Ground clearance also called the ride height, is a term used to define the distance between the lowest point on the undersurface of the vehicle and the road. It’s a term that you will come across frequently when you research cars.
Manufacturers give the ground clearance along with the specifications of the car. This is usually measured on an empty vehicle. You can expect it to be lesser than that in real life with people and cargo loaded in the car.
The ground clearance will vary depending on the model. It can be high or low from the ground. To know which type of ground clearance is better in a car, read the article below.
Measuring Ground Clearance of a Vehicle
Park the vehicle on a flat, smooth road. Measure the distance from the lowest point on the underbody of the car to the road. The lowest point is usually the axle’s midpoint.
In 2017, the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) made it official to measure the ground clearance with the vehicle fully loaded and not at the kerb weight of the vehicle.
How is Ground Clearance Important?
Ground clearance plays an important role in maintaining the stability and the handling of a car. Depending on the type of terrain on which the car is built to ride, the ground clearance also varies. SUVs usually come with the highest ground clearance of all cars while race cars have the least.
Obstacles like debris, speed bumps, unpaved roads, etc. are a danger to the underside of your car. Sufficient ground clearance will help you navigate these without damaging the vehicle.
Here are some common road hindrances and their average heights:
- Potholes: 50 mm – 200 mm
- Speed breakers: 100 mm – 150 mm
- Boulders: 40 mm – 450 mm
These heights are not fixed, so an average ground clearance of 170 – 180 mm is necessary for safe travel on Indian roads.
Higher ground clearance also means the seats are set high from the ground level. This makes visibility much clearer. It also means that the centre of gravity of the car is increased. It could cause the vehicle to roll over unless driven carefully.
Race cars are produced with low clearance from the ground so as to have better handling at high speeds. Meanwhile, the SUVs are built with rougher terrains in mind. Hence their greater ground clearance enables the vehicles to steer clear of the debris and also with handling the vehicle.
Ground Clearance of Different Cars
Practically, the more the ground clearance the better it is for the car. You can drive on any road without damaging the underbelly of your car.
Cars from different segments have varying optimum ground clearances to suit their needs in specific. We have an average range of ground clearance for each segment mentioned in the table. These are only approximate values and are not fixed for any particular body type.
|Body Type||Average Ground Clearance|
High Ground Clearance vs Low Ground Clearance
High Ground Clearance
- Higher ground clearance means a practical ride and a good off-roader.
- Cars with higher clearance can carry more cargo than others because of their larger size.
- The Centre of gravity is high for these cars with high clearance. It is the only disadvantage with these builds.
- Hatchbacks and sedans, despite their smaller size, come with 170 – 180 mm ground clearance. Examples include Ford Figo and Ford Aspire.
- SUVs remain the best sellers in the country because of this reason. You can drive them through rough terrains and move on to smoother roads and still drive smoothly.
- They can handle all types of roads with ease.
Popular Indian Cars with High Ground Clearance
|Mahindra Alturas G4||244 mm|
|Isuzu D-Max MU-X||230 mm|
|Mahindra Thar||226 mm|
|Toyota Fortuner||221 mm|
|Mitsubishi Pajero Sport||215 mm|
|Kia Sonet||211 mm|
|Nissan Kicks||210 mm|
|Tata Nexon||209 mm|
|Force Gurkha||205 mm|
|Renault Duster||205 mm|
Low Ground Clearance
- Low ground clearance improves the handling significantly as it decreases the centre of gravity of a car. Better handling means better performance.
- Better handling and performance are essential in cars that participate in races.
- The low build also improves the aerodynamics of the vehicle which in turn increases the speed of the cars.
Popular Indian Cars with Low Ground Clearance
|Hyundai Santro||160 mm|
|Maruti Suzuki Alto||160 mm|
|Maruti Suzuki Eeco||160 mm|
|Maruti Suzuki Wagon R||163 mm|
|Maruti Suzuki Swift||163 mm|
|Volkswagen Vento||163 mm|
|Maruti Suzuki Dzire||163 mm|
|Hyundai Aura||165 mm|
|Hyundai Verna||165 mm|
|Maruti Suzuki Celerio||165 mm|
Adjustable Ride height
- Some brands manufacture cars that find a balance between these 2 categories. They are not as high as the SUVs and not as low as the sports cars.
- They usually come as executive sedans among other body types.
- These vehicles have adjustable ground clearance through air suspension or by controls in the car to fit them to the road they are on.
- The adjustment alters the height of the vehicle, aerodynamics and the handling depending on the ride height chosen by the driver.
So which is good – a car with high ground clearance or one with low ground clearance?
We say choose a car that suits the type of road in your neighbourhood; a car that will suit the roads you regularly travel. Sports Coupes will not suit everyone and not everyone needs an SUV. Some can do better with cars with a moderate amount of clearance like hatchbacks and sedans.