Recently, Mazda released the brand new Mazda CX-30! From what I can tell the vehicle is awesome. I have been a fan of Mazda for a while, and I think they make great vehicles (RX-7, RX-8, Miata, etc), however one main thing is that the CX-30 is essentially a lifted Mazda 3 with plastic trim, and a few other cosmetic differences. So that begs the question: “Why do SUVs have plastic trim?”
We see so often manufacturers making cars that have a bit of ground clearance, and have added plastic cladding being considered a crossover (which is an SUV on a car platform).
Why the plastic trim?
So let’s dig into why exactly manufacturers add plastic cladding to their vehicles, to make them feel like an SUV. These are mostly all my opinion, so take them with a grain of salt.
1. SUVs are selling right now
Sedans are slowly tapering off as we move forward, and will probably continue to do so until we only have coupes, SUVs and trucks. The issue is, is that sedans are cheaper to make than trucks.
So companies are trying to find a good way to make a cheap car that appeals to the SUV crowd. Thus we have the plastic cladding.
Now that crossover’s have been becoming a bigger and bigger part of the market, they have become profitable, as they are able to follow the sedan chassis, and be able to build a larger more expensive vehicles.
This includes Mitsubishi, who is trying their hardest to stay afloat.
2. It makes the vehicle feel more off-road ready
The other type of vehicle that is super popular right now is the off-road vehicles! You can take a look at the Ford F150 Raptor, the new Bronco, and so many more as examples for this popular segment.
Because of this popularity, companies are wanting their vehicles to portray that off-road feel by giving even the non-off-road vehicles that feel.
One thing that a lot of these actual off-road vehicles have are flared, plastic fenders. So with that, companies start to produce their normal cars with plastic cladding to give it that same look, and feel.
3. Designing a car with plastic is cheaper
Making the design of a car is difficult, and expensive. However being able to design a car with plastic on the bottom means manufacturers can save a ton of money in development costs by using this material.
For every crease in a vehicles metal, it means they have to find a way to make that crease at scale and for as little cost as possible.
While you have to do the same thing with plastic, it is considerably easier.
This means you car can have a greater design element to it, because they don’t have to worry as much about bending steel to fit the vehicle.
4. Plastic is cheap to replace
One of the big complaints when the latest F-150 came out was that it’s body was made of aluminum, meaning if it was damaged it becomes much more expensive to replace. While it wasn’t as big of a deal than people thought it would be, it highlights the ease of replacing plastic.
When you damage a plastic panel on a vehicle, it is so much cheaper and easier to replace than the steel (or aluminum) panel alternative.
Even urban issues like shopping carts, or getting keyed becomes less expensive when you just have to replace a plastic panel.
Side Note: Did you know that Saturn (now no longer in business) utilized a full plastic body vehicle in many of their vehicles? Their thought was that they could change the body panels easily, and they were less dent resistant. While I don’t think this was the company’s downfall, it is an interesting though. Both the VUE and the ION used this system, and you didn’t know the difference did you?
What is the difference between a car and a crossover?
Crossovers started way back with vehicles like the Aztek, with plastic cladding and all. However, here we are today where it feels like a new one comes out every day.
So what is the difference, what makes one a crossover, and the other a sedan? It’s pretty simple, and comes down to two things.
- Crossovers tend to have a bit more ground clearance than their car counterparts. This is why you see so many “crossovers” that looks strangely like a sedan. It’s because they are the same vehicle, let’s be honest.
- In a CUV, you will find you sit up a little straighter and higher up, rather than sitting lower in the vehicle and sitting back like in a normal sedan car.
These two things make you feel reminiscent of sitting in a larger vehicle than it is, and might even make you feel like it is a true SUV.
However most crossovers today tend to ride smoother than an SUV due to their sedan suspension which is independent, instead of SUVs, where they have a solid axle in the back.
Examples of crossovers, that probably should have been classified as cars, if they didn’t have plastic cladding
With such a loose definition of what difference between a crossover and a car is, there are so many examples of these cars.
These cars (crossovers, CUVs, or whatever) are not bad cars by any means, but honestly, they are cars, not an SUV.
The Kia Soul
The Kia Soul is my first on the list, as it really doesn’t have much explaining as to why it is a crossover. If anything it is a funky looking normal car/hatchback.
That said, it is one of the last funky cars that used to compete with vehicles like the Scion XB and the Chevy HHR which brought that boxy design.
This one should be pretty obvious from just looking at it. This is just a car with gray plastic cladding around the wheel wells. From what I can tell, it’s a great vehicle though, and worth looking at if you are in the car market.
The Crosstrek is quite literally a lifted Impreza, outside of that are just a few design elements that were tweaked to make it look more like an off-road vehicle, but let’s be honest, its still an Impreza.
Not that that is a bad thing, since the Impreza is an awesome car. Just still not quite sure it should be considered an SUV.
The new Mazda CX-30 was recently released, and it is an awesome car. However, much like the Crosstrek above, it is just a lifted version of one of their other cars. In this case, the CX-30 is just a lifted Mazda 3 with a few different aesthetic changes.
This car may look a lot like an SUV, but if you have ever stood next to one, or ridden in it, you will realize… there isn’t much pointing towards the fact that it is an SUV.
Mini Cooper Countryman
I’ll bet you didn’t even know Mini Cooper made an SUV huh? Well, sure enough they do! The Countryman is a larger Mini Cooper… it’s hard to say that as it seems like a paradox, but hey, it’s a brave new car world out there.
My car has plastic, how can I protect the finish?
So your car has plastic cladding on it? Well, did you know that you also need to take care of that plastic? Below are some great options to bring that like-new finish to the plastic panels on your vehicle.
Turtle Wax Premium Grade Trim Restorer
This 10 ounce trim restorer is made by one of my favorite cleaning companies. Turtle wax makes a bunch of great vehicle, and home products that all work great.
The Turtle Wax Trim Restorer is inexpensive, easy to use, and is made by a reputable name in the auto industry.
This trim restorer is a bit different than most, where it even includes a dye to bring your trim back to a true black.
I would recommend that you bring your vehicle to a professional or just do a lot of research and practice before using this on your vehicle.
Meguiar’s Ultimate Black Plastic Restorer
Meguiar’s is a household name, that is if your household is full of car detailers I guess… but anyways, they make some of the best products on the market.
This 12 ounce black plastic restorer is easy to use, and pretty much anyone can utilize it on their vehicle… if it has black plastic that is.
From what we have learned in this article is that the plastic cladding on your vehicle is both usable because it doesn’t get damaged, and is easy to replace if it is. It also is meant to make your vehicle feel more like an SUV. And there are some easy and cheap ways to keep it looking great.
So I guess in the end, it isn’t as terrible as most people seem to make it be, but still, it’s an interesting thought.