By on March 3, 2017

Toyota Corolla and Kia Niro, Image: © 2017 Chris Tonn

Crossover — it’s such a magical term. To the average consumer and the shiny marketing executive, adventure and utility come standard with a crossover. The consumers who own a crossover can rest assured they’re interesting, well-rounded, and worthwhile people. The marketing executive can also rest assured with the knowledge the CUV is without a doubt the fastest growing segment in the entire North American market.

But you are neither consumer nor person of marketing lineage, you’re the B&B. So tell me, what defines a crossover for you?

Check out the image above. Here, in a suburban shopping setting — which is simultaneously comforting, familiar, well-lighted, and safe — two vehicles of similar proportion are parked next to one another. But these vehicles inhabit two entirely separate planes of existence if you subscribe to the shared conventional wisdom of the marketing man and buying public.

Both cars seat the same number of sentient meatbags, both are front-wheel drive, both have four-cylinder engines, and, critically, both have about the same ride height and ground clearance. One of the vehicles has a hatch, and the other a trunk. While the green blob on the left is a sedan (yuck, what a boring appliance!) the Majestic Silver vehicle on the right is a crossover (super desirable and profitable!).

The one on the left is the ubiquitous Toyota Corolla, and the vehicle to the right is the new Kia Niro. While there’s no doubt the Corolla is a sedan, around TTAC’s virtual executive office there have been some recent questions about the crossover designation as applied to the front-wheel drive only Niro. Kia could have branded and marketed the Niro as a compact hatch, but there’s no way in hell they’d do such a thing with any knowledge of the current car climate.

And that’s where you come in for today’s Question of the Day. What does a vehicle need to be to support the now-illustrious crossover name and associated price premium? Which muddy, rough-hewn boxes must a vehicle tick to make the grade?

[Image: © 2017 Chris Tonn]

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111 Comments on “QOTD: What is a Crossover?...”


  • avatar
    Adam Tonge

    THE NIRO IS NOT A CROSSOVER!!!

  • avatar
    brawnychicken333

    A man dressed up as a woman-like RuPaul. Ohh…you said crossover not crossdresser. A crossover is, much like RuPaul, whatever it wants to be and oh so fabulous.

  • avatar
    readallover

    Most crossovers are what we, in the olden days, used to call a `station wagon.`

    • 0 avatar
      Acd

      Bingo! Crossovers are the modern iteration of a station wagon. Fake wood has been replaced by plastic wheel opening trim and they’re jacked up a little higher than in the 1970’s and some are driven by the front wheels and some are driven by all the wheels but there is no getting around the classic two box shape of a station wagon.

      • 0 avatar
        Land Ark

        “jacked up a little higher than in the 1970’s”

        But they’re not! Honestly, I was sitting in a parking lot a while ago and saw a late 80’s full size GM station wagon. I believe it was a Caprice but my memory is foggy as to whether it was a Buick or not.

        ANYWAY, the front end of that car sat higher off the ground than any full size SUV for sale today. It had at least 1.5′ of clearance to the bottom of the front bumper. There may have been a time when SUVs sat higher than cars, but those days ended with the first round of crossovers and subsequent attempts to get MPG down a fraction of a percent on full size SUVs. Cars in the 60s through 80s actually rode quite high off the road. It’s the height of the floor and seating position that has changed.

      • 0 avatar
        CarDesigner

        Cute Useless Vehicle? like Soccermom Utility Vehicle?

        Stupid fad following public. They are not getting any more utility than any station wagon, except they have no rear overhang and thus lose 25% of what should be in a station wagon. The old Focus wagons were actually better looking and as useful. The difference with the old large station wagons was you stepped down into them. But then again, who knew we would be driving little Rambler-sized $40,000 cars and think we did something?

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          “Stupid fad following public. They are not getting any more utility than any station wagon, except they have no rear overhang and thus lose 25% of what should be in a station wagon.”

          Most CUVs get maybe 50% of a true wagon’s behind-the-seat capacity. It used to be that in a true wagon, if you folded the back seats down you could fit a full 4×8 sheet of plywood on the floor You had a minimum of five feet of load floor behind those seats. Now you’re lucky if you get three feet and the back seat is so pushed up towards the front seats that you only gain another two feet of not-always flat floor when they’re folded down You’ve got to go to a near full-sized SUV today to get that kind of storage. And don’t look at pickup trucks; with only very limited exceptions, you can’t carry a full sheet in the bed of one of those without having it hang over the end of the lowered tailgate. Forget carrying anything of size where there isn’t risk of it falling out if you don’t tie it down. Even my Ranger has more bed than most full-sized pickups today.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Too short to be a station wagon; the space behind the seats is lucky if it can carry two full-sized, old-style hard-shell suitcases. A station wagon could carry four to eight even with the back seats up. That’s why they called it a “station wagon”; Dude ranches and hotels used to use them to pick up passengers at the train station and carry them and all their luggage to the hotel.

      • 0 avatar
        operagost

        Chevelle wagon?

        Really, these “crossovers” remind me of the AMC Eagle.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          Even the AMC Eagle had more room behind the back seats than most crossovers.

