Compact sport utility vehicle

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Suzuki Escudo/Vitara 4-door (1998-2005) 99-01 Suzuki Grand Vitara.jpg
Suzuki Escudo/Vitara 4-door (1998–2005)

A compact sport utility vehicle or compact SUV is a class of small sport utility vehicles that is larger than mini SUVs, but smaller than mid-size SUVs. However, there is no official definition of the size or dimensions for this market segment. Moreover, some manufacturers have marketed the same model name on different sized vehicles over time. The most common distinction between versions of crossover automobiles and compact-sized SUVs is that the first is based on a car-based unibody platform, while an SUV uses the body-on-frame chassis commonly used on trucks. [1] However, manufacturers and common usage has blurred the two terms. [2] Many recent vehicles labelled as compact SUVs are technically compact crossovers and are built on the platform of a compact/C-segment passenger car.


The modern compact SUV market segment began in 1983. [3] According to a Car and Driver review in 2019, the compact crossover and SUV market segment is popular because the vehicles "are right-sized, right-priced, and blend carlike refinement with a touch of utility." [4]


United States

A two-door Chevrolet S-10 Blazer BABY-Blaze.jpg
A two-door Chevrolet S-10 Blazer
A two-door Ford Bronco II Ford Bronco II.jpg
A two-door Ford Bronco II
Jeep Cherokee (XJ), the first purpose-designed unibody compact SUV with 4-doors Jeep Cherokee 2.5 1988 (15289674633) (cropped).jpg
Jeep Cherokee (XJ), the first purpose-designed unibody compact SUV with 4-doors

Small-sized utility-type vehicles have been available since the advent of the first automobiles. The modern use of the "compact sport utility" category can be traced in the United States marketplace to the 1982-1994 Chevrolet S-10 Blazer and the 1984-1990 Ford Bronco II because they are considered compact-sized SUVs that were built on a compact truck chassis. [5] They were marketed alongside the Chevrolet K5 Blazer and Ford Bronco full-size 4x4 vehicles. The compact two-door 1983 Chevrolet S-10 Blazer featured four-wheel drive with a four-cylinder engine as standard and Ford brought out the similar Bronco II model. [6] Both were body-on-frame designs based on each automaker's small pickup trucks, the Chevrolet S-10 and Ford Ranger respectively. [7] The general dimensions, drive train, and cab details were identical to those of the compact truck with differences in the interior only aft of the doors. [8] Both were station wagon-like vehicles with seating for four adults and an enclosed cargo area with a rear hatchback.

American Motors made the full-sized Jeep Wagoneer (SJ) SUV using a truck chassis, but developed a completely new and slim unibody Jeep Cherokee (XJ) line of two- and four-door compact sport wagons that were marketed starting in late 1983. [9] These were also first compact American four-door sport utility vehicles. [10] [11] While the competing SUVs were adaptations of compact pickup trucks, Jeep did not have one so they designed a SUV first; starting with a four-door version and featuring a very strong, lightweight unibody construction like most passenger cars, as well as with a lightweight "link/coil" suspension design that was praised by the automotive press for its superior ride, performance, and handling. [12] The original Jeep XJ combined a passenger car comfort with a rugged chassis for ease of driving in difficult conditions, and established the modern SUV market segment. [13] Automobile magazine called it a "masterpiece" of automotive design with room for five passengers and their cargo. [14]

According to Bob Lutz, an executive at several car companies, American Motors (AMC) "invented an all-new automotive segment—the compact sport utility vehicle" with the original compact Jeep Cherokee two- and four-door models. [15] The compact Cherokee's design, appearance, and sales popularity spawned imitators as other automakers noticed that the Jeep XJ models began replacing regular cars. [16] Compact SUVs have become an alternative to the minivans for families who need cargo space. [17] While almost unchanged since its introduction, Cherokee XJ production continued through 2005 in China, and was one of the best-selling compact SUVs in the world. [18] There were over 2.8 million Jeep XJs built in the U.S. between 1984 and 2001. [19] According to a 1995 review by the American Automobile Association, AMC's "clever marketing helped create the present demand for compact sport-utility vehicles." [20]


The Japanese 1988 Suzuki Vitara is also considered to be a compact SUV. [21] [22]


In markets such as India, they were originally a sub-segment of Utility Vehicles, but the smaller size versions have grown to become a dominant segment. [23]

Related Research Articles

Jeep Brand of American Cars

Jeep is a brand of American automobile and also a division of FCA US LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Italian-American corporation Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Jeep has been part of Chrysler since 1987, when Chrysler acquired the Jeep brand, along with remaining assets, from its previous owner American Motors Corporation (AMC).

Sport utility vehicle Type of automobile

A sport utility vehicle or SUV is a car classification that combines elements of road-going passenger cars with features from off-road vehicles, such as raised ground clearance and four-wheel drive.

Pickup truck Light-duty truck with an enclosed cab and an open cargo area

A pickup truck or pickup is a light-duty truck having an enclosed cab and an open cargo area with low sides and tailgate. In Australia and New Zealand, both pickups and coupé utilities are called utes, short for utility vehicle. In South Africa, people of all language groups use the term bakkie, a diminutive of bak, Afrikaans for "bowl" or "container".

Luxury vehicle

A luxury vehicle provides increased levels of comfort, equipment, amenities, quality, performance, and status relative to regular cars for an increased price.

Governments and private organizations have developed car classification schemes that are used for various purposes including regulation, description, and categorization of cars.

Ford Explorer Range of SUVs manufactured by Ford Motor Company

The Ford Explorer is a range of SUVs manufactured by Ford Motor Company since the 1991 model year. The first four-door SUV produced by Ford, the Explorer was introduced as a replacement for the two-door Bronco II. Deriving its name from a trim package used on the F-Series pickup trucks, the Explorer is slotted between the Edge CUV and standard-wheelbase Expedition.

