By on December 7, 2012

Despite being attacked in some circles as symbols of American decadance, the compact crossover is rapidly gaining in popularity. French business outlet La Tribune reports that sales of small crossovers are up 25 percent this year, with crossovers of all sizes now accounting for 10 percent of the car market.

La Tribune notes with some glee that most crossovers sold in France are infact two wheel drive and unable to go off-road; but that also means better fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions. Small crossovers, like the Nissan Qashqai and and Dacia Duster account for 90 percent of the market; big, rugged SUVs are nearly non-existant. Also popular in France are more familiar models like the Kia Sportage and Volkswagen Tiguan and premium small crossovers like the Audi Q3 and Range Rover Evoque. French motorists are apparently warming to the higher driving position, larger cargo areas and, of course, the more rugged looks.

A list of France’s 10 most popular crossovers can be found here. What’s surprising is that only one model, the Audi Q3, isn’t sold in North America. Everything else (including the Qashqai, which is basically a Rogue) would be at home in a school parking lot or outside a Target. Perhaps the disdain for crossovers among Euro-fetishists needs some re-examining?

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75 Comments on “In The Land Of Wagons, The Compact Crossover Is King...”


  • avatar
    LeeK

    We all know enthusiasts and curmudgeons insist that manual transmission diesel powered station wagons is all anybody should need, but the market is making itself heard through the demand for compact crossovers. Again, we shouldn’t berate people for wanting a higher sitting position, higher ground clearance, more head room, and more versatile cargo space. There is never any intention of going off-road in these things. Customers are willing to trade this for lower fuel efficiency and less nimble handling than a sedan or station wagon. This is what people want. I was in Germany last week and saw numerous VW Tiguans interspersed with Audi, Mercedes, and BMW wagons. It is what a significant portion of the market wants.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      “We all know enthusiasts and curmudgeons insist that manual transmission diesel powered station wagons is all anybody should need”

      Not this one – EVER!

      As crossovers get nicer and nicer looking and more efficient, I can see myself owning one as my daily driver.

      Wifey drives a 2002 CR-V, and while I don’t like the thing, she does. It does the job very well, though, and I respect it for that.

    • 0 avatar
      BigMeats

      “a higher sitting position, higher ground clearance, more head room, and more versatile cargo space”

      Amen with trumpets.
      When I have to drive a car, that’s exactly what I want. And it’s the category I’m looking at for when my wife decides to let go of her Sable.
      These are excellent for the snowbelt.

    • 0 avatar
      kokomokid

      Yeah, people want higher seating position so they can block the forward view of other motorists, and a taller vehicle, so it will use more gas and not handle as well. At least VW still sells wagons in the U.S., and as far as I know, BMW will continue to sell the 3-Series wagon with the next generation.

      • 0 avatar
        BigMeats

        “not handle as well”

        Au contraire, my medium-tall pickup is capable of turning both left and right, even in reverse (!). That seems to be all the handling I need.

      • 0 avatar
        tatracitroensaab

        Lol the funny thing is, once everyone gets one in order to see better, nobody is going to ba able to see better. This will make for an amusing arms race. I hope cars get long and low again it’s so much more attractive

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        Who peed on your Cheerios? You really think all people in taller cars want to block the view of those in back of them? That’s an insulting and rude comment, and I hope you figure that out.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        “Who peed on your Cheerios?”

        Ha ha ha! Line of the week! Congratulations.

      • 0 avatar
        genuineleather

        Rude? To say that, out of pure vanity and self-interest, people buy vehicles that better their own view at the expense of others?

        Sorry, the high seating postition is a big reason people (women, especially) choose small/midzise SUVs over similarly roomy cars.

        Thanks for obliterating my view of traffic,
        Bitter Roadster Driver

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        @ Genuine Leather My last truck had headlights at the same level as your rear view mirror. Behind? In front of? Some days you just can’t win.

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        Genuine,
        It’s one thing to say people want the higher position to see better, and I agree some do. Still, it’s another thing to say they do it to block the sight of the person behind them. Hope you get it.

