Sliding doors are all the rage on vans and minivans, but in the realm of SUVs, they're few and far between.
Sliding doors are one of the most useful ways to board and alight from a vehicle, with many benefits that have seen them become popular in the van and minivan segments. But cars with sliding doors still aren't as popular as those with hinged swing doors.
Still, when it comes to practicality, they're hard to match, as they mean you can park in tight spaces without struggling to open the door, and for vehicles with seven seats, they provide easier access to the second and third rows of seating.
Sliding doors seem perfect for a family vehicle, which makes it seem strange that you won't really find them on the most common family car of all. Have you ever seen an SUV with sliding doors?
You probably answered that in the negative, and while we can't exactly say you're 100% wrong, you wouldn't be 100% right to say no SUVs have sliding doors, either. So, what SUVs have sliding doors? There are only two we might say are eligible.
While not strictly a factory option, the brand new Toyota Century SUV can be specced with rear sliding doors. At the recent reveal, Toyota design Boss Simon Humphries teased the customization possibilities by showing off a Century GRMN SUV with sliding rear doors.
But while these doors appear to slide rearwards (from 18:55 in the video below), we're not 100% sure they can be considered authentic sliding doors, as they don't appear to open along a rail. Instead, it seems they have a complex rear-mounted hinge design that allows the door to open rearwards discreetly without taking up too much space.
Still, for the Japanese Rolls-Royce of SUVs, this seems like the coolest way to enter the luxurious interior, and we hope several buyers order them and more manufacturers take note.
Whoo, boy - I'm getting ready for the protests in the comments now: "The Kia Carnival isn't an SUV," you're about to tell me, and I do kind of agree with you. Technically speaking, the Kia Carnival is a minivan that rivals the Chrysler Pacifica, Honda Odyssey, and Toyota Sienna - all vehicles with big sliding doors so the entire family can climb through their apertures in one go.
But Kia saw how crossovers and SUVs were dominating the market and realized that a lot of people just wanted the appearance of a crossover. For that reason, the South Korean automaker designed the Carnival with SUV styling elements, like an upright front fascia, beefy bumper designs, masculine roof rails, and a smart C-pillar design element that looks like it's come from a truck-based SUV rather than a people carrier. It's also pretty practical, and with a towing capacity of 3,500 lbs, it bests some compact crossovers. It's even been turned into a campervan by someone.
While technically, it is a minivan, we wouldn't be surprised if Kia later revealed an X-Line trim option with more rugged styling and a slight suspension lift to bridge the gap between minivan and sliding door SUV even more.
Cars with sliding doors have several benefits. The most notable is practicality, fitting into tight parking spaces without massively hampering occupants' ability to enter and exit the vehicle. Beyond this, you reduce the chances of damaging your car or the one you've parked next to by accidentally opening the door too wide. There are smaller benefits, too, like a sliding door not being caught by the wind and damaging hinges, and not being able to open in front of passing traffic.
Not all cars with sliding doors work, and some smaller MPVs like the old Ford B-Max weren't better off for it, as the sliding door never went far enough back to make the aperture functionally large enough. But SUVs are larger by nature, giving them the space to make these doors work as their boxy profile gives them room to spare.
The only issue to be solved is that they must have locking mechanisms that hold the door open when parked on an incline or decline, as it's not fun trying to fight gravity to get in or out of a car.
Luxury SUVs stand to benefit the most, especially those with second and third rows of seating. Because luxury crossovers already have smart functionality like soft-close doors, they'd be ideal candidates to have power sliding doors, adding an extra air of grace to entering and exiting a vehicle. Instead of having to manhandle a door open or closed, it could be operated comfortably at the touch of a button without worrying about the door automatically opening too wide and dinging an adjacent car.
As minivan styling evolves to meet buyers' desires for crossovers, we can expect sliding doors to populate the segment more. However, we don't see the humble swing door being replaced en masse anytime soon.