At the start of the crossover trend, a crossover was a SUV-style body being placed on a car chassis to give the buyer most of the utility of a SUV along with most of the ride characteristics of a car. Today, the term crossover means different things to different people, and the term can be used to describe any vehicle that mixes and matches characteristics from two distinctly different body styles.

This generally includes characteristics such as a uni-body construction, car-based chassis and driving performance more akin to a sedan than an SUV. The relatively new vehicle classification was created and defined by automakers to provide a more fuel efficient and comfortable alternative to traditional SUVs. Furthermore, crossovers are specifically designed for traditional highway and city driving, whereas SUVs are often designed for both on- and off-road use.

Types of Crossover SUVs

The term 'crossover' was originally conceived as a marketing term by Lexus to promote their Lexus RX300. This was done to circumvent some of the negative connotations that have been associated with standard SUVs (such as low gas mileage and being environmentally unfriendly). Following the success of this vehicle, other automakers proliferated the nomenclature. Because the crossover classification is generally determined by the automaker on a case-by-case basis, the term is used liberally to describe virtually any car-based vehicle that imbues some form of SUV styling. Some types of crossover SUVs include:

  • Compact crossovers: CUVs with limited passenger and cargo space
  • Full-sized crossovers: larger CUVs that accommodate up to nine passengers
  • Hatchbackcrossovers: CUVs that feature a rear hatchback design

Advantages of Crossover SUVs

In relation to traditional truck-based SUVs, car-based crossovers provide several advantages. These include:

  • Fuel efficiency: The lighter weight and 2-wheel drive configuration of crossovers provides considerable fuel efficiency over heavier SUVs.
  • Handling: Many consumers prefer the more responsive handling provided by crossovers.
  • Safety: A lower center of gravity and shorter suspension improves responsiveness and reduces chances of rollover that plague the SUV class.
  • Cost: The need for smaller engines and fewer components generally makes crossovers more affordable.

Current Popularity of Crossover SUVs

Rising gas prices and a struggling U.S. economy have spurred a recent decrease in popularity of traditional SUVs. The result of this fact is an increased interest in the smaller, more affordable crossover body style. Though the vehicle class is only a few years old, every major North American auto manufacturer now offers at least one crossover model. In fact, there are currently around 30 distinct crossover models available for the 2008 model year. Some of the most popular crossover SUVs include the Nissan Rogue, Kia Rondo and Toyota Matrix.