    • 0 avatar
      MrGreenMan

      That higher seating position is a result of an arms race, but one instigated by every fool who had to have projector-style, HID light bulbs.

  • avatar
    Dr. Claw

    I ain’t re-examining a thing.

    Compared to modern wagons, crossovers still suck in every way possible.

    Signed,

    A Curmudgeon

    • 0 avatar
      rnc

      In true form you’re probably correct, however the last modern wagon I saw was a dodge thingy, which in comparison to cross-overs (unless you’re doing the comparison at talladega), you’ve got a whole lot of advantages. If people wanted wagons (and in all purposes cross-overs are FWD/tall wagons renamed) they would be for sale, this isn’t 1953, americans aren’t given a list and told its what they have to choose from, the market dictates what it wants, if the producer doesn’t have it (or has the wrong thing) there is a price to pay.

      • 0 avatar
        Chocolatedeath

        I do miss the Magnum. If it had lived the current gen would have benefited just like the 300 and Charger have from major refinement, which it did need. I actually was just waiting for the second gen to come out before I bought one. Its a shame really.

      • 0 avatar

        Magnum just wasn’t tall enough. But you know what was? GMC Sahara. That thing could take my projection TV. I know that because the guys who took it for warranty repair rode a Sahara. No wagon would ever be able to do it, and I only regained that ability when I got the jeep (with the top off).

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Oh, Americans aren’t given a list of what to choose from? Well then, I will just amble over to my local American car lot and choose from the plethora of wagons and crossovers on offer. Oh wait a minute, there ARE NO WAGONS on offer! Therefore, the market cannot “choose”.

        Crossovers have been chosen for us, for a variety of reasons, the biggest ones being that they have been advantageous to the makers for CAFE and profitability. Marketing leads the sheeple into buying what they are told they need, not what meets thier needs. There is almost nothing that a Crossover does better than the eqivalent wagon, and many things it does worse.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “Marketing leads the sheeple into buying what they are told they need, not what meets their needs.”

        Sir I owe you a drink, I have been making this argument for years.

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        Well gents I’ll say it again. I went from an extended cab Ranger to an Escape. Lost six inches of hauling capacity; gained more doors and 2 more seats. Seats folded down some of the time beats bed empty most of the time. Easier for the old to get in/out and much easier for baby seats. Can’t do serious 4WD anymore, not going to job sites; don’t need to.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        rhodes, that’s bull and you know it.

        20 years ago the market was flooded with wagons which already didn’t sell very well. You think Toyota with a truck lineup that ended with stripper Hiluxes or Honda without any truck at all were in on a move away from the Camcord, Corolla, and Civic wagons they built better than anybody?

        Yet just a couple years later they’d stopped building wagon editions. Not to replace them with high profit, CAFE cheating SUVs, which they didn’t have yet and wouldn’t for a few more years. But because nobody wanted a wagon while the sedans set new sales records every year.

        Of course the market doesn’t get to choose now. Because it already did.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        Dan has everyone’s number on this one.

        Even the few wagons that are available on the market in the US now don’t sell very well, relatively speaking, except for maybe VW Sportwagens. There were all kinds of wagons available in the 80s, and several available in the 90s, and they all got phased out for lack of interest, not marketing.

        I personally was shocked that Acura brought one out recently, and I imagine the cheap curmudgeons aren’t buying that one or the CTS wagon.

  • avatar
    JK43123

    Decadent? Really? After the Hummer and Lincoln Navigator, crossovers are about as decadent as rice cakes.

    John

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    As a curmudgeon who drives a wagon that gets labeled as a crossover, Vx70, I am here to say that adding height doesn’t lose handling as much as it used to. It’s just not as big a deal as some make it out to be. High water, bad backs, and lousy roads make the higher clearance a logical choice.

    I suspect there is a perception of added ruggedness which the brain confuses with dependability helping out. Also, a beat up crossover can sometimes manage certain charm a beat up wagon can’t. I don’t think most new crossovers will really pull this off though, since they look more like minivans and wagons than real off-roaders.