          According to my insurance agency, my 2002 Saturn Vue was classified as a Sport Utility Wagon and yes, I could fit an 8′ stepladder inside the car with the hatch closed.

    • 0 avatar
      ilkhan

      Taller, and shorter. They’re the mini wagon version of an SUV.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    The Niro is in the same space as the Prius V and C-Max (and all happen to by hybrids), I’d lump the departed Kia Rondo in the same category. Tall wagon/van things without any pretense of handling rough terrain.

    To me, crossover implies raised ride height and at least optional AWD(however pathetic actual offroad performance may actually be). The only other prerequisite per my own definition is a non-sedan body shape.

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    Anything ≥ 64″ high that isn’t BOF.

    Otherwise, hatch, station wagon or anachronism.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      I like this height qualification.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      Minivan?

      • 0 avatar
        OldManPants

        Yep, I forgot that.

        “Anything ≥ 64″ high that isn’t BOF or a minivan.”

        • 0 avatar
          tp33

          So you’d call the iconic XJ Cherokee–arguably the first “modern” SUV sold in the states, a crossover? And the Grand Cherokee? And the Range Rover? Heretic!

          • 0 avatar
            la834

            Only true off-road chops prevented any of those from being what is now regarded as a crossover. Nonetheless, I imagine many people who bought Cherokees in 1984 would have bought a crossover had one been available, and drove them the way crossovers are driven today – i.e. in bad weather but not much off-road.

            The other early crossover-like things were the Nissan Prairie (Stanza Wagon in the US, Multi in Canada) and the Mitsubishi Colt Vista (et al), and a bit later, the Expo and LRV. All were not based on sedan or wagon car bodies, were taller than regular cars of the era, and offered AWD.

  • avatar
    ajla

    My criteria:
    1. Hatch or barn door cargo area
    2. Not body on frame
    3. No sliding doors offered.
    4. Not directly styled or named after a distinctly nonCUV alternative.
    5. Higher ground clearance *or* higher roof height than closest distinctly nonCUV alternative.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      I can agree with that.

    • 0 avatar
      Corey Lewis

      No AWD mandate, at least as option?

      • 0 avatar
        OldManPants

        I agree with SCE>AUX that compared to snow tires AWD is just an expensive form of St. Christopher medal.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        I’m torn on the AWD thing.

        Do I think you are daft to buy a Patriot/Compass/Renegade/Cherokee without AWD/4×4? Yes. Why pay for the Jeep badge and not get the one thing that Jeep is famous (instead of infamous) for? You missed the freaking point – like going to Knott’s Berry Farm and not trying the fried chicken.

        Do I think my wife really missed anything by not getting AWD on her Terrain? Not really. According to the specs I could find online, her Terrain actually has LESS ground clearance than her Vibe.

        • 0 avatar
          cls12vg30

          As someone who made the conscious decision to buy a 2WD Renegade, let me comment.

          The Renegade first caught my eye shortly before its introduction. I was driving a Sentra Spec V and my wife had a 2nd-gen CR-V. I had gone from two-door coupes (S12 200SX followed by B14 200SX) to the 4-door Spec V after my daughter was born. I tend towards smaller cars, and the burgeoning subcompact CUV segment appealed to me, not as offroaders but as practical hatchbacks with a little extra headroom, or a way to offer the small wagons of the past and have people actually buy them.

          Also, I will say that I grew up in a Mopar family and always had an emotional (maybe illogical) soft-spot for anything ChryCo (i.e. FCA these days).

          When I learned the Renegade would be available with a six-speed manual my interest increased.

          Then my wife fell in love with a little red Fiat 500 Sport and traded in her tired CR-V. I had misgivings, but hey it’s her money. Within a few months that little car completely won me over, with its personality more than anything else, but it also gave no problems and stood up admirably to my wife’s abuse. It did complicate things a little due to the fact that our most spacious car was now a Sentra.

          Then I rented a Chevy Trax for a NC-to-Disney World family road trip. The Trax itself was mediocre at best, but it sold me on the idea of a subcompact CUV as a family vehicle, having just enough room without being a damn behemoth.

          After a weekend test drive I bought a ’15 Renegade Latitude 1.4T manual 2WD in August of ’15. I bought it as a practical compromise between exterior dimensions and usable interior space, while maintaining the fun-to-drive factor -which the turbo manual version does surprisingly well- while averaging 32 mpg, which the AWD version would not. If I lived in a different climate I would have gone for the AWD, but for my purposes here in NC, I could not justify the extra expense, maintenance, and weight.

          46,000 miles later I still love the Renegade and would honestly buy it again.

    • 0 avatar
      statikboy

      According to your criteria, cars that are CUV’s include:
      Matrix/Vibe*
      First gen Honda Odyssey

      *The Matrix was originally marketed as NOT a station wagon/hatchback… which it clearly is.

      • 0 avatar
        Adam Tonge

        The Matrix/Vibe is taller than the Niro.

      • 0 avatar
        BigOldChryslers

        Then I would say they are good criteria. The Matrix/Vibe is one of those vehicles where you could argue it’s a hatchback, wagon or small CUV.

