With Metro Manila being consistently among the top 10 worst cities in the world, there seems to be little reason why anyone would get a larger, bulkier sport utility vehicle (SUV) over a small car. With today’s gas prices, downsizing seems like the most economical option.

And yet, according to sales figures from distributor groups Association of Vehicle Importers and Distributors (AVID), Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines (CAMPI) and Truck Manufacturers Association (TMA) taken in the first half of 2019, Light Commercial Vehicles, such as SUVs and vans, have outsold passenger cars by almost double — 108,111 units compared to 63,349.

Clearly, Filipinos prefer SUVs. We listed down the reasons why.

SUVs carry more people

The most obvious reason, perhaps, is also the most compelling. The simple answer is that SUVs can carry more people more comfortably and more reliably. Whereas sedans can carry only four to five people maximum, a three-row SUV can seat up to seven or more people, offering more flexibility.

With Filipino families often extending towards aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents, an SUV is the most logical choice. Unless a family has enough resources to shell out for two cars to seat everyone, an SUV can comfortably accommodate for everyone in the extended family (and friends) for those holiday trips.

SUVs have more space for cargo

Speaking of family vacations, often Filipinos love to pack everything they need during trips, from beverage coolers to pots, pans, and even grills. Sedans most likely do not have the space for such bulky cargo. When not crammed full of passengers, SUVs can efficiently store double or triple the cargo of sedans or small hatchbacks, efficiently and securely.

The space inside a typical SUV’s cabin makes it easier to haul larger items like boxes, luggage, sports gear, and even bicycles and furniture. This also makes them a prime choice for small business owners who need a vehicle to haul merchandise or tow other vehicles. With the Philippine economy comprising of more than 99% small business owners, the appeal of having an easy, reliable transport vehicle is obvious.

SUVs have never been more fuel-efficient

Technology has come a long way from the gas-guzzling jalopies of the past. Automakers have discovered new and more effective ways of reducing the fuel consumption of vehicles and making the larger, heavier SUVs more efficient. Aerodynamic designs, fuel-saving technologies integrated in smaller displacement engines, as well as advanced structural materials to reduce overall weight all have been leaps towards making a more economic vehicle.

SUVs offer more protection

Size matters, at least in terms of car safety. As SUVs are bigger and heavier than smaller and lighter sedans, they offer more mass between a passenger and the hostile elements of the road. Longer hoods, bigger crush zones, and an heavier weight to keep it on the ground, SUVs have an advantage in frontal crashes over smaller vehicles.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in the US, a heavier vehicle will typically push a lighter one backward during the impact, putting less force on the occupants of the heavier vehicle and more on those in the lighter vehicle. The organization’s fatality data even goes as far as to show the mortality rates between passengers of lighter vehicles and heavier ones. The lowest 2015 death rate by vehicle type is for very large SUVs: 13 deaths per million registered vehicles. The highest is for mini cars: 64 deaths per million registered vehicles.

SUVs can deal with rougher terrain

In the worst circumstances, SUVs are also the most dependable. In a flood-prone country like the Philippines, having a sedan submerged in floodwaters is adding another problem to an already terrible day. The higher stance of SUVs can allow them to operate in roads sedans cannot, offering a dependable investment for the days when you really need some semblance of safety.

Of course, SUVs are also better off-road, making them better at navigating unpaved roads in the provinces or exploring new places.

SUVs just look cool

Last but not least, SUVs have the advantage of simple confident and empowering design. Many are the Filipino drivers who love the sense of power and status an SUV provides.

The Philippines is not alone in this either. According to an article by the New York Times last year, SUVs are particularly popular in China, “where the big cars have offered a sense of status, stability on bumpy roads, and room for larger families emerging with the phasing out of the one-child policy”. The article further cites the global consulting firm McKinsey predicting that by 2022, one in every two cars sold in China will be an SUV.

Offering safety, efficiency, reliability, comfort, and an aura of confidence and success, SUVs are arguably the most versatile vehicle out in the market today. — Bjorn Biel M. Beltran