Six SUV pioneers that blazed the trail for today

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Sports Utility Vehicles, or SUVs. Love them or hate them, they’ve been one of the fastest-growing new car segments for years now.

Covering everything from tiny supermini-based crossovers to the largest luxury off-roaders, this segment has gone from being small-time fare to one of the most popular in the market. In the meantime, they’ve displaced hatchbacks, saloons and estates as the stereotypical family car.

But how exactly did the modern SUV come to be? We’ve leafed through the history books and found six vehicles that – at least in Europe – helped push the crossover into the mainstream.

Matra Rancho

The Matra Rancho may look like a prototype for the original Land Rover Discovery, but it pre-dated the first Disco by over a decade, and it wasn’t nearly as hardcore.

Matra Rancho | The Car Expert
Matra Rancho (PA)

In fact, the Rancho’s make-up reads like the specification of pretty much any modern crossover. Rugged styling, a car-derived platform, greater practicality than its hatchback sibling and an unusual name? All present and correct.

However, the Rancho came out in 1977 – years before SUVs became viable as family transport. It was pretty popular on the continent, but their nature as a work vehicle and the unlovable nature of its quirky styling means not too many survive.

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Ted Welford
Ted Welford
Articles by Ted Welford are provided for The Car Expert by the Press Association. They include test drives of the latest new cars and features on various aspects of automotive life.


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