SUV vs Compact SUV vs Mini SUV – Important Differences You Need To Know

A Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) is a body type of car that has the features of an off-road vehicle as well as that of a passenger car. SUVs come in different shapes and sizes these days and are classified into full-size SUVs, mid-size SUVs, compact SUVs, mini and crossover SUVs.

suv cars

In India, SUVs are all the rage now. But how do you differentiate one type of SUV from another? Auto enthusiasts may spot a crossover apart from a traditional SUV. It is not so easy for laypeople.

In this article, we have compared the Full-size, Compact and Mini SUVs.

Full-Size SUVs Compact SUVs Mini SUVs
  • Ford Endeavour
  • Toyota Fortuner
  • Mahindra Alturas
  • Force Gurkha
  • Mahindra Thar
  • Volkswagen Taigun
  • Skoda Kushaq
  • Hyundai Creta
  • Kia Seltos
  • MG Astor
  • Tata Nexon
  • Maruti Suzuki Brezza
  • Mahindra XUV300
  • Toyota Urban Cruiser
  • Kia Sonet
  • Hyundai Venue

Full-Size SUVs

ford endeavour

For a great off-road experience, a traditional full-size SUV is the best choice. These used to be built body-on-frame platforms that perform better on rough, uneven terrains.

These vehicles come in bigger sizes than the others with 6 or 7 seats. They have all-wheel drive along with FWD or RWD. Larger wheelbases, higher ground clearance, specialised suspension and differential locks equip these full-sized vehicles to handle difficult roads.

These are the most premium class of SUVs and offer a full set of features of tech, comfort and safety.


Force Gurkha and Mahindra Thar are some popular lifestyle SUVs that are built to rule all-terrain. These are also included in the full-sized SUV range.

However, these are more hardcore in their performances and lack in advanced features to keep the prices affordable.

Compact SUVs

Kia Seltos 2022

Compact SUVs are those who like to go off on adventures in style. The Seltos, Creta and Taigun are great examples of compact SUVs in India. Compacts usually come loaded with advanced tech and other creature comforts.

Mini SUVs or Sub-compact SUVs (sub-4-metre SUVs)

hyundai Venue

These are smaller than the compact SUVs; hence the name – sub-compact SUVs. The ones that fall in the line below the sub-compact SUVs (or the Mini SUVs) are the micro SUVs.

The Mini SUVs come with a large enough cabin, decent ground clearance and top-end engines. Cool features help the passengers travel in comfort on milder off-roads and on shorter trips. Safety features in recent sub-compact SUVs are some of the best on offer among the cars in the Indian market.

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SUV vs. Compact SUV vs. Mini SUV

A full-size SUV, compact SUV and mini SUV are different on various factors that include size of the vehicle, seating, ground clearance, mileage, etc. Let us look at how they differ and which one you should choose for yourself.

  1. Size

In the body, the main and major differences between these 3 types of SUVs are in their sizes. Full-sized SUVs are the largest of them while the compact SUVs fall in line next and the minis below the compacts.

The length of a sub-compact SUV is below 4 m and is also referred to as sub-4-metre SUV. Ford EcoSport was the first model in this segment to be introduced in India.

Full-sized SUVs come with 6-7 seats while the Compact SUVs and mini SUVs have 5 seats generally.

  1. Drivetrain

Most full-sized SUVs offer 4×4 for better off-roading. But in the case of compact SUVs, it depends on the manufacturer and the model. Compacts usually come with FWD with the option of AWDs.

On the other hand, the sub-compact SUVs are built mostly for the regular roads with better handling for rough roads. So they don’t always come with a 4×4 but they definitely are popular even with just FWD or RWD.

  1. Ground Clearance

Ground clearance of a vehicle is the amount of space between the lowest part of a vehicle’s frame and the ground. Like the other measurements, the ground clearance is the highest for the full-size SUVs. They also have larger wheelbases than the other segments.

Let’s look at the ground clearance of some popular models in all 3 segments.

Full-Size SUVs Ground Clearance Compact SUVs Ground Clearance Sub-compact SUVs Ground Clearance
Toyota Fortuner 221 mm Skoda Kushaq 188 mm Tata Nexon 209 mm
Ford Endeavor 225 mm Hyundai Creta 190 mm Kia Sonet 205 mm
Mahindra Alturas 224 mm Kia Seltos 190 mm Toyota Urban Cruiser 198 mm
Mahindra Thar 226 mm MG Astor 190 mm Hyundai Venue 195 mm
  1. Fuel Efficiency

Full-size SUVs are bigger, heavier, have more moving components and hence, consume more fuel. So, mileage is better in the smaller compact SUVs and the sub-compact SUVs.

However, this is not the rule. The high-end variants of compact and sub-compact SUVs at times may give lesser mileage than the full-size SUVs. So before you choose a particular body type, it might be sensible to check the claimed ARAI mileage first.

Here’s a table of models from all 3 segments and their mileage.

Full-Size SUVs Mileage Compact SUVs Mileage Sub-compact SUVs Mileage
Toyota Fortuner 10 – 14 kmpl Skoda Kushaq 16 – 19 kmpl Tata Nexon 16.35 – 22.07 kmpl
Ford Endeavor 12.9 kmpl Hyundai Creta 17 – 21 kmpl Kia Sonet 18 – 24 kmpl
Mahindra Alturas 12 kmpl Kia Seltos 16 – 21 kmpl Toyota Urban Cruiser 17.03 kmpl – 18.76 kmpl
Mahindra Thar 9 – 11 kmpl MG Astor 9.47 – 14 kmpl Hyundai Venue 17 – 23 kmpl
  1. Ride Quality and Handling

Compact SUVs have become one of the best-selling segments in India. Since compacts are lengthwise similar to hatchbacks, the seating position is also higher. We have already established that SUVs are more spacious than cars from any other segment.

City roads and highways are a cakewalk for SUVs as they can be driven easily and have excellent handling. Especially, the steering wheels are a lot smoother in compact SUVs than those in full-size SUVs.

Compact SUVs also have a lower centre of gravity that makes it easier to corner the vehicle and reduces the chance of rolling. The same can be said for the sub-compact SUVs also.

But the full-size SUVs, due to their size, make it difficult to manoeuvre in narrow and crowded roads. Steering requires a heavy hand as the vehicle’s size requires it. It also makes parking and cornering harder than the other cars.

However, full-sized SUVs provide greater stability at high speeds. The seats are higher from the ground than in a compact or sub-compact SUV.

6. Cost

Bigger cars mean bigger price tags. The difference in the cost is high enough to make people choose compact and sub-compact SUVs over a full-sized SUVs. This is one major reason for the higher sales numbers of these cars.


Choosing a segment while you are buying a car solely depends on your needs, personal choice and budget. So if you want a dependable and spacious but affordable car, then a sub-compact or compact SUV will be the right choice.

But if you are more into adventurous rides and have an affinity for the rough terrain, the full-sized SUVs will come in handy. These SUVs are also for people who need a 6 or 7-seater for regular use. They will be worth the extra dip in your budget.

Also Read:

5 Best SUVs with Biggest Boot Space in India; Spacious Cargo Volume SUVs in India

Best Off-Road SUVs To Buy in 2022; Make Off-Roading Adventurous With These SUVs

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