  • avatar
    Dan

    “… two wheel drive and unable to go off-road”

    Only in the world of internet Jeepheads and frog eco-Nazis, where off-road is a binary condition and giant boulders (with spotters) begin the very inch that smooth pavement stops.

    There’s a whole world of ruts, potholes, branches, and parking curbs which will outright disembowel the modern FWD slot car without testing its traction at all. A 4″ lift and a little more sidewall tames that pretty well.

    • 0 avatar
      BigMeats

      “a little more sidewall”

      My concern for years. Sure, 17″ wheels, but LP tires give lower ride height than even 14″ from the olden days. Not to mention absorbing potholes, frost joints, manhole dips etc. without hammering on the suspension.

      Give us back our sidewalls!

    • 0 avatar
      Landcrusher

      Thanks for that, Dan. The snobbery of the off road crowd has gotten out of hand.

  • avatar
    icemilkcoffee

    What great lengths people will go to, to avoid driving the most sensible vehicle around- the minivan. Even a stationwagon is a lousy compromise when compared to a minivan. A minivan is what everyone needs.

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      Icemilkcoffee.

      Agreed. One of the members of my car pool has a 2009 Ford Edge FWD) which is hard pressed to deliver more than 19 mpg on our commumte which is 95% highway.
      On the other hand my wife’s Honda Odyssey delivers 24 mpg under the same conditions. It does duch gas around town though.
      Given the greater interior volume of the minivan, it wins hands down.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Minivans are useless for light off-roading to the fishing spot. Trout fear me, women want me.

    • 0 avatar
      Chicago Dude

      What’s so sensible about a minivan? They’re big, heavy, expensive, and have poor fuel economy. It’s not what I need. In fact, I’m not sure why I need to own any sort of vehicle at all.

      I could take a taxi to and from work everyday for less than the monthly cost of a financed minivan, to say nothing about gas, insurance, and parking.

      If I’m going to own a vehicle, it’s going to be something I WANT, not something I NEED.

      • 0 avatar
        baggins

        its nice you dont need a car. for 90+% of us out here, a car is as necessary as pants to get thru the day.

        So your criticism of the minvan is a bit like a guy who lives in Nebraska offering opinions on surfboards.

    • 0 avatar
      kokomokid

      There’s only one minivan in the U.S. market any more, the Mazda 5, and it is a great vehicle. My sister has one, and loves it.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Bwahahah What are the CUV haters to do? Even the sophisticated Europeans are buying CUVs. Bwahaha. As 6MT brown diesel station wagon fans get all nipply thinking of driving their machines on the smooth flat autobahn; Europeans are buying CUVs. Bwahaha. All those who wax poetic about the sublime and subtle elegance of their European cars built by craftsmen from a guild that’s been in existence since before Great Grandad went to Europe on Uncle Sam’s dime. Europeans are buying CUVs. Bwahaha. Ride height, ground clearance, and hauling capacity. They don’t do anything well; but they are outstanding at several things. Now the Euopeans are buying them. Bwahaha. Thanks for the early Christmas present.

    • 0 avatar
      AoLetsGo

      Don’t forget to mention that all those BMW X6 X5 and X3 CUVs that the Europeans are driving were built in South Carolina

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Wow, they are buying 10% crossovers. That means they are still buying nearly 90% cars, and of those about 90% are wagons and hatches. Sedans don’t get a look in over there, relatively speaking. There ARE people who genuinely need a crossover for one reason or another on both sides of the pond. Just like there are some people who genuinely need a full-size pickup. Which is probably about 10% of those who buy them also.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    “Yeah, people want higher seating position so they can block the forward view of other motorists, and a taller vehicle, so it will use more gas and not handle as well.”

    I’d bet a CR-V or CX-5 handles better than any non-performance sedan of 20 years ago. And remember the sedans of the early 50′s were certainly taller than even today. Finally, the overall vehicle ‘footprint’ of a compact crossover is smaller than a large sedan, pickup, SUV and minivan.

