The Rise Of SUVs And Crossovers

The last few years have seen a dramatic rise in the number of SUVs on our roads …

Sports Utility Vehicles, more commonly known as SUVs, are now a very familiar sight on the world’s roads. From humble beginnings in the hands of one or two manufacturers, almost all main carmakers now offer at least one SUV in their range. Many companies now make SUVs in all their model segments meaning that the buyer can choose according to size as well as budget.

So what exactly is a SUV? It’s a vehicle designed to carry passengers in a traditional front and back seat configuration, whilst also providing increased luggage capacity. The vehicle sits higher above the road affording both driver and passengers greater all round visibility. Some of the larger, upmarket models offer various seat configurations to either preference passenger-carrying or luggage holding. Vehicles may be adorned with more rugged outdoor embellishments and also offer the option of four wheel drive. Early models were very much of a traditional box design and based upon light commercial vehicle chassis but nowadays, most models are closely based on their related car brethren and often described as crossovers.

It will come as little surprise, therefore, that the modern day SUV and crossover is far more than a utility vehicle. One of their main attractions is their increased ground clearance for on and off-road ability, although few people are likely to avail themselves of the latter. They have fast become something of a status symbol as they command greater road presence whilst still retaining the styling cues of a traditional car. Manufactures such as BMW and Audi offer an almost complete range of SUV models to meet the needs of most buyers whilst others provide a more limited choice or are only just entering what has become a very lucrative market.

A complete newcomer to the marketplace is SEAT who have just launched their first SUV to be called the Ateca. This will be a direct competitor to the revised Volkswagen Tiguan from their sister company. Currently, Škoda only make the Yeti which has been a success for the company but is now showing its age. In a few months time, Škoda will be unveiling their new model, the Kodiaq, which will sit at the upper end of the model spectrum both in size and price. A new Yeti is due within about eighteen months plus a small SUV based upon the Fabia. As their only existing SUV does not directly compete, this article is comparing the SEAT Ateca and VW Tiguan as both share the same MQB platform architecture.

As one would expect from SEAT, the new Ateca offers Spanish design flair. The car is derived from the current Leon, a model that is undoubtedly one of the best looking hatchbacks on the road. Delays in this car seeing the light of day mean that the company has been able to study the competition and, hopefully, get the product right from launch. First and foremost, the entry level model undercuts almost everything else on the market, and even the top specification models undercut the likes of the Renault Kadjar and Kia Sportage. Modifications to the proven VW 1.4TSI petrol engine enable two cylinders to shut down when driving at lower speeds although this is undetectable by the driver. The dashboard closely resembled that of the Leon, albeit with some improvements, one of which is an increased infotainment display. In SE trim, the car boasts 17″ alloy wheels, climate control air conditioning, rear parking sensors, cruise control and a driver profile select system. Whilst sharing the same wheelbase as the Leon, the Ateca is taller, wider and longer than its sibling, meaning there is more space all round for  passengers and 510 litres of luggage capacity with the rear seats in place.

The VW Tiguan has been around for several years and the previous model underwent a midlife face lift. The new model more closely resembles the family image and has sharper styling, better performance and efficiency than its predecessor. As with the Ateca, it sits on the ubiquitous MQB platform so offering similar accommodation to its cousin. Overall, the car is longer and this translates into boot capacity of 615 litres with the seats in place. In SE trim, expect to find 18″ alloys, an 8″ infotainment display, DAB, Bluetooth, climate and cruise control. The dashboard is typical of cars from VW, being exceptionally well assembled using soft plastics and ergonomically designed. It shares a broad range of petrol and diesel engines with its stablemates but compared with rivals is on the pricey side and lacks the special design flair making it appear rather anonymous.

There is a considerable price differential between the SEAT Ateca and VW Tiguan. In almost identical SE trim level, the Ateca costs around £21015 (€25300) whilst the Tiguan commands £25260 (€30320). Neither model comes with satnav as standard so expect to pay £525 (€640) and £725 (€880) respectively for that convenience. Whilst VW are always more expensive, reflecting their image and refinery, an additional £4200 is a lot to pay for what is essentially increased luggage capacity. The Ateca has been priced to sell, and with its more aggressive styling, is the preferred choice … that is until the all-new Škoda Yeti arrives in 2018. The battle may then begin!,

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Britain In Reverse

After candidates were reduced to two contenders in the Conservative Party leadership race, the underdog Andrea Leadsom suddenly pulls out, leaving just one person to inherit the reins and become Prime Minister by default.

It was generally assumed that no successor to Prime Minister David Cameron would be in place before September 2016 at the earliest but now everything has changed and Theresa May has moved into 10 Downing Street as the country’s second female premier. It is far too early to comment upon what she may or may not achieve in the coming months, but her track record is not encouraging and she comes across in a similar dogmatic fashion to the late Margaret Thatcher. Some people will remember that Thatcher ‘was not for turning’ when it came to policy decisions although she is famous for doing a complete u-turn on the issue of the Community Charge or Poll Tax as it was more readily known. In the same vein, May has already stated that ‘Brexit means Brexit’ so it would appear that she is determined to bring the UK out of the European Union despite having campaigned for the country to remain a member.

There is little doubt that Theresa May is a strong character, and in that respect, may be beneficial to the party that she leads. One cannot help drawing comparisons with Thatcher despite the fact that it’s 26 years since she was toppled from her position. May comes across as very determined, at times fixated, on the issues at hand. She has spent the last six years as Home Secretary with a focus on immigration and the controversial streamlining of the country’s police forces. Now, as unelected leader, she has rejected an early election, despite being extremely vociferous in demanding one when Gordon Brown took over from his predecessor, Tony Blair. The last three weeks since the referendum have been a rollercoaster and the electorate seem more divided than ever so it remains to be seen how accepting they will be of a new Prime Minister who was not only on the losing side in the referendum, but won the job without a contest to validate her ascent.

So what can the country expect from Theresa May? She has promised to build a “better Britain” and to make the UK’s exit from the EU a “success” whatever that means in common parlance. Her leadership bid was based on the need for “strong, proven leadership”, a “positive vision” for the country’s future, and the ability to unite both her party and the country. She has stated that she has a vision of a country that works not for the privileged few, but for everyone, and people are going to be given more control over their lives, thereby building a better Britain. It’s rather ironic, then, that once Brexit is all done and dusted, an important control of one’s life will have been removed … namely the ability to live and work almost anywhere within Europe!

 

The daughter of a priest, May is driven by high moral standards as evidenced by her attacks on police corruption, demanding an inquiry into institutional child abuse, and overruling civil service advice. In her leadership campaign speeches, she implied a moralistic approach to economic policy, outlining plans to curb executive pay and put consumers and workers on corporate boards. Given the reputation of the Tory party to line the pockets of the rich at the expense of the poor in society, this approach remains to be seen. As the well known proverb states, a leopard can’t change its spots.

Irrespective of what she may or may not achieve, it seems highly likely that the UK will be under Tory rule for the next four years under the terms of the Fixed Period governments. With so much uncertainty and doubt following the referendum result, it is inconceivable that the country will make much progress but more likely be in reverse. For all its faults, the EU is forward-thinking, progressive and beneficial to its members, albeit more favourable to some than others, but that is the nature of different economies. The UK has been a strong player within the EU in over 40 years of membership, and so much has been achieved through active participation and dialogue with neighbouring countries. It now faces considerable isolation and an economic battle to try and regain favour in the wider world. This is likely to take many years, way beyond the foreseeable tenure of Therea May. How much she can achieve in the next four years remains to be seen.