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And now the SUV Lites . . .

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And now the SUV Lites . . .
Keith Morgan
The Province

Friday, May 28, 2004

Not all sport utility vehicles are created equal, yet they are all demonized constantly as gas-guzzling monsters of the road.

And their owners are frequently dissed as wealthy, spoiled folks, who care nothing for the environment they are allegedly destroying.

During the recent meteoric gas price rises, the heat was turned up still higher on these purchases, publicly perceived socially as irresponsible .

Few would dispute that few sport utes see the bush they are supposedly designed to conquer, but instead clock most of their clicks on urban blacktop.

Many also wonder aloud about the necessity for such ostentatious vehicles as the Hummer. However, are critics unfairly tarring all SUVs with the same brush?

After the appearance of last week's Gas Busters feature on the most efficient vehicles in Canada a number of readers asked why there was no SUV category! My first reaction was . . . well, never mind my first reaction, because I don't want to lose subscriptions.

But following some contemplation, I went in search of vehicles that might qualify for the category of SUV Lite. To my surprise, using data prepared largely by Natural Resources Canada, I found 10 examples among the 71 SUV model ranges available here.

The Saturn VUE topped the list, but there was not a great deal of difference between the green attributes (or deficits, depending on your mind set) of all 10 models. In fact, a few more candidates missed the list by only a smidgen, including the Nissan Murano, Pontiac Aztek and its Buick variation, Rendezvous.

Many of the SUV Lites record gas consumption and emissions comparable with the larger popular family sedans, which certainly should give pause for further thought. For example, the Chevrolet Impala, listed last week as the most efficient full-size sedan, would just scrape in to the bottom of the SUV list with its fuel consumption of 11/6.7 L/100 km city/highway and average annual CO2 emissions of 4,279 kg.

No SUV is nearly as efficient as compacts and sub-compacts, but if you are going to go after all SUVs, you should also start looking at large sedans, pickups and minivans.

Truly, SUV Lites in most cases are used for little more than urban travel, but where is it written that they should not be?

The manufacturers produce them because there is a demand for the SUV look and their more versatile utilitarian applications.

The introduction of new products, that merge SUVs with minivans, known sometimes as sports activity vehicles or crossover vehicles, confuses matters. But if they have a AWD or 4WD option, they were considered SUVs for this comparison.

Of course, hardened off-roaders will say the 2WD versions are not true sport utes but I beg to differ.

No, they wouldn't make much headway off road because they are car-based in design and not equipped to do so, but they are mirror images in appearance, are marketed that way and perceived as the "genuine" article by all but purists.

The SUV Lite Top 10 numbers were gleaned from the Natural Resources Canada 2004 fuel consumption tests plus some preliminary test data for 2005 models. The testing simulates annual driving of 20,000 kilometres (55 per cent city, 45 per cent highway). To provide a broader perspective, also included is each SUV's overall efficiency ranking among all classes of vehicles in all of their model trims available in Canada.

Full Article & Top 10 Here
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I wonder if the Chevy Equinox was considered?
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