    So….what’s the problem again?

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      “I’d bet a CR-V or CX-5 handles better than any non-performance sedan of 20 years ago.”

      Agreed — the irony is that there are several commenters on this site who probably drive cars from almost 20 years ago and brag about being cheap curmudgeons who won’t replace it unless it’s a 15K RWD diesel wagon (keep dreaming!) or a POS death-trap compact truck with roll-up windows (worse handling than a CUV, of course) who complain about CUVs and don’t know this.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Well, taller vehicles do take an mpg hit on the highway, my Element gets pretty poor highway mileage and the CR-V isn’t much better. But yes, it handles surprisingly well, as long as you don’t get stupid with it.

    • 0 avatar

      The CX-5 handles better than a lot of cars on sale right now.

    • 0 avatar
      kokomokid

      Yes, these “CUV’s” handle better than most sedans of 20 years ago, and today’s sedans handle better than sports cars of 20 years ago. I agree that pretty much all of today’s vehicles handle adequately well.

      The trouble with CUV’s is that, with comparable power trains, they use substantially more gas than cars or wagons, and they generally have less floor length than wagons.

      A Jetta with the 2.0 turbo gets 17% better EPA “combined” mpg, and 27% better highway mpg than a Tiguan with the same power train. CUV’s are taller, and heavier, and that makes them less efficient. If you drive fast, the mpg difference is even greater with the CUV’s, because their extra height adds drag.

      • 0 avatar
        fvfvsix

        If there were only an overly oppressive government entity that would just override people’s preferences and just make them buy Jettas instead of Tiguans…. one can dream.

        Seriously? Let’s examine your example… A Jetta GLI has an EPA combined 25MPG, and a Tiguan has an EPA combined 24MPG, both with auto transmission. This is your argument against CUVs?

      • 0 avatar
        kokomokid

        fvfvsix,
        Huh, a Jetta 2.0 turbo has a combined rating of 27, while the Tiguan is 23. More significantly, if you drive on the highway, is that the Jettas rating is 32, while the Tiguan’s is 26. If you actually drive on the interstate at 75 or 80, the difference is a lot greater than 6 mpg.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    What? They don’t do anything well but are outstanding at several things??? We finally had a real December snowstorm in Minnesota 2 years ago and I still remember pulling off the interstate and going by 3 of these useless turds abandoned by their drivers after they got high ended and stuck in some heavy thick snow from a plow that had been through earlier. What a joke I thought. At least if you had owned a car you would have had the sense to stay home or if you were in a real truck like me you’d also be home!…..LOL

    I liked the Terrain we rented in Orlando this fall but that was FWD and the step in height was like a car. And make no mistake it was a car/wagon in every possible way sans the styling. 30 MPG and room for 3 kids in car seats in the back seat and 3 large suitcases, 5 carry on bags behind that. Not as efficient as a van but close and much better than those silly jacked up AWD CRVs and the like.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      I’d say those accidents were more the drivers, out here theres always SUVs and Mustangs in the ditch when it snows.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        Especially the 2WD SUVs. Why people think they should drive them to Tahoe when it’s snowing on the mountain is a mystery to me.

        But yes, a lot of people in AWD vehicles think that the laws of physics don’t apply to them. They’re wrong.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Drove mine through snowmageddon in DC. A city not able to handle to snow. The term is high centered. Never underestimate those that don’t understand 4wd means keep accelerating or those who don’t understand 4wd go does not mean 4wd stop. Not as good as a full size truck but close enough.

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        I’ll raise you a Vega panel wagon, a tank of gas, and 2 qts of oil; they all go together and a 12 pack of PBR ;) Oops that was supposed to go Kokomokid, hit the wrong reply button

    • 0 avatar
      kokomokid

      How did I get by in Indiana winters with my Plymouth Duster with its Goodyear Bald Eagle tires? It not only went through snow, but was good enough for the limited off roading I wanted to do, as are my current MINI and Prius.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Apparently the French have forgotten about hatchbacks.

