• What's the Difference Between an SUV, MPV, Crossover and 4x4?

What's the Difference Between an SUV, MPV, Crossover and 4x4?

We explain how these vehicles differ and which you should choose

As the demands on our lifestyles grow bigger, so too do the cars we use every day. When it comes to taxiing the kids, accommodating our shopping, commuting and fitting in the cargo we need for trips away and hobbies, large vehicles step up to the plate as versatile all-rounders. Even back in 2018 it was reported that SUVs, for example, accounted for a third of UK car traffic - and this can only have increased in the 4 years since. 

When you’re in the market for a large vehicle that can meet all your criteria, you’re presented with a wealth of choice, and there are lots of differing acronyms that can confuse things! So what’s the difference between an SUV, MPV, Crossover and 4x4? Here we explain how to tell them apart - and help you choose which one you’d be best suited to… 

What is an SUV? 

In literal terms, SUV stands for Sports Utility Vehicle, but this in itself doesn’t cut through much of the mystery. In a practical sense, SUVs are large vehicles with a high driving position, spacious interior and with plenty of cargo space on board. 

SUVs were initially designed to fit outdoor lifestyles, so that equipment such as golf clubs and bikes could be stowed with relative ease. However, they’ve found a much broader appeal in recent years to larger families who need both the space that they provide, as well as the fuel economy and nippiness that manufacturers have worked hard to include. Many SUVs are now available with fully electric or hybrid engines, futureproofing them for families in the years to come.   

Key features of an SUV: 

  • Vehicles that sit high on the road, with extra ground clearance 
  • Large boot capacities
  • Rugged styling
  • Can include 4-wheel drive 

Examples of an SUV:

  • Kia Sportage
  • Mercedes GLA
  • Nissan Qashqai
  • Volkswagen Touareg

What is an MPV?

If you need to carry more passengers than you can in the average hatchback or SUV, or you’re just seeking extra space for those on board, you may be looking at what were historically referred to as ‘people carriers’, or MPVs: Multi-Person Vehicles. The job of an MPV is to maximise the amount of space a car can have, to push its boundaries and to offer a travel option below that of a bulky minibus. 

The main feature of an MPV is the fact they’re home to more than 5 seats; anywhere between 7 and 9 is fairly standard, with 9 being the limit of a domestic driving license. In these instances, the seats appear in extra rows with various configurations. For example, a car with 7 seats may have two in the front, three in the middle, and 2 in the final row. You may find that these rear seats fold down, to give you the option of a bigger boot space if only 5 people or less are travelling in the car. 

Key features of an MPV:

  • Multiple seats 
  • Large boots with the rear seats folded
  • Taller, boxy bodies to maximise space
  • Comfortable interiors

Examples of an MPV 

  • Citroën Berlingo 
  • Citroën Grand C4 Spacetourer
  • Ford Galaxy
  • Ford Tourneo Custom

What is a crossover? 

Whilst you’d be forgiven for getting your crossovers and your SUVs mixed up, as they’re very similar indeed, a crossover is designed to blur the lines between SUVs and hatchbacks. Crossover vehicles tend to be smaller, with dimensions that remain comfortable for those used to driving runarounds, but with a sense of spaciousness inside that comes in very handy in your busy life. 

What separates a crossover and an SUV is a lighter body type; SUVs are manufactured on truck chassis, whereas a crossover shares its platform with cars. A crossover will often be referred to as a ‘compact’ or ‘small’ SUV - keep an eye out for these terms, as they generally mean that you get some of the capacity benefits of an SUV, with the handling of a smaller car.  

Key features: 

  • Standard 2-wheel drive
  • Higher driving height 
  • Four doors and a rear hatch 
  • Lighter chassis

Examples of a crossover

  • Ford Puma
  • Kia XCeed
  • Nissan Juke
  • Vauxhall Mokka 

What is a 4x4? 

Regularly off-roading? A car that operates from all four wheels, as opposed to just the front or rear two, is exactly what you need for maximum power and grip. This means that power is sent to all four wheels, allowing it to grip the road better when accelerating, and on slippery surfaces, and give it greater capability when towing another vehicle or trailer. If it’s often wet, muddy or even snowy where you live, a 4x4 might be your best bet. 

A 4x4 isn’t as easily identifiable as an SUV, MPV or crossover, as this type of car is so called because of its drive type. Many SUVs, for example, can include four-wheel drive capability, so it’s something to look out for on any large car. 

Key features of a 4x4 

  • Good suspension 
  • High ground clearance 
  • Manual or automatic four-wheel drive
  • Lighter build so it’s not weighed down in soft ground

Examples of a 4x4

  • Dacia Duster
  • Land Rover Discovery Sport
  • Suzuki Jimny
  • Toyota Land Cruiser

What do I choose, an SUV, MPV, crossover or 4x4 vehicle? 

The versatility of larger vehicles these days means that they can adapt to most lifestyles, but as we’ve discussed, there are certain features of each one that might just seal the deal. 

For example, if you’re a small family that do a big weekly food shop and take the dog out at the weekend, an SUV or crossover vehicle might be for you, but if there’s more of you to squeeze in, you may feel more at home in an MPV. For those regularly tackling rougher terrain, life will be made a lot easier in a 4x4. Choose carefully, and your daily driver will slot seamlessly into your life!   

SUVs and MPVs for hire at Rent Direct 

At Rent Direct, we’re proud to temporarily tick your transport boxes with a range of hire vehicles available from our East Anglia locations, and the fleet includes a range of SUVs and MPVs. 

From SUV models such as the Kia Sportage and Kia Sorento that provide that bit of extra space, to MPVs well suited to getting more passengers than usual from A to B, we’ve got a selection of hire vehicles to choose from. 

Explore all your car rental options from Rent Direct in East Anglia here