The low down: Are SUVs useful for business?

Automobile manufacturers appear to be blurring the lines between vehicle classes, especially in recent years, creating sedans elevated above the road and SUVs that look to be little more than larger hatchbacks.

Naturally, the question has to be asked: are these crossover style vehicles actually useful, especially for businesses that use them day-to-day?

Below, we'll take a look at SUVs - a class that appears to be gaining significant traction.

Growing in popularity

According to the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), all SUV segments made up a substantial portion of Australian vehicle sales in February this year. Large SUVs, for example, managed 11,330 sales, whereas medium-sized cars only managed 5,539 sales.

Clearly, there is something to be said for the sporty vehicles.

Are they practical?

From the outside, these cars may not appear to be altogether practical: they're smaller than full-size trucks and shorter than many sedans. However, inside they're a different story. On most vehicles there's ample headroom, collapsible back seats and a tall and wide boot.

This makes them the perfect cars for Australian vehicle fleets, as they can transit long distances whilst carrying cargo. What's more, they also use less petrol than larger vehicles - while retaining functionality.

Are they safe?

The second question after practicality is certainly going to be safety when fleet managers are buying these vehicles - and it's a necessary consideration.

According to the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP), these vehicles score highly when it comes to safety. Below, we'll look at a few categories.

Compact SUVs: The Subaru Outback received a five star rating when it was put through the testing process last year, along with the Nissan Qashqai.

Medium SUVs: The Lexus NX rated highly with five stars, along with other noteworthy models including the Nissan X-Trail and Jeep Patriot.

Large SUVs: Looking at the larger segment of vehicles, the Ford Territory, Jeep Cherokee, Toyota Prado and Nissan Pathfinder managed to score highly.

Based on these results alone, it should give fleet managers a fair idea of the safety of these vehicles.

Any noteworthy models?

So, are there any noteworthy models that need to be considered? All of the five-star rated vehicles above are certainly worthy contenders for any vehicle fleet - and there are more available frequently.

The Honda HR-V, for example, is a new crossover SUV that includes useful functionality such as back seats that fold upwards to allow for more floor space, and styling in keeping with sedans and other city cars.

These vehicles would appear to offer the best of both worlds for Australian fleet managers - especially those concerned about fuel running costs.