What Does SUV Stand For?

With the growth of different sectors in the car market, you can easily get confused with all the acronyms, like what does SUV stand for?

If you thought there was only one sort of SUV to worry about you will be surprised how many there are these days.

In this article, we’re going to take a more in-depth look.

What Does SUV Stand For?

SUV stands for Sports Utility Vehicle. And it is an initialism as it is pronounced S-U-V.

The vehicle itself combines two car types into one practical vehicle, namely offroaders, and road-going passenger vehicles.

You get the offroad capabilities of the offroader and the creature comforts of a road-going passenger vehicle.

The term SUV differs from country to country, in the US it is claimed that it can only be called an SUV if it’s based on a light-truck chassis or platform compared to Europe where a normal hatch that is lifted with a bit of plastic cladding can be referred to as an SUV (we’re looking at you Subaru Crosstrek!).

Not to mention all the different styles of SUVs that are available today, like:

  • Crossovers
  • Mini SUVs
  • Mid-sized SUVs
  • Full-size SUVs
  • Extended-length SUVs

Let’s take a look at each of these categories below.

What does SUV stand for

What is a Crossover SUV?

Crossover SUVs, or CUVs, have a chassis/platform based on passenger vehicles and have less offroad capability than full-sized SUVs (many don’t even have all-wheel-drive).

Crossovers rose in popularity in the early 2010s and are part of the C-segment (compact) class of vehicles.

A great example is a 2019 Chevrolet Blazer that shares most of its underpinnings from a Chevrolet Malibu.

What is a Mini SUV?

A Mini SUV, or Subcompact Crossover SUV, is the smallest SUV class there is. these vehicles are based on B-segment (supermini) passenger cars.

The chances of seeing a mini SUV are very scarce in the US, most of these cars are not allowed to be imported to the US.

Weirdly enough there are more ‘only’ all-wheel-drive models in this class than in the crossovers class.

One such example is the new Suzuki Jimny. 

What is a Mid-Size SUV?

A mid-size SUV is between Crossovers and full-size SUVs and is based on compact and mid-size pickup platforms.

Outside of the US, this is the most popular size of SUV on the market, you get good offroad ability with a decent-sized body and acceptable fuel consumption.

A US example is the Dodge Durango, and for those international folks, a Toyota Fortuner is a prime example you will see quite often.

What Is a Full-Size SUV?

Full-Size SUVs are the second-largest SUV class in the US and most of them are based on full-sized pickups.

This is the class where you find the premium SUVs, your Lincoln’s, Cadillac’s, Lexus, and Range Rover’s.

They are also one of the few SUV categories that are marketed with superior off-road capabilities.

Good examples of full-size SUVs are the Ford Expedition and Chevrolet Tahoe.

What Is An Extended-Length SUV?

Extended-Length SUVs are the biggest and longest SUVs available to purchase and are built on dedicated platforms based on heavy-duty pickups.

These are typical to the US with long-wheelbase versions of the full-size SUVs.

With the extra length and heavy-duty chassis, these vehicles can carry more cargo and passengers.

Two examples that come to mind are the GMC Yukon XL and the Ford Expedition EL.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does Crossover mean in a car?

Crossovers are SUVs based on C-segment on-road passenger vehicles, there is no difference between an SUV crossover or crossover marketed on a “regular” car.

In many cases, you only get a minor suspension lift and rugged plastic body parts and not even all-wheel drive.

You can see these vehicles as normal passenger cars on stilts, with the only real benefit often only being the increased ride height.

What does platform mean in cars?

A vehicle’s platform is the structure that it is built on or based on.

In this article alone you saw ‘platform’ mentioned numerous times, this is an easier way to describe a chassis range. 

These days it is normal for numerous brands and models to share the same platforms but use different engines and transmissions for cost savings.

Elements that are fixed on platforms are the engine placement, orientation, what axles are powered by, and the distance between the axles.

Is a RAV4 a Crossover or SUV?

The Toyota RAV4 is a compact crossover SUV.

Interestingly enough before the crossover name was popularized, the RAV4 was categorized as a ‘soft-roader’, which is a more fitting description of what it is than a compact crossover. 

It was not an off-roader but could do mild off-roading so the term ‘soft-roader’ was used.

Is a Suburban a truck or SUV?

The Chevrolet Suburban is classified as an extended-length SUV.

The platform it is based on is also shared with the:

  • Chevrolet Silverado (Truck)
  • GMC Sierra (Truck)
  • Chevrolet Tahoe (Full-Size SUV)
  • GMC Yukon (Full-Size SUV)
  • Cadillac Escalade (Full-Size SUV)
  • GMC Yukon XL (Extended-Length SUV)
  • Cadillac Escalade ESV (Extended-Length SUV)

Final thoughts on what SUV means

An SUV is an initialism for “Sport Utility Vehicle”.

SUVs are typically passenger vehicles that have been modified to provide some off-road capabilities (or at least the appearance of that).

The most common classifications of SUVs are Crossover, Mid-Size SUV, Full-Size SUV, and Extended Length SUV. There are many different types of SUVs available on the market today based on size, platform, and modifications made for off-road use.

Now that you know what an SUV is and all the different ones you get you will have an easier time identifying them.

Hopefully, this article will help you also choose the right sort of SUV to best fit your needs.


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Article by

Jaco Schrader

Jaco is the automotive heart of our platform. Born and raised in Namibia, he began his journey in the automobile sector in 2012. Launching his own automotive repair business in Africa and fitting a Toyota 1UZ-FE V8 in a Ford Sierra, Jaco brings over six years of hands-on automotive experience. He’s a self-taught expert in various mechanical and electrical aspects of vehicles.

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