RAC Cars News


Big Brands Going SUV Mad

By raccars Published

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It's no secret that the major brands have been churning out massive quantities of SUVs over the last few years - a trend started by the 'Chelsea tractor' school run mums and made mainstream by the arrival of the Nissan Qashqai in 2007. However, just as you think the market sector must be reaching saturation point, news arrives that there are many more new SUVs on the way...

First, the VW Group announced that it plans to add a new five seater, compact SUV to each of its major brands - Volkswagen, Audi, Skoda and Seat. All will use the same architecture but will be designed to reflect their different brand identities. At the moment, this particularly lucrative market sector is dominated by the Nissan Juke, Vauxhall Mokka and the Renault Captur.

The Audi will be the Q1 in the firm's line up, sitting below the Q3. The Volkswagen will be a junior to the Tiguan, and the Skoda will fit in under the Yeti. Seat doesn't currently have an SUV on its books but will be putting its 20v20 concept into production. Prices for the set will range from £14,000 to £20,000, and front and four wheel drive models will be available.

The VW Group will be making further use of its MQB platform for the new models, benefiting from economies of scale in production costs. A similar formula is used to reign in finances with the Audi A1, VW Polo, Skoda Fabia and Seat Ibiza models, which share a chassis, electronic matrix and driveline. The SUVs will also share a range of three and four cylinder engines in 1.0 to 2.0 litre petrol and diesel models, with six speed manual and seven speed automatic transmissions. Plug in hybrid versions of the Audi Q1 and the Volkswagen compact SUV will be offered.

The Audi Q1 will be leading the charge, launching at next year's Geneva Motor Show in March. It uses the three door A3's short wheelbase version of the MQB platform and will be capable of riding on wheels of up to 19 inches.

Ford will also be unveiling its latest range of crossovers and SUVs at the Frankfurt Motor Show this month and is planning five new or facelifted entries into the market by 2018. At the moment, Ford's European SUV quotient is led by the Kuga, a competent little model which has, nonetheless, lagged behind market rivals. It is backed up by the equally low profile EcoSport, but these are to be joined by the Edge SUV, already available in the US but being introduced in European specification for the first time in Frankfurt.

The Edge is Ford's attempt at a premium SUV, sharing components with the Mondeo and sporting all wheel drive. Stylewise, it's reminiscent of the Range Rover Evoque - which is about as good an inspiration as you can imagine for a premium SUV.

Meanwhile, the EcoSport, having made barely a ripple in the market since its introduction a couple of years ago, is being refreshed in an attempt to spark interest, along with minor updates to the Kuga. Ford hopes to achieve sales of 200,000 units annually in Europe from these three models, which it hopes will eventually grow to account for nearly a third of global sales by 2020.

All three models will be produced under the 'One Ford' strategy, meaning they will be offered in the same form globally, rather than produced separately to tailor to different international markets.

At the same time, Vauxhall has announced that the next version of its Meriva mini MPV will be designed as a crossover or small SUV instead, while the Zafira is set to receive similar treatment, to take Vauxhall's stable of SUVs up to four, along with the Mokka and Antara. Vauxhall is calling these models 'CUV's or Crossover Utility Vehicles.

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