        The 1st gen Odyssey I totally agree is actually a CUV, despite Honda’s marketing it as a minivan at the time. If we can’t agree that minivans have sliding doors and CUVs do not, then there’s very little distinction between many minivans and CUVs.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      I think a CUV implies a floorpan raised at least a bit.. I have a C-Max, which has a high roof but a floorpan at Focus height. I don’t think of it as a CUV and I don’t think it comes across as a CUV. I feel the same way about the Prius V and the Niro.

      • 0 avatar
        brettc

        To me the Niro is a hybrid hatchback. It’s about the same length as a Matrix. (171.9 Matrix, 171.5 Niro). The C-Max to me is a tall “watchback” I guess? Since it’s about 64″ tall and 174″ long.

        My Sportwagen is about 59″ tall and close to 180″ long. This Crossover stuff is a crock of $h1t, to quote good old Bob Lutz.

    • 0 avatar
      la834

      So the original Honda Odyssey was a crossover? It meets all five criteria.

  • avatar
    bluegoose

    A crossover is a jacked up wagon or hatchback with AWD available. The Niro is a JOKE!!! It’s a hybrid hatchback with a fake skid plate. In the photos it looked bigger until I passed one on the highway and had to laugh.

    The crossover designation has been a brilliant marketing mechanism. “Hatches and Wagons aren’t selling so let’s jack em’ up, install some mild AWD system and sell the cars as make pretend SUV’s!!” They are tall! I can see the road better!! I can show the world that I make more money since I am not driving a lowly hatchback!!!! I am a man and this crossover shows that I have some say in my relationship!!!

    The psychology of having a fake off road vehicle allows a man to hold onto his masculinity and woman to “sit high” and have space for stuff. Plus, having a fake off road vehicle makes you FEEL more safe.

    The real time fuel economy sucks though. Jacking up a hatchback creates serious drag. Once the EPA cracks down on that nobody will be making those mileage targets!! There is a price to be paid for pretension on both sides.

    • 0 avatar
      Lichtronamo

      I agree – I don’t see the logic or appeal of a crossover due to increased ride height. They weight a lot more than a sedan. The shape of these things is odd resulting in really long windshields, and deep space from the based of the window to the face of the IP. The roof pilars also seem thicker in most cases for strength against roof collapse. And then there are the tire wheel combinations – most crossovers have much higher profile sidewall tires than do sedans and traditional hatchbacks. Maybe more people, especially older people, like the ride a crossover provides simply because the tires are more forgiving. Finally, there is size cost. It seems to me you are stepping down a class size to get a crossover for the same money. Instead of an Accord, you get a CR-V (not a Pilot), instead of a Fusion you get an Escape (not an Edge or Explorer), instead of a Camry you get a RAV4 (not a Highlander). Overall the crossover in this scenarios is a little smaller and a lot less comfortable than the sedan at the same price point. However, I also saw at the Chicago Auto Show a few weeks ago that max-loaded CR-Vs and Escapes are pushing close to $40K with MSRP these days.

    • 0 avatar
      VW4motion

      Correct, crossover mainly has to do with ride height and possibly faux off road capability. Not sure why this is so confusing for so many.
      Evidently many people are tired of sitting so low if feels like you’re on the pavement.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    As the adage goes, you know it when you see it. Any vehicle that makes overtones toward the traditional SUV, no matter how minor, useless, cosmetic, and detrimental to function they may be. FWD w/ optional AWD + a half-inch of additional ground clearance + black fender flares + a hatchback so sloped as to be pointless? Yep, you just crossed the threshold.

    A Juke is a crossover. It’s useless
    A CX-3 is a crossover. It’s useless
    A FWD HR-V is a crossover. Useless, it does nothing better than a Fit.
    The upcoming C-HR is a crossover and it too will be utterly useless.

    Even some larger vehicles have applied the criteria poorly. Venza. Crosstour.

  • avatar
    Silent Ricochet

    I feel that when most people think “Crossover” they think:

    – Cargo Space
    – Safety
    – All Wheel Drive (Safety)
    – Ride Height (Safety)

    When in reality they’re getting a taller, squared off hatchback that has AWD (Sometimes. example: Honda CR-V AWD only engages under 20 mph), gets worse fuel mileage and maybe some better rear legroom. “But it has AWD and I need that so I can make it home from the grocery store during a snowstorm!”

    What is a Crossover? I know what it’s supposed to be but… Why is it a thing?

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      Remember that the CUV is a more efficient on-road replacement for the SUV, and that most buyers of SUVs during the craze of the ’90s/’00s didn’t use its full capabilities anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      “Why is it a thing?”

      Elevated seating position. Isn’t that what a CUV really represents to the buyer?

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    I find the oddball niche vehicles overseas particularly fascinating:

    Toyota Avanza: a generic looking micro-van/wagon but with BOF construction and a solid rear axle

    Diahatsu Terios: cute-ute with unibody construction and no low range but a longitudinally mounted engine driving a legit transfer case with a solid rear axle out back

    WHERE IS YOUR GOD NOW?!

    The Durango is also an interesting case: mediocre at best ground clearance, unibody, few are made with a 2-speed t-case. But also a longitudinal drivetrain… but without a solid rear axle.

    I’d ultimately call this one an SUV going off of aesthetics and towing capacity (by way of longitudinal drivetrain).

