Chevrolet Traverse full-size crossover
Honda Pilot mid-size crossover
Ford Escape/Kuga compact crossover
Hyundai Kona subcompact crossover

A crossover, crossover SUV,[1] soft roader (British English), or crossover utility vehicle (CUV) is a type of sport utility vehicle-like vehicle of unibody construction. Crossovers are often based on a platform shared with a passenger car, as opposed of a platform shared with a pickup truck. Compared to truck-based SUVs, they typically have better interior comfort, a more comfortable ride, superior fuel economy, and less expensive to manufacture, but provides less off-road capability.[2][3][4] Forerunners of the modern crossover include the 1977 Matra Rancho and the AMC Eagle introduced in 1979.[5]

Many crossovers lack all-wheel drive or four-wheel-drive drivetrain, which, in combination with their lesser off-road capability, causes many journalists and consumers to question their definition as "sports utility vehicles". This has led some to describe crossovers as pseudo-SUVs.[6][7][8] Furthermore, there are inconsistencies about whether some vehicles are considered crossovers or SUVs; therefore, the term "SUV" is often used as a catch-all for both crossovers and compact SUVs.[9]

Some regions outside North America do not have a distinction between a crossover SUV and body-on-frame SUV, calling both of them SUVs. Several governmental bodies in the United States also did not acknowledge the crossover distinction, including the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).[10] Crossovers are sometimes also classified as light trucks in some jurisdictions.

In the United States as of 2006, crossover models comprised more than 50% of the overall SUV market.[11] Crossovers have become increasingly popular in Europe also since the early 2010s.

Definition

The difference between crossover SUVs and other SUVs is generally defined by journalists and manufacturers as a crossover being built using a unibody platform (the type used by most passenger cars), while an SUV is built using a body-on-frame platform (the type used by off-road vehicles and pickup trucks).[12][13][14][15] However, these definitions are often blurred in practice, since unibody vehicles are also often[quantify] referred to as SUVs.[16][17] "Crossover" is a relatively recent term, and early unibody SUVs (such as the 1984 Jeep Cherokee) are rarely called crossovers. Due to these inconsistencies, the term "SUV" is often used as an umbrella term for both crossovers and SUVs.[18][3][19]

Outside of the United States, the term "crossover" tends to be used for C-segment (compact) or smaller vehicles, with large unibody vehicles—such as the Audi Q7, Range Rover and Volkswagen Touareg—usually referred to as SUVs rather than crossovers.[citation needed] In the United Kingdom, a crossover is sometimes defined as a hatchback with raised ride height and SUV-like styling features.[20][21]

History

Introduced in 1979, the AMC Eagle is retroactively considered to be the first dedicated crossover automobile that made its debut prior to the terms "SUV" or "crossover" being coined.[22][23][24][25] The mass-market Eagle model line was based on a unibody passenger car platform, with fully automatic four-wheel drive and a raised ride height.[26][27][28][29][30]

Some cite the front-wheel drive 1977 Matra Rancho as a slightly earlier forerunner to the modern crossover.[31]

Though it is not part of the modern linear evolution, and only fifteen were built, some stretch the definition and history of the "crossover" to regard the off-road racing 1936 Opel Geländesportwagen as the first of the class.[32]

The first-generation Toyota RAV4 released in 1994 has been credited as the model that expanded the concept of the crossover market segment.[33] Essentially a shrunken SUV, the RAV4 was based on a modified platform used by the Toyota Corolla and Toyota Carina.[4]

Size categories

Depending on the market, crossovers are divided into several size categories. Since there is an absence of any official distinction, often times the size category might be ambiguous for some crossover models. Several aspects needed to determine the size category of a vehicle may include length/width dimensions, positioning in its respective brand line-up, platform, and interior space.

Subcompact crossover SUV (B-segment)

Subcompact crossover SUVs (also called B-segment crossover SUV, B-SUV,[34] small crossover SUV[35]) are crossovers that depending on the market and the manufacturer, typically has a length dimension under 4,400 mm (173.2 in). Subcompact crossovers are usually based on the platform of a subcompact (also known as supermini or B-segment) passenger car,[36][37][38] although some high-end subcompact crossover models may be based on a compact car (C-segment).[39] They typically have limited off-road capabilities, although some subcompact crossovers offer all-wheel-drive. Some subcompact crossovers may only differ from the standard hatchback model with only a black plastic fender flares, bumper hinge and more ground clearance.

