In The Land Of Wagons, The Compact Crossover Is King

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler
in the land of wagons the compact crossover is king

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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  • Panayoti Panayoti on Dec 07, 2012

    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.

  • DC Bruce DC Bruce on Dec 07, 2012

    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.

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    • NormSV650 NormSV650 on Jan 11, 2013

      @corntrollio 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.

  • Darex Darex on Dec 07, 2012

    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.

  • Lynn Ellsworth Lynn Ellsworth on Dec 08, 2012

    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.

    • NormSV650 NormSV650 on Jan 11, 2013

      Smug alert! You can't beat turbo torque of 300 ft lbs and 44 mpg in my 136K mile Saab 9-5 with manual transmission.