    • 0 avatar
      derekson

      Eh, I don’t think you can really call it an SUV based on the towing capacity and longitudinal drivetrain. By that logic something like a Q7 is an SUV and not a CUV.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        SO would you call the Durango a crossover then? I think it’s a combination of factors for the Durango: the availability of a RWD model, the past history of the Durango being a classic BOF/4wd SUV, the big long nose that makes people think “RAM” or something else ‘truckish.’

        The Q7, Toureg, X5, and ML/GL Mercs are like you point out neither fish nor fowl, but have been around long enough that they existed before “Crossover” was even a common descriptor that people used, hence they got put in the SUV bracket and in my mind still sort of occupy that space. The fact that upper-trim Grand Cherokees compete with said Germans also encourages the SUV-correlation.

        An aside about X5s: my brother had another one in the shop, an ’11 with about 50k miles, a diesel. Owner wants to sell but wants to solve the CEL to maximize resale. Another shop already counted up $1700 to fix it. My brother diagnoses it as a DEF tank sensor. BMW only sells the whole tank+sensor as an assembly for…$1700. Some aftermarket rebuild kits exist, and cost $600 and change plus labor. The flaky sensor is happy when the DEF tank is full and only throws the code when the level drops below 2/3. Solution? Keep the damn tank full, and drop that car like a hot potato. “Designed for driving pleasure.”

  • avatar
    JMII

    They make Camrys in green? I though they were all beige or silver.

    To me an CUV has that slightly increased ride height, if not it looks too much like the wagon (which is what it really is). However nobody wants a wagon so they truck-up the look and then you’ve got a CUV. Bonus points are gained when some extra plastic cladding and bigger grille show up. I think this why the Venza failed, it was too low and not truck-y at all, thus people saw it as wagon and ran away.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Crossover is an SUV without S. It loses its sturdy frame and can’t be used for sports, like going to the wild beech, climbing rocks, plowing through 2 feet of snow, etc. If you go to WWII and looks at the roads Jeeps were used on, you will understand that crossover wouldn’t make it there. Or go to Africa today and you understand why zoologists there use SUVs and not crossovers.

  • avatar
    RHD

    Cheapish Useless Vehicle?
    It’s an intentionally vague marketing term, and doesn’t really define anything. That’s why we even have to ask what it is.
    The consumer fills in the answer by making it whatever they want it to be – a practical wagon, an economy car, a safish high-rider, something cooler and better than what her friend has, when it’s really none of these.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    I’d say they are unibody vehicles styled like their similar BOF cousins.

    (That leaves out “Outback-ized” station wagons/hatchbacks; I’d just call those station wagons/hatchbacks. They have increased ride height, but not the raised seating position of a CUV, nor are they styled like their full-size bretheren, except for the chunks of body cladding.)

  • avatar
    cbrworm

    I consider the original crossover to be the Porsche Cayenne in S or Turbo form. My definition is an SUV that can tow a decent amount of weight, carry a few passengers comfortably, and handle, brake, and accelerate better than most sporty sedans.

    To go one step further, they should be rear wheel drive or rear biased AWD.

    I consider the X5M to fit in this category, I guess the X6 as well, although I don’t care for them.

    Most of the front wheel drive crossovers, in my mind, are mini-suv’s.

    I have no problem with most crossover vehicles, as long as people understand that they are usually a higher sedan or station wagon – depending on the model.

  • avatar
    2drsedanman

    “What is a Crossover?”

    A 1940’s era car from an entry and size standpoint, only with better drive train and safety equipment.

  • avatar
    e30gator

    I have one (’13 Buick Enclave) and I hate the term “crossover”. The term to me implies that it doesn’t know what its mission is.

    I know what its mission is: to haul my kids and our crap around comfortably and safely–just like mt parent’s LTD station wagon in the 70’s. And that’s how I see it (and all “crossovers”), as station wagons. It’s a station wagon with ground clearance. Mine is the closest modern day equivalent to a ’70 Olds Vista Cruiser that I could find.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    What is a Crossover?

    It’s a compromise between a sedan and an SUV, tending to feature the worst of both. It features the seating comfort of a sedan while lacking the space or the off-road chops of the Sport-Utility. Its cargo capacity with seats up tends to be lower than the trunk capacity of a sedan while adding the top-heavy instability of the SUV.

    A true wagon has more space than a typical crossover even with (or especially when, all seats are folded down while offering a much more sedan-like ride.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      You’re a few years out of date. CUV packaging has improved quite a lot. These days, the better-packaged CUVs (I’d put the RAV4, CR-V, and Forester in this category) typically have more space than the few wagons they compete with.

      Of course, you’re an FCA fan, and they haven’t kept up in that respect. The entire Jeep lineup has terrible packaging.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        I was not always an FCA fan, my friend. I used to be a GM fan until they screwed the pooch. GM cost itself a lot of VERY loyal owners when they killed Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Saturn. I bought only one Chevy in my life, one Buick, one Saturn and THREE Oldsmobiles: two Cutlasses and a Toronado. I owned one Ford between them and have since owned two Ford pickups (of which I still own one.)

