civic Sedan Front Chairs Honda 2022-2024 Honda Civic Sedan Back Seats Honda
2022-2024 Honda Civic Sedan Rear Perspective Driving
2022-2024 Honda Civic Sedan Front Chairs
2022-2024 Honda Civic Sedan Back Seats

Cons

  • Lower Seating Position: Sedans can be harder to get in and out of as they sit lower to the ground than an SUV. If your family includes people with reduced mobility who might struggle to climb in and out of the car, you might want to consider an SUV or crossover instead.
  • Reduced All-Weather And Off-Road Capability: All-wheel drive is only an option on sedans and not available on all of them, hampering all-weather drivability. And because of their lower ground clearance, they don't have the same ability to go off the beaten path that even some crossovers do. They are considerably less capable than an SUV when it comes to driving on rough terrain or in adverse weather conditions.
  • Less Cargo And Passenger Space: Sedans will not fit more than five passengers, and storage capacity will be lower than that of an SUV due to the size and shape of the trunk.
2022-2024 Honda Civic Sedan Forward Vision CarBuzz 2022-2024 Honda Civic Sedan Trunk Space with Seat Folded Honda 2022-2024 Honda Civic Sedan Trunk Space Honda
2022-2024 Honda Civic Sedan Forward Vision
2022-2024 Honda Civic Sedan Trunk Space with Seat Folded
2022-2024 Honda Civic Sedan Trunk Space

FAQs

Sedan vs SUV: which is better?

Like many things in the car world, which is better depends on your needs. If you have a family with multiple kids and lots of stuff to carry, you may find an SUV more practical, but if you're single or are a couple without kids, a sedan is more practical, efficient, and easier to use.

Are SUVs heavier on gas than sedans?

On average, yes, an SUV uses more gas than a sedan. This is because of their size, weight, and poorer aerodynamics.

Are SUVs cheaper than sedans?

Typically, SUVs are more expensive than their equivalent sedan counterparts from the same manufacturer. They also use more fuel.

2022-2024 Honda Civic Sedan Driving Front Angle Honda

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