The emergence of the crossover

2015 Toyota Highlander Crossover

Remember the story of Goldilocks and how it took three different tries to find the bed that was just right?  For some drivers, finding the car that is just right can be a struggle.  A traditional car is too small, not comfortable enough, or just seems vulnerable on the road.  At the same time, an SUV or truck is too big, difficult to maneuver, and even more difficult to park in a regular space.  So where is a driver like this to turn?  Not so long ago, there weren’t very many options, until the emergence of the crossover.

A Crossover Utility Vehicle, CUV, or just plain crossover is a vehicle that falls into the gray area between car and SUV.  It’s typically big enough that drivers feel comfortable and less vulnerable to being overtaken on the highway, but not too big that it is intimidating.  The CUV is constructed using the frame of a car, but adding in various desirable features of an SUV, such as increases in the height, width, or length.  Crossovers are an amalgamation of many different vehicles as they borrow heavily from cars, SUVs, station wagons, and hatchbacks to fully complete their look.

Combining a higher center of gravity of a sports utility vehicle with the incredible handling of a regular sedan, the crossover is the perfect vehicle for those who are looking for something a little bit bigger than their current car or something with just a little bit more cargo space.  Features made popular by the SUV, such as all-wheel drive, easily accessible cargo area featuring a lift-gate, fold down seats to increase the amount of space available, and a higher world view are all present in the CUV, but they typically get better gas mileage and aren’t as cumbersome to drive.

The layman probably wouldn’t know the difference between a CUV and an SUV, as most people can’t look at a vehicle and determine if it is a uni-body construction or if it is body-on-frame construction.  CUVs typically are available in four different sizes; a mini, a compact, a mid-size, and a large.  This wide array of options also allows drivers to find the size with which they are the most comfortable, and what will be practical for use as an everyday vehicle.  While the CUV may seem like a new concept, it isn’t; they’ve actually been around since the late seventies, but have since gained enough popularity to warrant mass production.

Many of the popular automakers offer several different CUVs for drivers choosing.  While initially, most of the crossovers on the market fell into the mid-size or large range; the late nineties and early two thousands saw an increased demand for a small sized CUV.  Recent years have called for the production of the mini CUV, and their popularity is increasing rapidly as drivers used to smaller cars seek the options of all-wheel drive or increased stability.  The past ten years have seen an incredible upswing in the popularity of crossovers, and many models are topping the charts as being great little vehicles.

  • Toyota Highlander – It may be a surprise to see that the Highlander is actually considered a large CUV, but it falls into the uni-body construction category and has remained very popular amongst drivers. It offers all of the space of a traditional SUV but without any feelings of it being too large to operate on a regular basis.  With plenty of cargo space, a comfortable amount of leg room, and a high enough vantage point to avoid feelings of vulnerability as a driver.
  • Chevrolet Equinox – Falling into the mid-size SUV category, this little CUV has all the power of an SUV, but is a little bit nicer to your wallet. CUVs tend to be somewhat more gas efficient, often averaging mpg numbers similar to that of a large sedan.  A mid-size CUV makes driving a little bit easier as it does not have the sheer mass of an SUV or even a large-size CUV.  Mid-size CUVs tend to be a little bit wider, and a little lower to the ground than a full size vehicle of the same class.
  • Nissan Rogue – A favorite amongst CUV drivers, the Rogue is just big enough that everyone can ride comfortably for long periods, but not big enough that it makes the driver nervous about controlling such a large vehicle. With plenty of cargo space, the Rogue makes an excellent family vacation vehicle, and can fit five people easily.  Loaded with technology and averaging excellent gas mileage, this vehicle is the right fit for most CUV drivers, even the former owners of small cars.
  • Honda HR-V – Newer to the market than its predecessors, the HR-V is smaller than Honda’s other popular crossover, the CR-V. This CUV is small on the outside, but packs major space into the interior.  Equipped with many different options for hauling cargo, the HR-V may fall into the mini-CUV category, but there is nothing miniature about its ability to fit everything life throws at you.  Hauling a kayak or a tiny little computer box is equally as simple for this crossover, and it handles just as well as any of the other members of Honda’s star lineup.

Don’t waste time debating whether or not an SUV or a car is the right choice for you.  Embrace the little bit of Goldilocks in each of us, and find something that is just right.

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