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    #wagontrumpscrossover

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    It can be hard to tell the difference. I’ve seen Mazda CX-3’s and Mercedes GLA’s on the road and had to double take because I thought they were hatchbacks. The two defining traits that I would come back to are the two which are the reasons CUVs generally ruin the cars they are based on: ground clearance and body cladding, with ground clearance being the true defining trait. I think Subaru, Volvo, and Audi helped define this when they went and literally turned hatchbacks and wagons in to CUVs. What separates and Outback/Crosstrek from a Legacy, a V90 XC from a V90, and a Allroad from an Avant? it’s ground clearance and body cladding.

    From what I’ve seen of a Niro (and I haven’t seen one in person), I’d call it a hatchback. It looks like it sits too low to the ground to be a CUV.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      I was in Downtown Albuquerque traffic and I was behind a GLA. In my Highlander I could see clear over the GLA, no problem. Pretty low for a CUV.

  • avatar

    “So tell me, what defines a crossover for you?”

    A $3000-$5000 markup over the same vehicle packaged as a sedan.

  • avatar
    pragmatist

    A crossover is the grown-up’s equivalent of a Barbie Jeep

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Question: what’s a crossover?
    Answer: anything that isn’t a truck or SUV, and is actually selling in the year 2017.

    • 0 avatar
      SunnyvaleCA

      “actually selling in the year 2017” — I like it!

      How about: anything that is an EPA-classed “light truck” that isn’t a pickup, rugged SUV (BOF, for example), or passenger van.

      Here’s the EPA classifications, by the way: http://fueleconomy.gov/feg/byclass/2016ClassList.shtml

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Mercedes calls the GLA an SUV. It’s even named like one. But when you see one on the road, it’s a slightly elevated, smallish hatch with bulging doors and rear that looks like a leaping frog. Unless it’s the AMG version – that’s lowered, which makes it a lowered SUV with a hatch, which is really just a bugling 4 door hatch that was raised and then lowered.

    It’s all ball bearings these days.

  • avatar
    bd2

    “Crossovers” are slightly lifted hatches or wagons (depending on the size).

    Never really bought the “needing optional AWD” argument.

    A FWD RAV-4 or an MDX is exactly that – a FWD vehicle.

  • avatar
    Jagboi

    Why does the Toyota in the photo have no license plate?

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    The term “crossover” is nothing more than a marketing term that was thought up when hating SUVs was all the rage because they supposedly killed polar bears and bot flies.

    The fact is there is no such thing as a crossover. They are SUVs. Calling them anything different is just a way to mislead customers.

    • 0 avatar
      John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

      Lol, yes we wouldn’t want to mislead customers! Just lead them into thinking the Highlander they’re looking at is exactly the same off-road ready SUV as a 4Runner, or a new Cherokee will keep up with a Wrangler on the trails and the rocks.

      Do you just try to come up with stupid §h¡Г? If so, then brovo. Consider your goal accomplished.

  • avatar
    carguy

    It’s a marketing term to make people feel better about buying lifted hatchbacks and station wagons.

  • avatar
    Erikstrawn

    Crossovers are minivans disguised as SUVs. Take your corporate mid-sized chassis, put the minivan body on it, replace the handy-but-dorky sliding doors with regular doors, put bigger tires on it, and throw a few “edgy” creases in the body.

    SALES WINNAH!

    I blame the Aztek. When they first came out, I remember looking under the hood and seeing the engine way down where a car engine would be, and a mile of empty sheetmetal and plastic body cladding raised up above it. I realized at that moment GM had figured out how to build a pseudo-SUV dirt cheap. Fortunately consumers realized there was a difference in the construction of an Aztek and a Tahoe and the asking prices for Azteks dropped back down to car-chassis territory.

  • avatar
    Fred

    A crossover is a jacked up hatchback. They also seem to be kind of ugly.

  • avatar
    tp33

    Crossover (word): A marketing gimmick designed to assuage those who are too image conscious (and/or engineering-challenged) to admit that they drive a lightly reworked, overpriced, station wagon (two-box, sedan-based people hauler)

    Crossover SUV (vehicle): a lightly reworked, overpriced, station wagon (two-box, sedan-based people hauler)

    CUVs (or is it C-SUV’s now?) generally offer little to no advantage in sport (off-roading) or utility (hauling/towing stuff) over a similarly configured actual station wagon (where the latter still exist), and have no more in common with an actual SUV than a pop-gun has with a rifle. Crossovers fall into two general classes: baby wagon wannabes and Faux SUVs

    To make your own baby wagon-wannabe, start with a perfectly capable actual wagon or hatchback (Outback, Golf, Focus, Civic etc.), then make it “better” with the following modifications:
    -ADD: a couple inches of height and a significantly higher price
    -SUBTRACT: handling, acceleration, braking, fuel economy, and value
    -CONSIDER ADDING: an inch or two more wheelbase and/or width, and some “on road only” off-roading ability (strictly optional, and cap at 10-15% of sales)
    KEEP: Everything else

    You’ll also need a new name—preferably something macho (Patriot, Rogue, etc.), adventurous (Escape, Pilot, etc.), or, if you’re REALLY tickled by Joe/Jane American’s ignorance, full-tilt ironic—like a FWD Corolla Wagon named “Recreational Activity Vehicle with 4-wheel drive!” Perfect for carting your poodle “Hercules” around town…

    If the actual wagon/hatch/car still exists when you introduce the wannabe version, be sure to charge a 20-30% premium so your “savvy” customers know how much more they are getting by “stepping up” (sometimes by a whole inch of extra ground clearance!) to a Crossover SUV.