One of the first crossover built on a subcompact car platform is the first-generation Honda HR-V, which was released in 1998 mainly for the Japanese and European markets.[40] Its length stood between 4,000–4,110 mm (157.5–161.8 in), sold with either 3-doors and 5-doors, and was offered with an all-wheel-drive option.

From mid-2010s, manufacturers began to phase out subcompact hatchbacks and sedans in favor of this segment in several markets since it offers higher profit margins, particularly in North America.[41][42] In Europe, several manufacturers has introduced subcompact crossovers to replace mini MPVs in Europe due to the dwindling sales, and that they offer larger headroom and legroom space compared to normal B-segment/subcompact hatchbacks.[43][44] The examples are the Citroën C3 Aircross which replaced the Citroën C3 Picasso and Opel Crossland X replacing the Opel Meriva.

This category is particularly popular in Europe, India, and Brazil where they count for 37 percent, 75 percent and 69 percent of total 2018 SUV sales respectively. In the United States, it accounts for 7 percent of total SUV sales in 2018.[45]

The best-selling vehicle is the segment in 2019 was the Honda HR-V, recording 622,154 units sold worldwide.[46]

The naming may differ depending on the market. In several regions, the category may be known as "compact crossover" or "compact SUV",[47] not to be confused with the North American definition of a compact crossover SUV, which is a larger C-segment crossover SUV. In India, subcompact crossover SUVs with a length dimension below 4 m (157.5 in) may be called "compact SUV",[48][49] and the larger ones are usually referred as "mid-size SUV".[50][51]

Compact crossover SUV (C-segment)

Compact crossover SUVs (also called C-segment crossover SUV[52] or C-SUV[53]) are usually based on the platform of a compact car (C-segment), while some models may be based on a mid-size car (D-segment) or a B-segment platform. The first compact crossovers included the 1994 Toyota RAV4,[33] 1995 Honda CR-V, 1997 Subaru Forester, 2000 Nissan X-Trail, 2000 Mazda Tribute, and the 2001 Ford Escape. Most compact crossovers have a two-row of seats, while some of others have three rows. It typically has a length dimension between 4,300 mm (169.3 in) and 4,700 mm (185.0 in).

The number of compact crossover models offered globally has rapidly increased since 2010. In 2019, it was stated by American magazine Car and Driver that "so many of these vehicles are crowding the marketplace, simply sorting through them can be a daunting task".[54] Due to its popularity and to cater customer needs, many manufacturers offer more than one compact crossover, usually offering them in slightly different sizes at different price points.

In several regions, the segment emerged as the most popular segment with several brands having a compact crossover model as their best-selling vehicle. Nearly 1 in every 4 cars sold in the United States is a compact crossover, precisely at about 24.2 percent of the total US 2019 car market.[55] It also makes up 5.6 percent of the total European car market.[56]

The best-selling vehicle in the segment in 2019 was the Toyota RAV4, with 961,918 units sold globally.[46]

The naming may differ depending on the market. In several regions, the category may be known as "mid-size crossover" or "mid-size SUV",[57] not to be confused with the North American definition of a mid-size crossover SUV, which is a larger D-segment crossover SUV.

Mid-size crossover SUV (D/E-segment)

Mid-size crossover SUVs are usually based on the platform of a mid-size (also known as D-segment) passenger car. The first mid-size crossovers include the 1999 BMW X5, 2001 Toyota Highlander, 2001 Pontiac Aztek, and the 2000 Hyundai Santa Fe. Some mid-size crossovers have a three-row of seats, while others have two rows, which led to several brands offering multiple models to cater both sub-segments. It typically has a length dimension between 4,700 mm (185.0 in) and 5,100 mm (200.8 in).

The segment is most popular in North America and China, where larger vehicles are preferred. It makes up 15.8 percent of the total United States car market.[58] In Europe, the segment covers 2.1 percent of the total market in 2019 with luxury crossover SUVs dominating most of the share.[59]

The Toyota Highlander/Kluger is the best-selling vehicle in the category in 2018, with 387,869 sold worldwide.[60]

Full-size crossover SUV

Full-size crossover SUVs are usually based on full-size cars. They are the largest crossovers that offer exclusively three rows. The first full-size crossovers include the GMC Acadia, Saturn Outlook, and the Buick Enclave, with older full-size SUVs were mostly built above a body-on-frame chassis. The full-size crossover SUV class is sometimes intersect and being compared with the three-row mid-size crossover class as in the case of the Jeep Grand Cherokee L.[61] Most vehicles in this segment usually offer three row seating. Vehicles in this category usually are longer than 5,100 mm (200.8 in) in length.

