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Faux-wheel-drives win buyers

With new SUVs, it's a case of four wheels good, but two wheels good enough.

They cost less, weigh less, drink less and are more popular — and more such models are on their way to showrooms for buyers who want to look adventurous but have no intention of going off-road.

Sales of two-wheel-drive sports utility vehicles such as Ford's Territory (which started the trend locally) and the Korean-made Hyundai Tucson exceed their 4WD equivalents.

Toyota will introduce a 2WD version of its Kluger wagon when a second-generation model is released in August. Suzuki will import a 2WD version of its existing SX4 wagon. Presently both models come with an all-wheel-drive function.

Because of the success of the Tucson, Hyundai also plans to add another two-wheel-drive SUV to its range, but is tight-lipped about which.

Car companies have found the typical macho look of a 4WD is a strong selling point, though the majority of these wagons serve as cars and never use their off-road capability.

In the Ford Territory range, 2WD versions are $4800-$5350 less than their all-wheel-drive counterparts, and account for 55 per cent of total Territory sales.

In the smaller Hyundai Tucson, the difference is $4000, and the 2WD model, called the City, makes up 60 per cent of sales.

Ford Territory Ghia owner Sandra Cameron bought a rear-wheel-drive version of the Ford Territory Ghia (list price $52,090) three weeks ago, and said she was never interested in the all-wheel-drive version.

“I totally love it because it's like a car — I'm not about to go off-road,” she says.

Sandra has three sons, and said her priority was to get a roomy wagon. “I got a seven-seater because my children will always want to bring friends along,” she said. “In the Territory you're raised a bit, so you can see out better, but getting in and out is no problem at all.”

Hyundai spokesman Richard Power said: “People like SUVs for the high-riding stance and the convenience.

“In the case of the City, it's popular because it's lighter, with a smaller engine, so it saves fuel. There are plenty of people who like the style of SUVs but have no intention of ever going off-road.”

The four-cylinder Tucson City weighs 158kg less than its six-cylinder, all-wheel-drive equivalent, and averages 9.2 litres per 100km, compared with 11 litres per 100km for the all-wheel-drive model. Even the petrol tank has been made smaller in order to cut weight.

In the Territory, the weight saving is 80kg and the official fuel economy rating is 12.2 litres per 100km for the 2WD, compared with 12.8 litres per 100km for the all-wheel-drive.