Intermediate SUV vs. Standard SUV: What’s the Difference?

Even though both intermediate and standard SUVs exist under the umbrella term of “sport’s utility vehicle,” they’re quite different. In fact, these two types have different capabilities, spending habits, safety aspects, etc. To make sure you’re completely happy with the vehicle you’re about to rent or purchase, you’ll need to learn to distinguish between the two.

In this article, you’ll learn about the similarities and differences between standard and intermediate SUVs. Additionally, I’ll tell you which one you should opt for, depending on your preferences. First of all, let’s talk about the basics of each model of SUV (midsize and standard), and what makes them unique.

Difference between intermediate and standard SUVs.

What Is an Intermediate SUV?

Intermediate SUVs are slightly smaller than full-size (standard) ones. Thus, they’re called midsize SUVs but are quite different from their larger counterparts. However, they do come with some added benefits such as cost-efficiency and safety. They’re also a favorite of many SUV drivers because they provide better handling and easier driveability than most full-size models.

Midsize SUVs are also quite durable and have a lot of legroom, so they’re perfect for larger families. Moreover, most manufacturers try to match the amount of space to that of full-sized SUVs for maximum comfort.

Additionally, because of their huge size and proportional weight, they’re often more fuel-efficient than smaller vehicles. Midsize SUVs also come with better gas mileage ratings than other, heavier models. With increasing gas prices and concern for the environment, this feature is a major bonus for most drivers.

Examples of intermediate SUVs: Ford Escape, Nissan Rogue, Jeep Compass, Subaru Outback, Kia Sportage, Toyota RAV4, etc.

What Is a Standard SUV?

In the automotive language, the term “standard” often has something to do with your car’s transmission system. However, it can also be used to differentiate between midsize and full-size SUVs.

Standard SUVs are quite powerful and are capable of handling a variety of terrains and difficult driving conditions. They’re capable of towing most other cars and pulling the weight of large trailers. So, standard SUVs are perfect for those who enjoy traveling or need to transport many people at once. Additionally, they’re quite spacious and can seat and carry quite a few passengers and all their luggage, and rank quite highly in terms of crash safety.

Even though they’re safer during crashes and collisions, they’re usually more dangerous during rolling accidents. The increased potential for harm comes from the size of standard SUVs and their abilitiy to develop high speeds. So, you’ll need to take some extra precautions when you take a standard SUV out for a drive. However, the power and pull you get with standard SUVs can’t be compared to any other type.

If you need a vehicle with more legroom, storage, and seating space — a standard SUV might be the way to go. However, they can be a bit more dangerous, so you might consider purchasing an intermediate SUV if you’re a novice driver.

Examples of standard SUVs: Ford Edge, Dodge Journey, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Kia Sorento, Toyota Highlander, etc.

Intermediate vs. Standard SUV: Comparison

Despite differing in size and style, standard and midsize SUVs have different key features, advantages, and disadvantages. Each vehicle is great, however, one can be better for you — depending on your preferences and style. So, let’s get into the good, the bad and the ugly of intermediate and standard SUVs.

Drivability, Handling and Towing

Mid-size SUVs provide better handling and drivability to ensure a safer and more stable ride overall. They combine speed, power, and durability, and are a prime example of a vehicle anyone can drive with ease.

However, they can’t rival the towing capabilities of a standard SUV. What I’m getting at is that standard SUVs are easier to drive — but can’t truly match the performance of standard ones.


Standard-size SUVs are bigger than midsize ones, and this is reflected in all aspects of the car. For example, they’ll have different seating and storage capacities, types of interior, and safety levels. Next, let’s talk more about the sizing of each space and see which model you should choose and why.

Cargo Space

Cargo space could be a huge source of problems for many families. While small crossovers are often advertised as having ample cargo space — sometimes it’s still too small. On the other hand, standard SUVs, although they have a generous amount of space, might be too big for some families. So, more often than not, midsize SUVs are the best option for smaller families that need some extra space for their new family members.

Passenger Room

When you’re choosing between a midsize and standard size SUV, you’ll need to opt for one with either 2 or 3 rows of seats. Most SUVs only offer 2-row seating, but you can find plenty of midsize models that offer 3 rows.

Many families can live with 2 rows, but you should consider your potential to outgrow your car when purchasing it. On the other hand, if you purchase a 3-row one, you can give your family more room to grow.

Luggage Capacity

Luggage capacity is difficult to define, as it can vary from model to model, regardless of the category of the SUV. Also, there isn’t always a noticeable difference in the luggage capacity between standard and midsize SUVs.

If you’re traveling with many people and need to rent an SUV — a standard one might be your best bet. However, you could also easily find a midsize one that fits your needs perfectly.


So, as I already mentioned, standard SUVs typically perform better in crash safety tests but pose a greater risk in rolling accidents. So, if you prioritize safety and aren’t sure if you can handle a car as big as a standard SUV — go with a midsize model instead.

Fuel Efficiency

Because intermediate SUVs are smaller than standard ones, they’re much more fuel-efficient. However, that mostly applies to your typical everyday driver that doesn’t do a lot of towing or off-road driving.

Moreover, because standard SUVs are made for off-road driving and towing, they come with a more powerful engine. Thus, they’ll be more efficient and use less gas per mile than mid-size SUVs.

Cost Efficiency

When it comes to saving money, the benefit of a midsize SUV are pretty clear. Most smaller SUVs cost up to several thousand dollars less than standard ones. Also, you’ll be able to save money on gas, especially in the long run. So, if you can manage to pack up your family into a smaller model — midsize SUVs are the way to go.

You may also like: What Types of Cars Are Out There

Final Thoughts

Intermediate SUVs come with less space, but they’re still quite roomy. Additionally, they are more fuel-efficient and easier to drive. They’re the perfect choice for all of those who are on a budget but still want a great, reliable vehicle. Unfortunately, they don’t have the towing capabilities of a standard size SUV.

Standard SUVs, on the other hand, offer even more room and are better for larger families or people who travel in packs. In all honesty, they’re a bigger investment, both upfront and in the long run. However, they’re great for towing and off-roading and are more powerful than their midsize counterparts. As you can tell, both types of SUVs have their advantages and disadvantages.

Also, choosing the perfect model for you mostly depends on your needs and preferences. If you’re on a budget and don’t need an extreme amount of space — intermediate SUVs could be perfect for you. However, if you can’t go without the extra space that a standard SUV offers, investing in a bigger vehicle might be the way to go.



Scroll to Top