Prior Convictions: Life after the SUV


Forgive me if I bring up two brands that - one or two feature models aside - don't usually make large blobs on the PH radar: Peugeot and Kia.

These days they're two ostensibly similar car companies, in that they sell cars in the mainstream, to people in the mainstream, and that they're both working on being perceived as a bit more exciting than that. It's a place they've come to from rather different ends.

Back in the day, when a five-model line up of saloons and hatchbacks and the odd coupe or convertible was the norm, a Peugeot, even a cooking version, was really entertaining to drive. It was desirable.

But Peugeot left that situation behind as it pursued fleet sales in shrinking market segments, and that's why an old 508 is worth less than 30% of its new value after about three years.


So trying to make you want one is a place Peugeot would like to find itself again, hence the introduction of SUVs and the promise, with the new 508, that not only is it good to drive, but that it won't be flogged out at massive discounts to lease companies. We'll see. But that's not why I mention it.

Kia, meanwhile, would like to get to the 'desirable' place for the first time. You'll remember used to be a budget brand: retail buyers, buying cheap, and getting a pretty dull shed with a long warranty. Well. Not only that any more. It has put the hard yards in making cars that are agreeable to drive, making really good decisions, and with cars like the Stinger, and the i30N from its sister company, Hyundai, it is continuing its upwards shift.

But here's why I mention the two companies together. Kia is going to continue to make crossovers, obviously, because it'd be daft not to. But it is also potentially eyeing up a really sleek wagon, alongside a more conventional, blockier estate car. It's a coupe-slash-fastback-slash-shooting-brake (or break, whatevs) or whatever you want to call it, and the concept, at least, looks very cool.


Kia is being quite discreet about it, but I'd like to think that they might actually build it. They sense a time, and it's likely one when emissions regulations get really tough to hit, when an SUV just has too much frontal area to easily hit stringent targets.

Peugeot hasn't quite got the product to show yet, but it certainly has the intent: it wants a sleek-backed variant of the 508, for example. "In the coming five years you'll see business fleets who have ten SUVs available," said Peugeot CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato this week, who perceives that, at such a time, the idea of picking a really classy fastback estate car will be quite the fashionable alternative. "We are trying to invent the after-SUV," he said. He knows it won't be today, or tomorrow, but "maybe five years' time".

Which matters why? It matters because compact SUVs and crossovers are generally grim, and because sleek estates look great, have a lower mass, lower centre of gravity, can have more power for the same emissions and is, therefore, generally more fun to drive. Praise be. That's why Kia and Peugeot aren't the only ones looking forward to a post-SUV time.

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (153) Join the discussion on the forum

  • AC43 15 Jun 2018

    "It matters because compact SUVs and crossovers are generally grim, and because sleek estates look great, have a lower mass, lower centre of gravity, can have more power for the same emissions and are, therefore, generally more fun to drive."

    Amen to that.

  • cmoose 15 Jun 2018

    Doubtful. See no evidence the fashion for SUV is going off the boil.

    Not sure Kia wants to be seen as premium, either. The brands that do well these days offer a clear proposition. Kia is doing well because it offers a clear value proposition. Mercedes, say, is doing well because it offers a clear premium proposition. Brands in the middle like, I dunno, Vauxhall, Renault and indeed Peugeot struggle because they don't offer a single over riding and clear proposition.

    Very difficult to move from one clear proposition - value - to another - premium. You inevitably have to spend a long time giving out mixed messages getting from where you are to where you want to be.

    Gawd knows what should be done with a brand like Peugeot. Their cars have been so mediocre for so long now. brand will need massive investment to transition to electric, but who the hell is going to want to pumps billions into a brand like Peugeot. I suspect lots of middle market brands like Peugeot will disappear as the market moves to electromobility. Cars like the 508 are infinitesimal blips in that process.

  • vz-r_dave 15 Jun 2018

    cmoose said:
    Doubtful. See no evidence the fashion for SUV is going off the boil.

    Not sure Kia wants to be seen as premium, either. The brands that do well these days offer a clear proposition. Kia is doing well because it offers a clear value proposition. Mercedes, say, is doing well because it offers a clear premium proposition. Brands in the middle like, I dunno, Vauxhall, Renault and indeed Peugeot struggle because they don't offer a single over riding and clear proposition.

    Very difficult to move from one clear proposition - value - to another - premium. You inevitably have to spend a long time giving out mixed messages getting from where you are to where you want to be.

    Gawd knows what should be done with a brand like Peugeot. Their cars have been so mediocre for so long now. brand will need massive investment to transition to electric, but who the hell is going to want to pumps billions into a brand like Peugeot. I suspect lots of middle market brands like Peugeot will disappear as the market moves to electromobility. Cars like the 508 are infinitesimal blips in that process.
    Appreciate the Cadenza and K900 are not being sold in the UK but I would say these signal Kia's intent at tackling the premium market. As to how Kia are competing with the premium brands, its as simple as spec vs price point and of course the fantastic after sales services such as warranty.

  • Demonix 15 Jun 2018

    SUV's are seen as the safe solid option for the family, my nippers school drop off is populated by Mums in NIssan Qashqai's, Seat Ateca's , VW
    Tiguan's / Skoda Yeti's mostly then the well heeled rock up in Disco's, Evoque, RR Sport or the odd X5, Q5, Macan or Cayenne.

    The imperious driving position and the illusion of extra solidity and safety is obviously what sells these vehicles as driving dynamics and economy clearly aren't there strength.

    I have a young family and had to get a practical Dad motor , sleeker, faster better looking german estate was the only option for me, An SUV is motoring death IMO.

    The marketing is strong for the SUV sector and estates are out of fashion, which hopefully means the used estate market should have decent pickings when I come to replace the current wagon so there is an upside!


  • cmoose 15 Jun 2018

    vz-r_dave said:
    As to how Kia are competing with the premium brands, its as simple as spec vs price point and of course the fantastic after sales services such as warranty.
    Which sounds to me like a clear value proposition rather than a premium proposition.

    This can get a bit circular. But if Kia is a premium brand, it will charge premium prices. Moving into new segments and offering cars that undercut established players is sticking with the value proposition. When Kia starts selling cars for the same prices as Mercedes in the same segments, then it will be offering a premium proposition.

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