The Ford VN platform is the Ford Motor Company code designation for vans designed in North America. The platform architecture was introduced in 1974, when Ford introduced the third generation of the Econoline full-size van. In the 1980s, the nomenclature was used separately for the Ford Aerostar mid-size van, which is mechanically unrelated to the Econoline/Club Wagon/E-Series. Since 2014, the architecture has no longer been used for mass-produced passenger vehicles, with all examples now produced as chassis cabs or bare chassis.

Crossover (automobile)

A crossover, crossover SUV, soft roader, or crossover utility vehicle (CUV) is a type of sport utility vehicle-like vehicle of unibody construction. Crossovers are often based on a platform shared with a passenger car, as opposed of a platform shared with a pickup truck. Compared to truck-based SUVs, they typically have better interior comfort, a more comfortable ride, superior fuel economy, and less expensive to manufacture, but provides less off-road capability.

Ford Excursion Motor vehicle

The Ford Excursion is a heavy duty, full-sized SUV that was produced by Ford. The longest and heaviest SUV ever to enter mass production, the Excursion was marketed as a direct competitor of the 2500-series (¾-ton) Chevrolet Suburban/GMC Yukon XL. Introduced on September 30, 1999 for the 2000 model year, a single generation was produced through the 2005 model year.

Jeep Liberty Compact SUV

The Jeep Liberty, or Jeep Cherokee (KJ/KK) outside North America, is a compact SUV that was produced by Jeep for the model years 2002–2012 for US consumers. Introduced as a replacement for the Cherokee (XJ), the Liberty was priced between the Wrangler and Grand Cherokee. It was the smallest of the 4-door Jeep SUVs until the car based 4-door Compass and Patriot arrived for 2007. Like the XJ Cherokee, the Liberty featured unibody-construction. It was assembled at the Toledo North Assembly Plant in the United States, as well as in other countries including Egypt and Venezuela. The Liberty ceased production on August 16, 2012. The next generation restored the previous nameplate of Jeep Cherokee that was always used outside of North America.

Jeep Wagoneer (SJ) Motor vehicle

The Jeep Wagoneer is a luxury 4x4 sold and produced for Jeep under successive automakers from 1962 to 1991. Marketed as a station wagon, the pioneering design created the luxury 4X4 niche and became known in time as a "sport utility vehicle" (SUV). The 4WD Wagoneer stayed in production for 29 model-years (1963–1991) with almost unchanged body-structure, making it the third longest-produced single generation car in U.S. automotive history.

Ford Bronco II Compact sport utility vehicle manufactured by Ford

The Ford Bronco II is a compact sport utility vehicle (SUV) that was manufactured by the American manufacturer Ford. Closely matching the first-generation Ford Bronco in size, a single generation of the Bronco II was produced from January 1983 to January 1990, for the 1984 to 1990 model years. Derived from the Ford Ranger compact pickup truck, the model line was produced as a three-door wagon, competing against the Chevrolet S-10 Blazer and the Jeep Cherokee.

Ford Bronco American sport-utility vehicle

The Ford Bronco is a model line of SUVs manufactured and marketed by Ford. The first sport-utility vehicle developed by the company, five generations of the Bronco were sold from the 1966 to 1996 model years; a sixth generation of the model line is an upcoming vehicle to be sold for the 2021 model year. The nameplate has been used on other Ford SUVs, including the 1984-1990 Ford Bronco II compact SUV and the Ford Bronco Sport compact CUV.

Body-on-frame Automobile construction method using a separate body on a structural frame

Body-on-frame is an automobile construction method where a separate body is mounted on a relatively rigid vehicle frame or chassis carrying the powertrain. While this was the original method of building automobiles, body-on-frame construction is now used mainly for pickup trucks and SUVs.

Jeep Cherokee (SJ) Motor vehicle

The SJ series Jeep Cherokee is a full-size SUV that was produced from 1974 through 1983 by Jeep. It was based on the Wagoneer that was originally designed by Brooks Stevens in 1963.

Jeep Cherokee (XJ) Motor vehicle

The Jeep Cherokee (XJ) is a compact sport utility vehicle manufactured and marketed across a single generation by Jeep in the United States from 1983 to 2001 — and globally through 2014. Available in three- or five-door, five passenger, front engine, rear- or four-wheel drive configurations, the XJ was manufactured in Toledo, Ohio, USA; Beijing, China; Ferreyra, Argentina; Cairo, Egypt; and in Valencia, Venezuela, with production reaching approximately 3 million between 1983 and 2001.

Vehicle frame Main supporting structure of a motor vehicle

A vehicle frame, also known as its chassis, is the main supporting structure of a motor vehicle to which all other components are attached, comparable to the skeleton of an organism.

<i>Four Wheeler</i>

Four Wheeler is the oldest magazine for 4x4 and off-road truck and SUV enthusiasts. The first issue was published in February 1962, and in 2012, the internationally read magazine celebrated its 50th anniversary. Four Wheeler focuses on new-vehicle evaluations, project vehicles, the technical aspects of building a vehicle, product tests, outdoor equipment and machines, 4x4 shows and competitions, and travel and adventure.

Jeep Cherokee Line of American vehicles sold by Jeep under various vehicle classes

The Jeep Cherokee is a line of SUVs manufactured and marketed by Jeep over five generations. Originally marketed as a variant of the Jeep Wagoneer, the Cherokee has evolved from a full-size SUV to one of the first compact SUVs and into its current generation as a crossover SUV. Named after the Cherokee tribe of North American Indians, Jeep has used the nameplate in some capacity since 1974.


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