    To be honest, my issue with mini crossovers is more so the silly “rugged” styling and the fact that they really don’t need their own category.
    I can understand people who want a higher seating position and good cargo space.

    But with what passes as a mini-crossover these days, we might as well re-catagorise the Dodge Omni.

    • 0 avatar
      kokomokid

      A majority of cars in France are still hatchbacks. Also, funny you mention Omnis. I was in France four years ago, and saw a couple Talbot or Simca Horizons still in service when I was there.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Not that I’d have either, but IMO the Qashqai is a much better-looking and, yes, ROUGEish CUV. The Rogue Americans get has a dumpier, less aggressive stance, less taut proportions, vertically-oriented headlamps (rather than horizontal in the Qash) and more grille chrome.

  • avatar
    corntrollio

    As I’ve mentioned before, a 3-row crossover makes sense to almost anyone with 2 young kids with friends or 3+ young kids, especially as car seat laws continue to expand. You can do three-across car seats in some saloons, but it’s often less than ideal, and the old school rear-facing 3rd rows of wagons are a no-no for car seats.

    • 0 avatar
      baggins

      Agree. 3 across in car seats in possible only in theory. Actually, even 3 across where 1 is in a car seat isnt really great, kids w/o car seats bang into the car seat of their neighbor in a wreck.

      We have only 2 kids, but several times a month, other kids are transported along with our, often 2 of them, sometimes 3 to raise the total of kids to 5. We use a minivan for this purpose, but a large CUV could do it, but sliding doors and adjustable location captains chairs give the nod to the minvan for us.

      Of course, these cars referenced in this article are 2 row, so all the above arguments are irrelevant.

  • avatar
    kurtamaxxguy

    Try comparing the Audi A4 Allroad to the Audi Q5.
    You’ll find much less space inside the Allroad (you sit lower in Allroad with its console taking up more of your leg room/thigh room), at a higher cost. Also, Audi puts lower profile tires on the Allroad which give it a harsher ride with little improvement in handling.

    Allroad’s fine if you like that snug fighter pilot’s fit, but apparently, given sales numbers for A4 Allroad .vs. Q5, most customers (including me) like to be able to stretch a bit when driving their vehicles to ease cramps, etc.

    FYI I am 5’7″, roughly 180 lbs, and fit fine in the Q5.

    FYI a ’09 series Subaru Forester has more interior room than either Audi mentioned here.

  • avatar
    panayoti

    Instead of beating up on everyone who has an opinion that is different, why don’t the purists and curmudgeons here accept the old axiom of “there’s an ass for every seat”. It serves many of us well and you’ll keep your friends and family closer to you. Do we really think and believe that ALL of us are always right?? Just a thought.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    In the US, at least, CAFE put station wagons out of business. They were, for the most part (except for a few imports like Hondas and Toyotas) too big and too thirsty. The genius of the minivan was not the design, it was the regulatory maven who realized that it would be classified as a “light truck” and thereby subject to a less stringent fuel economy standard. From mini-vans, we went to SUVs of all sizes, with the same principle behind them.

    Apart from that, crossovers do have some human packaging efficiency. A human body is a certain length, period. You can sit that body on a low seat (which reduces the required height of the vehicle), but then you have to give that person more length to stretch his legs out. Or you can sit him in a seat with his butt higher off the floor, which reduces the length required to accommodate him, but increases the height. Most people find this position more comfortable than having their legs stretched out.

    Notice that the Fiat 500 achieves its short length by having its occupants sit upright, and therefore the car is reltively high.
    If you look at pre WW2 cars, they all are high and seat people in a chair-like position. No government regulator told the manufacturers to build cars that way, they just designed them to be comfortable.

    So that, I think explains the “irrational” preference for SUVs, CUVs. It’s partly not enjoying the feeling of driving in a moving canyon of other, higher vehicles but its also simply being more comfortable when you’re doing that.

    And, as others have pointed out, today’s CUVs handle “good enough.”

