Would Most Crossover Drivers Be Happier With Sedans?

Mark "Bark M." Baruth
by Mark "Bark M." Baruth
would most crossover drivers be happier with sedans

“Well, I mean, all this is basic and terrible,” said Mrs. Bark, pointing to the dash of our rental Hyundai Sonata. “But this could work for us.”

Mrs. Bark just turned 40. She’s an educated woman with four college degrees. She’s a college professor, almost the definition of a middle-class job. And yet she’s never owned the most middle class of vehicles — a mid-sized sedan.

When she became pregnant with our first child in 2007, she owned a 2005 Scion tC that we bought new from the dealership. After roughly a month of dealing with taking a baby seat in and out of the back seat of the little coupe, she decided that she needed something more suitable for motherhood. Since I owned an RX-8 then, I decided that we’d look at Mazda’s offerings, the Mazda5 and the CX-7.

Strangely enough, we never even considered a mid-sized sedan … but maybe we should have.

The mathematical myth of American society states baby = crossover. It’s almost a badge of motherhood in the middle class. Pregnant? Time to go shopping for a cute ute. After all, everybody who’s ever had a baby knows that having a six-pound person means that you now require the following every time that you leave the house:

  • Diaper bag, including diapers and change of clothes
  • Travel system, including baby seat and giant collapsible stroller
  • Breast pump
  • Milk storage bags
  • DVD player
  • Any number of additional things, most of which you’ll forget

Naturally, that means that you’ll need a crossover. In fact, if you don’t drive a crossover to play dates, there’s probably something really wrong with you. The other mommies, all of whom drove their GMC Acadia Denalis to transport a nine-month old, might whisper about you if you showed up in a Civic.

But is it necessary?

We picked up our 2016 Hyundai Sonata from Enterprise Rent-a-Car at the Tampa airport for our recent family vacation, and our rep sure seemed to think that a crossover was necessary.

“How are you going to fit your family and all of your stuff in this Sonata?” she asked. “You probably need to upgrade to an SUV.” Except we didn’t.

In fact, two adult suitcases and two child suitcases all fit fine in the expansive trunk of the Sonata. Even I was relatively surprised to see how our both of our child seats clipped smoothly into the backseat, with easy ingress and egress for the kids.

“I like this car,” said my five-year-old daughter. “It has more room than the Flex.” What now? But she was actually right. She had more room for all of her favorite stuffed animals, books, and toys around her than she’s used to having in our massive, nearly 5000 pound, three-row CUV at home.

“You know,” said Mrs. Bark as we drove down I-4 toward Orlando, “maybe we should consider replacing the Flex with something like this.” We originally upgraded from an Equinox to the Flex in 2013 because her mother had moved in with us. Two children and a MIL dictate three rows to move five people around. But the MIL has now moved out into her own home and we very rarely fold the third row up.

It occurred to me that Mrs. Bark had literally never owned a mid-size sedan. It then occurred to me that I haven’t, either. I rent them all the time — everything from Fusion to Malibu to Altima to Passat — but I’m always by myself in them. I never considered if one would work for our family.

I then thought to myself: why not? There’s no reason something like the new Fusion Sport wouldn’t be a perfect fit for me when the lease on the FiST ends. And they’re leasing out for right around $400 with zero down. It seems like a no-brainer: four doors, fast enough, handsome, and enough storage for the whole family.

But there’s a bit of a stigma attached to a mid-sizer. It’s the official class of cars for people who don’t like cars, right? We talk about the vanillaness of the CamCordIma all the time, but we don’t do the same with the EdgeInoxUrano. Why not? If anything, the CUV is the official car of people who don’t like driving. At least you can take a Fusion Sport or an Accord V6 or a Camry XSE to the autocross or a track day if you want to. No SCCA region will let an Edge Sport break the lights.

If we’re tired of crossovers domination of the industry — and I think that we all are — then why don’t we just go back to the mid-sizer? They’re big enough. They’re smart enough. And, goshdarnit, people like them! Since they’re typically much more aerodynamic than CUVs and they weigh less, they get better fuel economy, too. They’re even cheaper than the correlating CUVs in most cases.

However, there’s the gorilla in the room, which is ride height. CUVs, which are largely bought by women, give a sense of safety and security by riding higher. But that’s a myth. The Malibu, Fusion, Accord, Sonata, Optima, Mazda6, Camry, Passat are all Top Safety Pick Plus rated by the IIHS. You’re no safer in a CR-V than you are in an Accord.

The bottom line is that the majority of people who think they need crossovers, including my family, really don’t. They’d be much happier in a mid-sized sedan. They’d save money, have just as much or more space inside, and get better gas mileage. All it takes is some exposure to a mid-sized sedan to convince them — and approval from the local play-date club.

[Image: Hyundai]

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2 of 280 comments
  • Chocolatedeath Chocolatedeath on Jul 19, 2016

    In others everyone is safer if they buy what we tell them too. You dont need that dang big ol truck get a Ridgeline. You dont need that crossover thingie get a Minivan.

  • Bugo Bugo on Jul 31, 2016

    No. The 2 box design of the crossover is more practical and has more room than a comparable sedan. I have a little Chevy HHR, which could be argued is a small crossover (I disagree, I think it is a tall station wagon) and I like it much more than I would if it were a sedan. There is plenty of room for bulky objects and I can put a drum set and an amp or two in it with the seats folded down. I couldn't fit all of that in a sedan. I don't like the big fat looking crossovers but I don't like modern sedans either. At least the crossover has more utility than a sedan, and many crossovers have a third seating row, which is something that is not available in any sedan that I know of that isn't a stretch limo. I can't believe I'm defending crossovers but they are a whole different animal than sedans and are used for different purposes. There is an anti-crossover bias in the automotive media (including this website) and a resentment that crossovers are gaining sales at the expense of sedans. I never saw the appeal of sedans anyway. All the cars I've ever owned were coupes, 2 door hatchbacks, and the HHR compact wagon. Sedans are typically ugly and no more practical than coupes when you rarely carry more than one passenger. If a crossover owner wanted a sedan, he would have bought one. Get over your resentment over crossovers outselling sedans and let the market decide.

  • Jeff S I ignore the commercials. Never owned a Mazda but I would definitely look at one and seriously consider it. I would take a Honda, Toyota, or Mazda over any German vehicle at least they are long lasting, reliable, and don't cost an arm and a leg to maintain.
  • GregLocock The predictable hysteria and repetition of talking points in the meeja is quite funny. it does not divide Oxford into six zones. it restricts access at 6 locations , one on each road, to reduce congestion in the town centre. Florence, which faces the same issue, traffic and narrow historic streets, lined with historic buildings, simply closed the entire town centre off. Don't see anybody whining about that.
  • Jeff S I have rented from Hertz before and never encountered this but if I had I would sue them. Would not want a gun pointed at me and thrown in jail for renting a car.
  • Arthur Dailey I did use a service pre COVID to get the pricing that the dealers were alleged to have paid the manufacturer. It also provided 'quotes' from multiple dealers .
  • Arthur Dailey Has anyone else concluded that we may have a new 'troll' on this site?