If you want to know where the most competitive segment in South Africa’s new car market is, that would be around R320 000.
The country’s most significant vehicle financing institution, Wesbank, occasionally shares data with the market. Their average new car pricing data collates to sit at a rounded R320 000.
Run with the logic and R320 000 should be the intersection point between aspiration and reality for most new car buyers.
If we look at data that splits the South African market into price segments, the R310- to R360 000 is where most local demand should theoretically congeal. And in that price bandwidth, SUVs are now nearly a third of the total volume.
Last year, nearly a third of South Africans buying around Wesbank’s R320 000 magic number chose SUVs. That is significant because more SUVs mean fewer hatchbacks and sedans.
When you're in the market to buy an SUV, what is your price bracket and what do you look for in a compact crossover or SUV? Email us.
2020 Ford EcoSport. Image: Wheels24 / Charlen Raymond
In the traditional South African passenger car segmentation, at R320 000, 27% of the vehicles being delivered to customers, are now SUVs or crossovers.
If raised ride height models now account for nearly a third of South African new-vehicle sales, in the critical R310- to R360 000 segment, what does that mean for future planning and customer choice?
As the SUV and crossover trends continue at or around R300 000, product planners for virtually all South Africa’s volume brands are looking to supply fewer of the traditional sedan and hatchback vehicle types. The consequence of this is that if you prefer a vanilla hatch or sedan, you might have a lot less choice in future, as those model ranges are trimmed in terms of derivatives.
2020 Hyundai Creta. Image: QuickPic
SUVs and crossovers can go more places
What is driving the demand for SUVs and crossovers in South Africa’s traditional family car affordability price bracket? There are some very interesting environmental and customer-centric influences at play.
The first issue is, undoubtedly, South Africa’s road network. Once you are off a tolled-road in most regions outside of the Western Cape, the risk of wheel and tyre damage due to poorly maintained road infrastructure is high.
Compact SUVs and crossovers roll slightly higher volume tyres, which have marginally more suspension travel, to absorb impacts, than an equivalent hatchback or sedan. That means they are more likely to survive a pothole impact without suffering a flat tyre or incurring wheel damage.
On the upside, South Africa also has a treasured gravel road network, which offers incredible destinations. For those who wish to explore some of the country’s hidden gems by vehicle, a compact SUV or crossover offers better gravel road driving dynamics than a hatchback or sedan.
2020 Renault Duster. Image: QuickPic
And they are easier to get in and out of
Beyond these environmental issues, there is a body-functional reality which is also transitioning South Africans from hatchbacks and sedans into more compact SUVs and crossovers.
As local motorists consider their retirement car, the obvious choice was always an easy-to-drive hatchback or small sedan. What could be happening in South Africa, and has been the case in America with larger SUVs, is that older drivers prefer the accessibility and seating position in a compact SUV and crossover.
Older drivers can suffer flexibility issues that make getting in and out of a lower seat position vehicle annoying. Most of the new-generation SUVs and crossovers competing in the very contested R310 to R360 000 segment offer a higher seat position, which makes it much easier for elderly drivers to slide onto, instead of sit-down into.
2020 Haval H2. Image: Haval SA