    That said, I have yet to see a CUV that reliably gets over 30 mpg on the highway (its EPA rating BTW) 50% loaded at speeds up to 70 mph that carries as much people and/or stuff as my 10 year old Saab wagon. And we won’t even talk about the fact that the Saab is probably several seconds faster to 60, handles better and stops quicker.

    • 0 avatar
      Prado

      Agree…CAFE put station wagons out of business and the EPA keeps them out by not testing for real world highway mpg, where SUVs and CUVs would be exposed as the aerodynamic bricks they are.

      • 0 avatar
        kokomokid

        Yeah, there should be an EPA test at a steady 75 or 80 mph to simulate driving on the interstate. That would show the real difference between cars, and SUV’s, CUV’s, or whatever you want to call these obese, tall wagons.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      “That said, I have yet to see a CUV that reliably gets over 30 mpg on the highway (its EPA rating BTW) 50% loaded at speeds up to 70 mph that carries as much people and/or stuff as my 10 year old Saab wagon. And we won’t even talk about the fact that the Saab is probably several seconds faster to 60, handles better and stops quicker.”

      I’m calling shenanigans. First, your 2002 Saab 9-5 wagon isn’t EPA rated 30 mpg, it is either 17/24 (auto with premium), 19/28 (manual with premium), or 16/24 (V6). The Aero goes 0-60 in 6.6 in manual and 6.9 in auto. The non-Aero is more like 7.8 seconds. 60-0 braking in 112 feet for Aero and 125 feet for non-Aero. 73 cubic feet of cargo space. It is expensive at 35K base MSRP in 2002 dollars for non-Aero and 40K base MSRP in 2002 dollars for Aero.

      Compare Toyota Rav4 V6 AWD. 26K base MSRP in 2012 dollars, first of all. 19/26 EPA estimate, and 0-60 in either 6.2 or 6.3 depending on whom you ask. 60-0 braking in 120 feet. 73 cubic feet of cargo space. Available with a 3rd row seat, which your Saab is not I believe.

      • 0 avatar
        bill h.

        Whether EPA rating or not, DC Bruce’s claim on mileage is something I will corroborate in the “real world”. 30+ mpg on highway trips is certainly routinely doable with 9-5 wagons, at least with the 4 cylinder turbos.

        While some makes/models of cars never seem able to meet their EPA estimates in real life, some do a pretty decent job of exceeding them, for reasons I would not speculate.

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        Someone needs to welcomed into the real world when it comes to Saab 9-5 fuel economy. My 04 Arc with automatic trans is rated at 29 mpg highway but I can see 38 mpg two way average.

        If you wanted to go 0-60 mph in 4wd 73 cubic feet in cargo the car like Forester XT is the ticket in sub six seconds. It’ll out handle most CUV for the price. Probably more enjoyable to drive everyday than any CUV.

    • 0 avatar
      SunnyvaleCA

      I think you’re absolutely right about CAFE promoting light trucks of all sorts. It will be interesting if the upcoming CAFE changes will promote light trucks to be wider and have the wheels all the way at the ends of the vehicle so as to maximize the “footprint,” since, apparently, the geniuses in the government have decided this is a really useful attribute.

  • avatar
    darex

    It’s worth noting that nearly all of these cars are available in Europe with manual transmissions (and Diesel engines), even when the same cars that are sold here are not. It makes for less compromise than we have to make.

  • avatar
    Lynn E.

    I am surprised to read posts bragging about vehicles that get mpg figures in the 20′s. Man, those vehicles are going to be so obsolete in a few years. Ford has a comfortable sedan and a crossover that each get 47 mpg. Toyota has vehicles that get over 50 and a vehicle that carries more than Ford’s crossover that gets over 40 mpg.

    Mid size truck conversion companies are using Volt type hybrid systems that mean that trucks making stop and go deliveries around the city all day don’t have their gas engines turn on and they don’t use any gas at all.

    In five years if you drive something that gets less than 40 mpg Homeland Security will investigate you as a possible un-American terrorist.


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