As it is the case with mid-size crossover SUV, the segment is only common in North America.

Body style categories

Three-door crossover SUV

While a three-door body-on-frame SUV are not uncommon, crossover SUVs with three doors (including the tailgate door) are more rare in contrast. The decline of two or three-door vehicles in general have led to the disappearance of this category.[62][63][64]

Coupé crossover SUV

Crossover SUVs with a sloping rear roofline may be marketed as a "coupé crossover SUV" or "coupé SUV". Although coupé itself supposed to mean a passenger car with a sloping or truncated rear roofline and two or three doors, every coupé crossover SUV is equipped with five doors.[65] The sloping roofline, also resembling fastbacks or liftbacks, arguably offers styling advantage compared to its standard crossover counterpart.[66][67] Some may also argue it is less attractive and less practical, since the low roofline eats into the cargo space and rear passenger headroom.[68]

The BMW X6 has generally been considered as the first coupé crossover. It was marketed as a "sports activity coupé" (SAC), as opposed to standard BMW crossover SUVs which was called a "sports activity vehicle" (SAV). Introduced in 2008, the vehicle's styling generated some controversy at its introduction and it had less cargo space and a higher price tag, but the body style proved to be popular with tens of thousands being sold annually.[69] However, the Infiniti FX from 2003 has introduced a similar sloping roof design without marketing it as a coupé crossover.[70]

Due to its roots from the BMW X6, this segment mostly consists of vehicles in the luxury segments. Despite that, several manufacturers began offering cheaper coupé crossover SUVs, which include the Renault Arkana, and some China-only models such as the Mazda CX-4,[71] Volkswagen Tiguan X and Škoda Kodiaq GT. Some crossovers may feature a similar roof styling, but not explicitly marketed as a coupé crossover. Examples are the Tesla Model X and Model Y, Jaguar crossovers, Toyota C-HR, Nissan Ariya, along with many others.

According to Strategic Vision, an automotive research and consulting company, buyers of coupé crossovers, particularly those from Mercedes-Benz, are four to five years younger than the usual buyer of typical SUVs. This brings down a car brand's average age, which, in turn, increases the brand's desirability. They also noted that buyers of SUV coupes are less price-sensitive, which means brands can increase the price tag on these vehicles and that would not affect the sales.[72]

Convertible crossover SUV

There are several notable convertible crossover SUVs entering mass production, including the first of of its kind which is the Toyota RAV4 soft-top convertible. Released in North America for the 1998 model year, it was only offered up to 1999 model year.[73][74] Other examples include the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet, Range Rover Evoque Cabriolet, and Volkswagen T-Roc Cabriolet.[75]

This category was heavily criticized by journalists, enthusiasts, and analysts for numerous reasons. "They’re awkward," says industry analyst Dave Sullivan of AutoPacific. "They’re a strange kind of Franken-vehicle. And I think that’s part of the problem."[76] On reviewing the Murano CrossCabriolet, Car and Driver mentioned that "Drivers will hate this car. This unholy beast wasn’t cheap, either, setting buyers back almost $45,000. And as if all of that weren’t bad enough, it was styled like a retirement-home cocktail party in shades of "Merlot" or "Glacier Pearl."[77] Some also questioned its purpose, as the practicality that crossovers usually have did not carryover to its convertible version, as it could only have two doors and little luggage space.[78][79]

Volkswagen brand CEO Herbert Diess was dismissive and derisive of the segment and believed any vehicle in the segment will not be successful just months before announcing the Volkswagen T-Roc Cabriolet.[80][81]

Crossover-styled cars

Some manufacturers have been capitalizing the SUV boom by offering a version of hatchbacks, station wagons or MPVs with a raised ride height and the addition of rugged-looking accessories such as black plastic wheel arch extension kit, body cladding, skid plates and roof rails. Due to its raised ground clearance, it may be marketed as more capable off-road. Some of them may also equipped with all-wheel-drive. This strategy has been used by manufacturers to move models upmarket, or to help filling an absence in a crossover SUV segment. Some had described these vehicles as pseudo-crossovers.[82][83]

Station wagon

Due to its large cargo space and its practicality,[84][85] many manufacturers are releasing "off-road" versions of station wagons that are claimed to be more capable in soft off-road or all-weather situations due to its raised height,[86] essentially making them a crossover between a station wagon and an SUV.

