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The term SUV, or sport-utility vehicle, has become shorthand for many different types of vehicles. Some lean more toward the "sport" side of the name, while others are much more focused on the "utility" aspect of the equation. With that in mind, you shouldn't assume that anything labeled as an SUV is necessarily built for one particular type of activity or another.
The earliest SUVs were basically trucks with covered cargo beds. Although there are still some truck-based SUVs such as the Chevrolet Tahoe and Toyota 4Runner, most modern SUVs are designed primarily for carrying people first and cargo second.
The move away from the truck-based SUV to something oriented more toward passenger comfort resulted in the creation of what we now know as the crossover vehicle. The term "SUV" and "crossover" are often used interchangeably, but crossovers are generally lighter-duty vehicles that are less capable of towing heavy loads or venturing very far off-road.
One of the biggest reasons why SUVs have become so popular is the elevated driving position that gives drivers an unobstructed view of the road ahead. Most SUVs also offer the option of all-wheel drive that helps maintain traction in cold weather. Flexible cargo space is another reason why SUVs are often popular with families. Wide rear hatches and second-row seats that often fold flat also make SUVs capable of carrying large, awkward-sized loads.
And the downsides to SUVs? Poor fuel economy is often the biggest drawback. Most SUVs are large, heavy and not very aerodynamic. This makes them less fuel-efficient than a sedan of similar size. An average SUV also rides higher, so getting in and out can sometimes be more difficult for older passengers.