While some appreciate this category of an automobile for its capabilities and practical spirit, others hate SUVs to death. People criticize SUVs for being too big for the city, too heavy for the road, and for wasting fuel with their all-wheel-drive systems. Other people say that SUVs have a point in this world, but crossovers without all-wheel-drive are unnecessary.
Regardless of those opinions, we decided to take an in-depth look at sport utility vehicles to see just how much “fat” they have accumulated. In other words, we spent a few hours of our day to see what are the lightest SUVs on the European market that are available for purchase today.
We only included the ones that have all-wheel-drive systems, so the models that only drive two of their wheels did not make our list. It did not matter whether the 4×4 system can be deactivated or is permanently activated, as long as it was present as a standard feature for those cars.
To make things easier to view and to comprehend, we split the list into segments. Just like hatchbacks, wagons, and sedans, SUVs are divided into categories, which are determined using their size.
We have divided things into the following segments: sub-compact SUVs, compact models, mid-sized models, full-size vehicles, and we also made a separate category for premium brands. It is important to note that these segments are not identical to those found in the USA, which is why this list is focused on Europe. A list for the U.S. market will follow at a later date.
Subcompact SUV: Suzuki Jimny – 1,136 kg (2,504 lbs)
This segment is the smallest one on the market to have a multitude of models with all-wheel-drive available in their equipment lists. Things were not that hot in this segment a few years ago, but Nissan launched the Juke, which drove the market crazy. From there, almost every brand that mattered had a competitor for it.
In spite of its popularity, the Nissan Juke is not the lightest model in its class with all-wheel-drive. Instead, that position is held by the venerable Suzuki Jimny, which is a small, but dependable off-roader. It can operate in a two-wheel-drive mode, and it also comes with a low-range function on its gearbox.
The Jimny is a capable off-roader, but it does not fare as well on paved roads. If you drive this car through the woods, it will be tremendous fun, but it is not great at being driven fast into corners. Its light weight is essential for tackling terrain, and also helps with fuel economy.
Compact SUV: Mazda CX-5 SkyActiv-G 160 4×4 – 1,450 kg (3,196 lbs)
Mazda had a late entry in the compact class, but its competitors felt its presence. Thanks to the CX-5, the Japanese brand can afford to develop enthusiast models like the MX-5, as well as the much-expected RX-8 successor.
The CX-5 is in the higher part of the compact class in Europe due to its size, but that does not stop the SkyActiv-G 160 version to be the lightest in the field according to the announced technical specifications of this model.
In the case of the CX-5, Mazda does not allow the driver to switch between all-wheel-drive and front-wheel-drive, but the electronically operated system does this from time to time to save fuel. There’s no wrong in that, as long as the system does its job on slippery roads.
Mid-Size SUV: Kia Sorento 2.2 CRDi 4×4 – 1,821 kg (4,014 lbs)
The biggest model in the Kia lineup is the Sorento, and it appears that it is also the lightest SUV in its class. We are writing about a vehicle that is 4.78 meters long, which weighs less than 1.9 tons. Just like its platform sibling, the Hyundai Santa Fe, the Sorento is available in seven-seat versions.
Its closest competitor is the Hyundai Santa Fe, which happens to be its brother. The two models are split by a few tens of kilograms, depending on transmission choice. Evidently, they are evenly matched here, but they stay ahead of the competition in this small part of the market.
In spite of the existence of a larger model with an extended wheelbase, Hyundai still offers seven seats on the regular Santa Fe. Hyundai’s mid-sized SUV shares its engines and transmissions with the Sorento. Depending on the European market you are looking at these two vehicles, you can get them with a 2.2-liter or a 2.0-liter diesel, available with manual and automatic gearbox options.
Full-Size SUV: 2017 Audi Q7 3.0 TDI – 2,070 kg (4,563 lbs)
Europe’s full-size SUV segment is not as popular as its equivalent in the USA, but we still have a few automobiles to choose from on this side of the Atlantic. Premium brands are the only ones in this part of the market, which is understandable if you look at the price of any contender in this segment.
The second generation of the Audi Q7 is among the largest vehicles in this class, but it happens to be the lightest. Audi has invested a significant amount of money in the development of the Q7’ platform, which has led to a reduction in weight. This has improved the Q7’s dynamic abilities and its fuel economy.
The platform is called MLB, and it is shared with multiple models offered by the Volkswagen Group. The base model in the Q7 range comes with a 3.0-liter V6 turbodiesel. You can get a Q7 in both five-seat and seven-seat versions, and all variants have an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
Premium SUV: 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLA 220 4Matic – 1,505 kg (3,317 lbs)
The last category is here to determine what model of the premium segment offers the lowest weight in SUV form, without size restrictions. All it had to do was to have all-wheel-drive and be sold by a premium brand. The fight was close, and the last few kilograms were disputed between Audi, MINI, and Mercedes-Benz.
The battle was won by the Mercedes-Benz GLA, which is the SUV built on the current A-Class’ platform, the MFA. The lightest all-wheel-drive version of the GLA comes with a seven-speed automatic gearbox, and it is mated to an inline-four cylinder gasoline engine.
Mercedes-Benz is already preparing the second generation of the GLA, and it is expected to receive a brother named GLB, which will have a different position on the market while also being a part of the compact segment.