Question Of The Day: The Narcissism Of Small Differences

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler
question of the day the narcissism of small differences

“When you decide to be something, you can be it. That’s what they don’t tell you in the church. When I was your age they would say we can become cops, or criminals. Today, what I’m saying to you is this: when you’re facing a loaded gun, what’s the difference?” – Jack Nicholson, The Departed

So why is the Mercedes-Benz GLA a crossover, and a Porsche Macan is a crossover, but something like a Mazda3 Sport is a hatchback?

Well, two reasons

  1. CAFE
  2. Calling something a crossover makes it sell. Calling it a wagon or a hatchback does the opposite.

This, of course, is the opposite of what happens in the strange, insular world of automotive enthusiasm. There is a reflexive hatred of anything CUV, even when the CUV in question, like the Mazda CX-5, drives better than some passenger cars. Or witness the gnashing of teeth that accompanied the Audi Allroad’s rise and the death of the Audi A4 Avant. Both vehicles drive like lifeless appliances for those who think a Toyota Venza is beneath their station in life. But the Allroad attracted the scorn of countless forum posters, even though the two cars are basically the same, minus some cladding and a raised ride height that has zero effect on handling dynamics.

As tempting as it is to rail against the ill-informed knee-jerk disdain for crossovers, I’ll bring it back to the original question. What is the tangible difference between the GLA “crossover” and the Mazda3 Sport “hatchback”? Why does one raise the ire of enthusiasts merely by virtue of its classification (a discrete criticism on its own, rather than being lumped in with the idea of a front-drive, entry level Benz) while an identical car is lauded with Hossanas for carrying to hatchback/pseudo-wagon torch.

Over to you, B&B.

Photo Credit: Alex Nunez/Road & Track

*For the record, I think the base GLA is a cheap, nasty looking thing designed to fleece the terminally self-conscious out of their $299 each month. I’d take the Mazda3 all day, every day. But the 345 horsepower GLA45 AMG? Well, that’s another story.

**As far as the CUV hatred phenomenon goes: You might think they are the worst attributes of an SUV and a car combined in one, but millions of Americans couldn’t care less, and have very rational reasons for buying them, nor are they in the grip of some false consciousness and in need of a vanguard to liberate their minds from the shackles of automotive marketing. Get over it, or start buying new station wagons in meaningful numbers again.

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  • Big Al from Oz Big Al from Oz on Oct 09, 2014

    Hey, Derek! It does seem the size of a comment is directly related to the problems occurring at TTAC. This might help your IT whips.

    • Darkwing Darkwing on Oct 09, 2014

      Maybe the extra line breaks aren't helping? They're only a couple of extra characters, true. But they're also common among a certain subset of spamming software. So it's possible one of the things the anti-spam algorithm is looking for is an abnormally high ratio of line breaks to comment length. Just a thought.

  • Denster2u Denster2u on Oct 12, 2014

    I think the focus is on the wrong attribute, as the appeal of the crossover/CUV is not so much ground clearance as it is a higher seating position. Buyers simply prefer a more commanding view of the road from above because it envelopes them in a false sense of security, even though a CUV is not inherently safer than a regular sedan. People equate sitting higher with safety. Even though a hatchback has every bit of utility and safety as a crossover, it is deemed inferior because of the 'insecurity" of sitting lower to the ground. It's an irrational psychological perception.

  • Tassos And all 3 were ordered by Fisker's mother. Seriously, given Fisker's terrible record of Failure in the past, only an utter loser, (for example, VGhost or Art Vandelay?), looking for a BEV terrible enough to be a proper replacement of his 11 mile range Fiat 500E, would order one of these. (apart from Fisker's mother)
  • Tassos And all 3 of them were ordered by Fisker's mother.Seriously, after Fisker's DISMAL record of UTTER FAILURE in the past, only a GOD DAMNED MORON would order this one.
  • RHD Any truth to the unconfirmed rumor that the new, larger model will be called the bZ6X? We could surmise that with a generous back seat it certainly should be!
  • Damon Thomas Adding to the POSITIVES... It's a pretty fun car to mod
  • GregLocock Two adjacent states in Australia have different attitudes to roadworthy inspections. In NSW they are annual. In Victoria they only occur at change of ownership. As you'd expect this leads to many people in Vic keeping their old car.So if the worrywarts are correct Victoria's roads would be full of beaten up cars and so have a high accident rate compared with NSW. Oh well, the stats don't agree.