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What Is a Crossover?

Posted by Auto.com Staff | Jan 3, 2019

Crossover is a term used to describe a vehicle that has the appearance of a sport utility vehicle (SUV), but the ride and handling of a smaller car. Crossovers are sort of a “Jack of all trades” in the automotive world. As an amalgamation of desirable features of different kinds of vehicles, they give buyers new and exciting options when it comes to finding the perfect car.

When the first full-size SUV platforms appeared on the market, their truck-inspired body-on-frame construction made the drive feel heavy and cumbersome. These early models, like the Chevrolet Suburban, where based on bulky truck chassis. This means these early SUVs also got pretty unimpressive fuel economy. Handling on the highway or around town was less than desirable. For all its downfalls though, the SUV became immensely popular. Here was a vehicle that had room for an entire family and their stuff, and then some. 

Some drivers were left out, though. There was a need for a vehicle that could fit a family of four, with enough room to hold all their things. But not all shoppers were comfortable with the handling and fuel economy sacrifices that a traditional truck-like SUV required. Manufacturers solved that problem with crossovers, which feature a lighter-weight unibody construction. The reduction in weight isn’t the only advantage to a car-like unibody build – the rigidness of this design gives the crossover added strength and more responsive handling.

Another advantageous feature of crossovers is their size. Even the smallest ones, sometimes referred to as subcompact SUVs or mini-crossovers, will have a higher ride-height and more headroom than a regular sedan of similar size. This can be a desirable feature for those who find it hard to get in and out of a conventional sedan. While their off-road capabilities may be limited, some buyers appreciate the increased ground clearance, making it easier to step into but not so high-riding that the drop is difficult.

Crossovers also have an increased passenger capacity that you would be hard pressed to find in a comparable car platform. Some of the regular and full-size crossovers give shoppers the option of a third row, meaning they can fit up to seven or even eight people. When not needed, this third row can often be folded down for additional cargo room.

The addition of the crossover platform has improved the number of options available to car shoppers. Ranging in size from the station wagon-like Subaru Forester, to the more conventional Honda CR-V, different crossover designs apply their own unique formulas of vehicle crossover to appeal to different driver's needs. As such crossovers now come in a variety of sizes and applications including smaller compact options to larger SUV-like models. No matter what brand you are looking at, from Ford to Nissan, Chevrolet to Toyota, you are sure to find a model of crossover SUV that will fit your needs.