    Typical hatch/wagon-wannabe? Honda HR-V. Start with a perfectly capable Fit hatchback, add 400-500 pounds, 3 cu.ft. of useless cargo volume (53 vs. 56), 3 inches of height (67 vs. 70) and wheelbase (100 vs. 103), then enhance the base price by 20+% while reducing fuel economy (minus 5-6 MPG), acceleration, and handling proportionately.

    If your CUV profits are successful at killing the original wagon/hatch/car that donated its organs to spawn it, charge whatever you want! No one will be able to compare specs, b/c your upwardly mobile customer base literally PAID YOU to get rid of the cheaper, more capable, donor vehicle. The Ford Focus wagon, last offered in 2007, was 178” long and offered 74 cubic feet of cargo space. The 2017 Focus Wagon is now called “Escape”. It measures 178” long and has 67 cubes of space. My wife owns one. Lovely little bugger. Reasonably agile (2.0 Ecoboost), sporty, and stylish. Kinda like the Focus hatch on which it’s based–only heavier, slower, and less fuel efficient. It barely fits the baby’s car seat (or anything else since we can no longer fold the seats), it gets 20.4 mpg mixed (4 better than my v8 Crew Cab 4×4), and it cannot “escape” our driveway in light snow. But none of that matters, because you’d NEVER mistake it for an actual Focus (unless you had a clue about vehicle-platforms, or could access “Wikipedia”)! No wonder it stickers for just 38 grand. And to think I had the nerve to suggest my wife consider a minivan…

    Faux-SUV’s follow a different, but equally comical script. Start with a perfectly capable, real SUV—-either BOF or integrated frame unibody (think Rover, Jeep GC/Durango, etc.), and then:

    KEEP: styling and general shape
    -SUBTRACT: Everything else, including the SUV platform and associated capabilities like acceleration, torque, payload, towing capacity, ground clearance, and 4WD system
    -ADD: handling, braking, ride, and fuel economy slightly worse than the mid-size car whose platform you borrowed to create your Faux SUV

    The idea here is to crib the look of a proper SUV as closely as possible, while making sure NOT to copy any of the SUV’s performance or capabilities. Do it right and you’ll not only be able to charge a hefty premium vs. the car/wagon on which it’s based, but in the off chance that the actual SUV still exists, your “SUV-look” poseur-mobile will provide a terrific “bargain.” Consider the all-new 2018 Chevy Traverse aka Malibu Maxx “Baby Tahoe edition” as the Faux SUV (and profit center) par excellence: 30% of the Tahoe’s towing capacity for just 60% of the price. Huzzaah! Other class leaders in this push-up bra segment include the 4runner-shaped Camry (Highlander), the Armada-shaped Altima (Pathfinder), and the Expedition-shaped Taurus (Explorer).

    • 0 avatar
      OldManPants

      “to admit that they drive a lightly reworked, overpriced, station wagon”

      Admit to whom?

      Who the f*ck are you to question our private purchasing or to imagine that you know what motivates our choices?

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I got your Xanax refilled, would you like one? I already opened the bottle and popped a few.

        • 0 avatar
          OldManPants

          That little mutt laid a big turd and I had to hose it off my driveway.

          I feel better now but I’ll still take the Xanax, thanks.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            But you’re right. Why do people have to justify what they buy? Shouldn’t they be able to just say “because I wanted it”?

      • 0 avatar
        tp33

        I don’t know. Admit to themselves, maybe? Or family, friends, neighbors? Basically other humans to whom they might, in the course of a conversation, refer to their vehicles as a “crossover SUV.”

        And I’m not questioning anybody’s decisions, mate. Just having a good laugh, and hopefully peeling a little wool back…

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I think my views are well known and although I find some truth to this long post, what really grinds my gears is these are my vehicle choices post 2010:

      Umpteen “Crossover” “UV” models.
      Five or so “Sport” “UV” models.
      Four so giant “mini” vans.
      Dozen or so “midsize” who offer little passenger room beyond a short jaunt.
      A hand-full of “full” size sedans which may or may not fare better for occupants (Panther).
      Two or three pony cars.
      Three or four roadsters.
      Two or three two door sedans.
      Four or so monster trucks.
      Three or so HD monster trucks.
      Three or so “midsizes” who in the latest generations are getting to be huge and offer NO V8.

      This may sound like a lot of choice but when you exclude pickups, roadsters, and “mini” vans, you have six “car” categories -for a 17 million unit industry- some of which have only have two to three models at any given time.

      No matter the virtue of the made up word “crossover”, can I get some variety? Major models as recently as 1989 were still offered in two to three *configurations* and would have continued to be if not for Detroit’s near bankruptcies in the 80s/early 90s and subsequent invention of “SUV”.

      The lemming sh!t really gets old.

