Sport utility vehicle (SUV) sales are through the roof in the last few years. More room for passengers and cargo plus cheaper gas prices mean SUVs are a great option for family travel. They provide traction in inclement weather and better visibility than sedans, due to being higher off the road.
More recently, car manufacturers have created another class of vehicles known as the crossover. People sometimes mistakenly refer to crossovers as SUVs, but these vehicles have slightly different features than traditional SUVs. We’ve created this quick guide to help you understand the difference between the crossover and the SUV.
What Is an SUV?
SUV is the label used to describe any vehicle built on a truck chassis with body-on-frame construction. These models typically have rear-wheel drive, with the option for all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, and they can go off road. Most SUVs feature V6 engines, but the larger models sometimes offer a V8 engine for improved towing capabilities.
What Is a Crossover SUV?
Both SUVs and crossovers are great as family vehicles. Models with a third row offer seating for up to seven or even eight passengers, along with cargo room for all the essentials.
Unlike an SUV, crossovers include a car chassis with a unibody car frame. They ride lower to the ground and are not necessarily off-road capable. They usually come with front drive standard, but some offer all-wheel drive systems for better driving in inclement weather.
Crossover vehicles offer fewer hauling capabilities due to a smaller engine, but for that reason, they get better gas mileage. They are not as sturdy in the snow and rain, but the lighter frame allows better performance. The crossover is more of a combination between the sporty features of the sedan and the interior space of an SUV.
The History of Crossover Vehicles
The crossover has an interesting history. Among the earliest versions was the Willys-Overland Jeepster convertible coupe. It combined some car-like features with some off-road capabilities, creating a direct link between the utility vehicle and the passenger car market.
Meanwhile, in Russia, the first unibody all-wheel-drive car was the GAZ-M72 Pobeda. Later, Greece developed a concept car as a luxury limousine using the drivetrain from a Jeep Wagoneer. One of the last precursors to the modern-day crossover was the 1977 Matra Rancho, made from fiberglass and polyester to make it look “sturdier.”
The vehicle typically referred to as the first crossover is the AMC Eagle. Introduced in 1979 as a conventional car unibody with a raised four-wheel drive system, it offered comfort for passengers and stability in poor weather conditions.
Toyota debuted its first crossover, the RAV4, in 1996. Fast forward 10 years, and crossover sales began making up more than 50 percent of all SUVs purchased. In the first half of 2018, the auto industry sold 2.8 million crossover SUVs.
Top 10 Crossovers According to Car and Driver
Here are the top 10 crossover vehicles on the market for features and options, according to Car and Driver:
1. Mazda CX-5
This model tops the list for its high-quality interior design and luxurious feel. It combines the look of a sports car with the body type of an SUV. This one gets the top spot for being the best all-around crossover model.
2. Honda CR-V
This vehicle offers supportive seats, a quiet and roomy interior, and greater versatility than other models. It is one of the only models with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and comes with front-wheel drive standard.
3. Ford Escape
The Escape handles smoothly and with precision. Its quiet ride paired with a sporty look put it toward the top of the list.
4. Kia Sportage
The interior of the Kia Sportage resembles the high-class look of an Audi. A six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are standard, but all-wheel drive is an option.
5. Hyundai Tucson
With German and South Korean roots, this crossover has a lot of style. Six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are standard, but seven-speed and all-wheel drive options are available.
6. Jeep Cherokee
Coming from a rugged brand, this Jeep is known for its off-road capabilities. The Cherokee has a long list of customizable features, including three engine types and all-wheel drive.
7. GMC Terrain
This GMC has a lot to offer, including power passenger seat options, cross-traffic detection and blind spot warning.
8. Chevrolet Equinox
The Equinox provides a quiet ride in the cabin. It also is available in three different turbo four-cylinder engines and up to a nine-speed automatic transmission.
9. Volkswagen Tiguan
This is Volkswagen’s smallest crossover SUV, but it’s big enough to offer third-row seating options in newer models. With an eight-speed automatic transmission and either front-wheel or all-wheel drive, it has a good deal of power to get you to your destination.
10. Toyota RAV4
The RAV4 has a sleek outline and a practical, comfortable interior. It comes standard with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, as well as a six-speed automatic transmission.
Top 10 Crossovers for Best Gas Mileage
These are the top 10 crossover models based on their highway gas mileage:
1. Kia Niro FE – 49 mpg
2. Chevrolet Equinox w/ 3LT – 39 mpg
3. GMC Terrain SLE Diesel – 39 mpg
4. Honda CR-V EX – 34 mpg
5. Honda HR-V LX (CVT) – 34 mpg
6. Mazda CX-3 Sport – 34 mpg
7. MINI Countryman Cooper (M6) – 34 mpg
8. Buick Encore Preferred – 33 mpg
9. Chevrolet Trax LS – 33 mpg
10. Fiat 500X Pop – 33 mpg
Compare SUV vs. Crossover Used Cars in Person in Mesa, AZ
If you’re looking for an affordable crossover or full-size SUV that meets all of your needs, USA Auto AZ may just have the vehicle for you! Check out our current SUV inventory and filter by price, year or mileage: