Should you buy an MPV or SUV?

by Hector Tan (
published on 15 February 2016

Should you buy an MPV or SUV?


Do you know know the difference between these two types of vehicles?

You like the idea of getting a car that is more than the usual sedan but don't quite know a multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) from a sport utility vehicle (SUV)?

Here are five things to consider when you go car shopping.

1. Ergonomics

Mr Wesley Susanto, 38, a global accounts manager in the telecommunications industry, was driving an MPV prior to his current sedan car.

He said: “MPVs come in the standard seven-seater configuration. It is more comfortable for both driver and passengers with its higher headroom and legroom space. A key feature of an MPV is its flexibility – the rear seats can be folded down to make room for a larger boot to transport large items such as prams and bicycles. Larger families will appreciate this.”

Depending on the type of SUV you buy, SUVs can be a comfortable ride too.

Full-sized SUVs in seven to eight-seater configurations are equally spacious, but can be pricier than an MPV.


Usually equipped with four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, Mr Susanto shared that SUVs carry a higher horsepower with their larger engines, which ranges from 2.7L to 3.2L. MPVs have lower horsepower output due to their smaller 1.8L to 2L engines.

Mr Tan counts SUVs as the preferred choice for long-distance driving due to its robust frame.

He said: “I usually make road trips with my friends to Malaysia and Thailand. The drive one-way can take between five to eight hours. I feel safer with my SUV as it feels more stable.”

Mr Susanto highlighted that despite their powerful engines, SUVs are not made to be driven at high speeds. He said: “SUVs are made to go off-road and can pull a heavier weight to climb uneven and hilly terrain. But their engines are not meant to sustain fast speeds.”


But with their higher driving position and size, SUVs are not unlike MPVs.

Mr Tan said: “The SUV is akin to a ‘go-anywhere’ vehicle for me. It is more responsive than an MPV.

“I usually bring my family and friends along with me on my road trips that take place about two to three times a month. The SUV is more comfortable,” said Mr Tan.

The MPV, with its lighter frame, can go at faster speeds.

Mr Susanto said: “MPVs are more stable when you are making corners and sharp turns. This makes a dependable daily workhorse when you are driving on well-maintained roads in the city. 

“The SUV is more fun to drive. It can handle uneven and wet roads easily. It higher frame also means there is a lower chance of you hitting the curb when turning. But it is advisable not to make sharp turns in an SUV as the vehicle height is taller.”

4.Fuel efficiency

Many MPVs offer only a two-wheel drive option, but are more lightweight and use up less fuel than SUVs.

Mr Tan said: “A trade-off for an SUV’s more powerful engine and stability is that it consumes more fuel.”

5. Your lifestyle

Mr Alvin Tan, 35, a car enthusiast who has driven a sports car, commercial van, hatch back and currently owns an SUV, said: “I have friends asking me whether an SUV or MPV is more suitable for them. I would say that it depends on the driving experience they are looking for and what their needs are. Both are comfortable and easy to drive.


“SUVs are usually sturdier than MPVs. They are made to be rugged and best for off-road driving. If you need a standard ride to carry out your daily activities like going to work and ferrying your family around, MPVs will do. SUVs are more suitable for the more adventurous and long-distance driver."


All things considered, choosing an SUV or MPV comes down to your budget and preference.

Mr Susanto said: “If you have a bigger budget, get an SUV. It is a more versatile vehicle that is fun to drive. You can use it for your daily activities or going on long-distance drives for the weekend. But if all you need is a reliable workhorse, then get a MPV.”