      • 0 avatar
        ilkhan

        New models are expensive. Configurations are expensive. Having to deal with umpteen million regulations is expensive. Having to deal with umpteen different crash standards is expensive. Basically, its not worth it to develop variety.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Everything is expensive, yet record profits?

          http://www.cnbc.com/2016/04/28/ford-motor-sets-records-for-profit-operating-margins.html

          https://www.forbes.com/sites/joannmuller/2017/02/07/gms-trucks-and-suvs-haul-home-record-profits-in-2016-why-ceo-is-still-bullish-for-2017

          https://www.rte.ie/news/business/2016/0511/787627-toyota-profits/

          Yet people can’t really afford them:

          “This is a significant increase from 25.11% in the third quarter of 2015, driven primarily due to the preference of American consumers to lower their monthly payments amid higher transaction costs.”

          “Zabritski said, “People shop for vehicles largely based on monthly price, and right now, average dollar amounts for new vehicle loans are soaring.” She added, “In order to stay within their budget goals, we have seen that more consumers – even those within the prime and super-prime risk categories – are turning to leasing and used vehicles as cost-effective alternatives to buying new.””

          http://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/040116/auto-leasing-hits-record-high-q4.asp

          Expensive products, record profits. Fuck you Detroit/Japan/Germany offer some damn variety.

      • 0 avatar
        OldManPants

        “The lemming sh!t really gets old.”

        That’s Doc-Z’s line!

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Your last statement falls flat on its face. The Traverse has something like 20 more cubes of cargo capacity than the Tahoe, because it doesn’t have a ladder frame and stick axle taking up all that space instead.

      • 0 avatar
        tp33

        Ummm. No. First off, the difference is not even 4 cubic feet, much less 20 (google 2018 Traverse cargo space). Second, I called it a Baby Tahoe because it is smaller, lighter, and far less physically capable than an adult (read:real) Tahoe. It cannot tow what a Tahoe tows, or go where a Tahoe goes. It may look the part, but deep down the Traverse is just a puffed up Malibu station wagon with a higher seating position and a premium price. It has far more in common with a minivan than the SUV it attempts to imitate.

        Third, interior volume has nothing to do with performance or capability, IMO. If that’s your metric, then the Traverse, Tahoe, and even Suburban are all just less-capable minivans.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          2017 Tahoe cargo cu ft max: 94.7 cu ft
          2017 Traverse cargo cu ft max: 116.3 cu ft

          Third row in Tahoe is miserable, leaves 15.3cu ft behind third row. Traverse third row is adult sized, and leaves 24.4cu ft.

          You were saying?

          • 0 avatar
            tjh8402

            @gtemnykh: the 2018 Traverse loses space. The new numbers are:
            23 ft3 behind third row
            58.1 ft3 behind second
            98.5 all seats folded

            @DAL20402 – because that sort of person shouldn’t be buying a Traverse, they should be buying a minivan, or a proper wagon if it was offered. The Pacifica offers 32 cubes behind the third row, 87.5 with it folded, and 140 cubes with the second row down as well.

            There are no proper full size wagons offered anymore, so I looked at the biggest wagons (or wagon based vehicles) on sale.

            A Subaru Outback has 35.5 ft³ behind the (2nd row only) seats, 73.3 ft³ with the seats folded. An Audi A7, not even a proper wagon, has 24.5 cubic feet of cargo space. I can’t find numbers for the total seats folded space, but I would imagine its close to the outback. You could imagine what a wagon with the A7’s footprint would have spacewise (it’s longer and wider than the outback). I can’t good numbers for it’s seats up capacity, but the old B body wagons would rival the Tahoe’s total seats down capacity at like 92-94 cubic feet.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            @tjh8402: ” the 2018 Traverse loses space. The new numbers are:
            “23 ft3 behind third row
            “58.1 ft3 behind second
            “98.5 all seats folded

            You’re kidding, right? My 2002 Saturn Vue had 100cu.ft capacity with all seats folded. You mean the Traverse is actually SMALLER than a 15-year-old Saturn?

          • 0 avatar
            tjh8402

            Yes that is correct. I doubled checked the numbers at a different source and they are reporting the exact same ones:

            “Behind the third row seat, the new Traverse supplies 23 cubic feet of space, and that figure includes the storage bin beneath the cargo floor. Fold the third-row seat down for 58.1 cu.-ft. of space, or fold both rows of seats to maximize volume at 98.5 cu.-ft.”

            http://www.jdpower.com/cars/articles/new-car-previews/2018-chevrolet-traverse-preview

            (Somewhat disconcertingly if those numbers on your Vue are accurate) the Traverse actually has one of the biggest interiors of any SUV. The Explorer, Santa Fe, Highlander, Durango, Range Rover, XC90, and Pilot are all about 80-85 cubes total. A Jeep GC is 68.3. Even the sizeable Mercedes GLS is only 94 cubic feet. Only the Expedition (108), Expedition EL (130), and Suburban (121) have more room.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            KBB gives this data: EPA Passenger 100.0 cu.ft.
            Now, I will accept that very probably includes leg room so cubic footage may be reduced somewhat but the rear and front passenger seats all fold flat, giving a flat load floor just over 8’long through the passenger seat and just over 3′ high at the tailgate, adding another 2″-4″ inside the cabin.