One of the first manufacturer to offer a crossover version of a station wagon is Subaru, which offers the SUV-look version of the Legacy wagon since 1994 as the Legacy Outback. At the time, Subaru was absent in the growing SUV segment. Lacking the finances to design an all-new vehicle, Subaru added two-tone paint scheme, body cladding and a suspension lift to the Legacy wagon. It was marketed as a capable and more efficient alternative to larger truck-based SUVs. Sales exceeded expectations in North America.[87] The Outback became its own model in 1999.

Another example include the Volvo V70 XC (also called V70 Cross Country), first introduced in 1999.[88][89] It featured standard all-wheel drive.[90] In 2002, the model was renamed XC70. Audi has been making Allroad versions of their station wagons since 1999.[91] Currently, the Allroad version is offered for the A4 and the A6. Volkswagen and Škoda equivalent variants are called Alltrack and Scout respectively.

The segment is particularly popular in Europe due to the popularity of station wagons. In North America, some manufacturers are selling station wagons as crossovers due to the former's unpopularity.[92] In the United States, the crossover-styled Subaru Outback is both the best-selling station wagon, and the fourth best-selling mid-size car in 2019.[93]

Hatchback

Many manufacturers are also selling a crossover-styled variant of hatchbacks or city cars with the same body, either as a substitute or a complement to the subcompact crossover SUV segment. Unlike crossover wagons, most crossover-styled hatchbacks are usually not offered with all-wheel-drive.

One of the forerunners of crossover-styled hatchback is the Volkswagen CrossPolo, launched in 2005, and to some extent, the 1983 Fiat Panda 4x4. At that time, the CrossPolo was described as an SUV-like "lifestyle" vehicle.[94] The Dacia/Renault Sandero Stepway, the crossover-styled version of the Sandero launched in 2009 is an example of a well-received crossover-styled hatchback, as it consistently outsold its standard model and makes up for 65 percent of Sandero sales figures.[95][96]

Some manufacturers may chose to sell the crossover-styled hatchback under a separate nameplate, like the Subaru Crosstrek which is based on the Impreza hatchback. Other manufacturers had also went an extensive reengineering in differentiating the crossover-styled model with the standard model by completely reworking the hood area, for example the Honda WR-V which is based on the third-generation Fit/Jazz. These two vehicles are directly marketed as a subcompact crossover SUV model.

MPV

As most MPVs are roughly as tall as SUVs to begin with, several manufacturers tried upselling MPV models by adding a crossover-styled variants. Crossover-styled MPVs are usually not offered with all-wheel-drive. This segment is particularly popular in Europe and Asia.

One of the first MPV with a crossover-styled variant was the Volkswagen CrossTouran, marketed as a "lifestyle" version of the Touran. It is fitted with slightly different suspension to give a higher ride height.[97] In some cases, manufacturers may also went an extensive reengineering in differentiating the crossover-styled model with the standard model by completely reworking the hood area, for example the Suzuki XL6/XL7, based on the second-generation Ertiga.[98] In some cases, some brands tried to directly market these models as a crossover SUV as the line between crossover-styled MPV and actual crossover SUV became blurry.

Apart from crossover-styled variants equipped with accessories, due to the declining popularity of MPVs and minivans, many manufacturers had also began developing MPVs with crossover-inspired styling from scratch, and may market them either purely as an MPV or as a "crossover MPV". This include the fifth-generation Renault Espace,[99] Mitsubishi Xpander,[100] Renault Triber,[101] and the fourth-generation Kia Carnival.[102]

Sedan

Crossover-styled sedans remains a rare phenomenon, however some manufacturers had experimented with it which led to the release of the Subaru Legacy SUS (short for "Sport Utility Sedan")[103], Volvo S60 Cross Country[104] and the Citroën C3L.[105]

Sales

Europe

Since the early 2010s, sales of crossover-type vehicles have been increasing in Europe.[106] By 2017, European sales of compact and mid-sized crossover models continued to surge.[107]

United States

Sales of crossovers increased 30% between 2003 and 2005.[3] By 2006, the segment came into strong visibility in the U.S., when crossover sales "made up more than 50% of the overall SUV market".[11] Sales increased in 2007 by 16%.[108] In 2013, the Audi Q5 became Audi's second best-selling vehicle in the United States market after the Audi A4 sedan.[109] Around half of Lexus' sales volume has come from its SUVs since the late 1990s.[110]

American manufacturers were initially slow to switch from their emphasis on light truck-based SUVs, and foreign automakers developed crossovers targeting the U.S. market as an alternative to station wagons that were unpopular there. But by the 2010 model year, American car manufacturers had caught up.[3]

See also

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