The rise of so-called ‘softroaders’ amongst company car drivers has sparked calls for fleet managers to inform drivers of the real-world capabilities of their vehicles, ahead of what could be another tough winter.

Some drivers mistakenly believe that relatively lightweight, two-wheel drive SUVs have a greater degree of capability than a normal car on snow and ice.

Many of these kinds of cars boast bulking styling that suggests they’re better equipped than they actually are.

Shaun Sadlier, head of consulting at Arval, warned that many SUVs currently operating on fleets have no real advantage over a family hatchback in difficult weather, other than their ride height.

This could result in some drivers attempting to tackle conditions that they would never consider in a normal car.

He explained: “SUVs of this kind can get stuck in poor weather as easily as any other vehicle, potentially creating a hazardous situation for the driver who needs to be rescued. There is very much a gap between the driver’s perception of their vehicle and the reality.”

Shaun added some fleets, such as utility companies and the emergency services, that operate proper 4x4s for winter travel usually have guidelines around use and are managed in a very responsible fashion.

Advertising for softroaders often show them easily ploughing through all kinds of conditions, but it can be all too easy to discover the limits of the capabilities of driver and machine on a snowy trunk road on a winter evening.

He went on to urge fleets to ensure that drivers have a clear understanding of the kind of weather in which they are expected to drive, to know about the limitations of their particular vehicle and stay well within them, and to seek advice if they have any doubts.

Heather Stark, brand manager at The Fuelcard People, added: “Certain compact SUVs out there are very much style over substance, all show and no go. All drivers need to be clued up on what they car is actually capable of.”

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