            My Saturn Vue was quite roomy inside and I put over 120,000 miles onto it in 12 years before selling it. My current vehicle is much smaller inside, mostly due to a significantly shorter wheelbase. My Vue was even longer than my JKU Wrangler in overall length.

          • 0 avatar
            tjh8402

            @Vulpine – I looked it up and the 2002 Saturn Vue has 64 cubic ft of cargo space with all the seats folded. the EPA’s total passenger interior volume probably includes not just floor space, but the front seats as well.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Ok, I’ll accept that. Again though, the front passenger seat folds flat too, so most of the lost volume is a combination of footwells and driver’s seat. The thing was remarkably roomy inside and could carry 4×4 plywood flat no trouble (even up to about 6′ length). Was the best wagon I ever owned, though sometimes wish I could have gotten hold of the family’s original ’54 Mercury wagon (a deep forest green, as I recall.) Took many a thousand-mile trip in that thing as a kid riding in the far back with the dogs. Most of the luggage was carried under a tarp in the boat we pulled back and forth.

            Dad traded Merc and boat for a ’59 Olds Dynamic 88 (with the color-changing linear speedometer.)

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Why would someone who spends their time carrying around kids and their sports equipment want to sacrifice 20 cubes of precious cargo space and some ride quality for a heavy frame and rear axle that brings them no benefit?

          Capability comes in different forms for different people. You may think towing capacity or off-road ability is more important than cargo space. Others likely feel the reverse.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    It’s not a station wagon and it’s not a minivan. Deal with it. Minivans have their own well-deserved jihad; and thusly so. Minivans are superb people movers. Not hot, but quite good at what they do. Station wagons are unicorns. The market spoke and no one paid attention. All six of you station wagon guys waving your hands and sputtering have been duly noted. Unless you call it an “estate wagon”. then you should be slapped silly and never, ever be allowed to breed. CUVs are not performance vehicles. Deal with it. Most Americans don’t buy performance vehicles. Deal with that.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      The market demanded SUV and if not for the 2008 gas spike, that’s what we would be talking about today. Mfg realized few used SUV capabilities and thus deleted them but left enough in the product which makes you “feel” like you’re in an SUV. Crossover, the SUV with no capability for the market which wasn’t paying attention. Deal with it.

    • 0 avatar
      tp33

      Semantics mate. If it’s a car-based, two-box vehicle with a D-pillar and modest ride height, I call it a station wagon. I’m sure there are subtle distinctions between proper station wagons and estates, shooting-brakes, etc., but whatever we call it, there’s a class of vehicles into which most people, I suspect, would place everything from a 1980s Country Squire to a modern A4 Avant.

      My point, and I’ve yet to hear anyone offer a convincing counter, is that re-labeling something does not change what it is. What changes, pray tell, were made to the Subaru (legacy) Outback Station Wagon when it “morphed” into a “crossover SUV,” as it’s now called? Give up? NONE. Zero. Zilch. Subaru re-engineered their website and marketing materials, nothing more. Same vehicle, same dimensions, same performance. For two decades it was a station wagon in form, function, and name. Still is, but only in the first two of three.

      What’s more, if the Outback is still a station wagon, what should we call its shorter (but same width & height), lighter, and less capable sibling, the Subaru Forester? On what earthly basis could you possibly classify such a vehicle as anything other than “a slightly smaller station wagon than the Outback?” Certainly not physics, form, or function. And if the Forester is a mini-wagon, then so are all the others in that segment–Rav, CRV, Escape, etc. If anything, the latter pretenders have even LESS resemblance to an SUV than the Subie wagons, both of which, I believe, have full time AWD standard.

      Now YOU deal with that ;)

  • avatar
    SuperCarEnthusiast

    Crossover is a sedan chassis and a mini van looking body and advertising/marketing promotions takes it and twist it to mean “truck like” vehicle! That means they can charge even more for it! Everyone wants a truck these days; but are actually getting a minivan for their purchase. LOL!

  • avatar
    ilkhan

    Crossover, to me, is an SUV that doesn’t make any pretense about being an on-road appliance only. Which means all the SUVs out there, except for Jeeps and maybe the 4Runner, should be classified as CUVs. The Escape? Crossover. Explorer? Used to be an SUV, now its a crossover. etc.

  • avatar
    rolando

    “Crossover” to me, is a marketing term. It means nothing, except what the marketers can get the buyers to believe it means. “Coupe” is heading that direction too! I remember Ford called the Non Hatch 3rd Gen Mustang a “sedan”!

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    The last crossover I drove was a 2016 Lexus NX. Lexus literally took everything potentially good about it and made it bad. Turbocharging torque advantage – nope you still have rev the snot out of it to get any oomph. Raised ground clearance – but, make the suspension so stiff it still crashes over bumps. Two-box with hatch – But give it origami styling and a fastback roofline to gobble up interior space. Lots of windows – but make them gun-slits and tint them so dark you can’t out, if you could….see out.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I define “crossover” to be a vehicle that triggers Jack Baruth and anyone who subscribes to TTAC/Jalopnik groupthink.

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