The SUV is in fashion and the electric car seemed ready to consolidate it forever in the market. But fashions are colliding with a wall that, at the moment, is insurmountable: physics. And in this context, it seems that the revolution is simply going back to business as usual. The saloon returns. And it does so with exceptional results.
SUV, the fashionable car. That SUVs are the car of fashion is not simply a feeling that we can have looking at on our streets. In 2021, 12 of the 20 best-selling cars in Europe were SUVs. In fact, it is the only category in which all of its segments grew.
From the smallest, in 2021, 8.7% more small SUVs were purchased than in 2020, to the largest and most luxurious, which grew by 4.6%. Along the way, the midsize SUV grew an impressive 42.6% from a year earlier. To get a better idea, luxury sedans, the second sector that grew the most, did so by 17.7%. And an increase in its total sales (31,516 units in 2021) makes its percentage increase faster than in midsize SUVs (716,355 units last year).
Utilities did get more sales in their size than SUVs, but the difference is very small. 2,083,853 units for the 2,018,791 of the smaller SUVs. In compacts, the best-selling size in Europe, SUVs sold 2,339,415 units. Half a million more than the traditional compact, which remained at 1,805,982 units and fell by 13.3%.
nothing seemed to change. And with the first electric cars… more SUVs arrived. Most of the brands have given everything for everything in their first electric models with SUV bodies. Audi did it with the e-tron, Mercedes with the EQC, BMW with the iX and Hyundai with the Ioniq 5. Others, like Kia, have high hopes for this body, like the upcoming Niro.
And the strategic move made perfect sense. A mixture of public interest and institutional favor. The anti-pollution regulations of the European Union increased the tolerable limits for each brand if they sold a greater number of heavy cars. If they were electric, their registrations counted double the total. The launch of electric SUVs only had advantages for the brands.
But you also have to keep in mind that electric ones are expensive. At the moment, they still do not reach the general public and in the face of a small market niche, it is better to bet on the type of bodywork that is working the most. In other words, with the electric SUV, the commercial risks have been limited and the company’s own anti-pollution margins have been increased.
Until the sedans arrive. With the SUV dominating the market, sedans show what they are capable of. Plain and simple: they are more thrifty. And in a context where refilling the batteries is a time problem, extending a stop by a hundred kilometers is more of a necessity than a luxury.
Their good work is more than proven. It was already with diesel and gasoline, but if before the driver could sacrifice a few tenths of fuel in favor of a body that would be more graceful, it is logical that with the electric car he would think much more.
Recently, Mercedes has managed to travel 1,202 kilometers on a single charge at traffic speed. The Tesla Model 3 is one of the electric vehicles that consumes less. The BMW i4, whose proof you will soon see in Xataka, has surprised us with its restrained expense. Hyundai has also opted for this bodywork in its recently presented Ioniq 6.
Against the wind. That Tesla opted for the simplest and most rounded shapes possible in his cars is no coincidence. Nor that manufacturers are experimenting with the installation of cameras instead of mirrors or that most of the electric ones have handles flush with the bodywork.
And the results are evident. A BMW iX xDrive50 approves 19.9 kWh/100 km. During our tests on the open road, consumption shot up to 25.1 kWh/100 kilometers. Suddenly, autonomy fell below 400 kilometers. An Audi e-tron approves consumption between 24.4 and 27 kWh/100 km. A Mercedes EQC homologates 21.5 kWh/100 km.
An equivalent Tesla Model 3 homologates 16.2 kWh/100 km. Consumption will be higher on the road but, thanks to its shapes, its growth will be much more contained than in the case of an SUV. A BMW i4 eDrive40 approves 16.1 kWh/100 km and an EQS part of 16.6 kWh/100 km. The German luxury sedan only has values similar to the EQC in a version that is almost 150 hp more powerful.
Manufacturers know. Aware of the challenges posed by selling more expensive vehicles as the price is tighter, brands have long been making efforts to lower the SUV and sell vehicles that look like it but, deep down, are not.
The Kia EV6 is a good example, with an SUV-looking body but, deep down, a restrained height. The Stellantis Group is another. Its battery of launches has included some Citroën C5 X and C4 X and a Peugeot 408 that, basically, are sedans with an SUV image. Cupra did the same with the Formentor, of the same height as the León. And Volvo went that route with the C40 Recharge. The Ioniq 6 has been designed for and to save electricity. And Volkswagen already raises its ID. Aero as a substitute for the Passat and the best alternative for long electric car trips.
Back to business as usual. As we said, returning to sedans to save energy can turn the current market around. Batteries are getting smaller and more energy dense, which does not force vehicles to be lifted. But, above all, the key is in the recharge.
At the moment, one of the main drawbacks of the electric car (beyond its price) is its autonomy. But here, a hundred kilometers can make a difference, since most drivers only make a few long-distance trips throughout the year. Here, that hundred kilometers can mean saving a stop in the accumulated. Also that our range of action is multiplied in quick weekend getaways.
And all this is essential to capture an audience that is still reluctant to this new technology. Saving on consumption in the electric car is synonymous with success and, while a recharge does not take the same time as filling the fuel tank, the electric car is reminding us that time is also money. And that, when it comes to investing the latter, the sedan can save us a lot from the former.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism