What Is A Crossover?

A run-through of the crossover class and what vehicles it has to offer.
By Jon Alain Guzik

2008 Ford Edge

Small SUVs, tall wagons, low minivans, call them what you may - one of the hottest segments in the automotive industry right now is the crossover. The days of the big and bulky truck-based SUV reached its nadir right about the time gas prices hit the three dollar a gallon range and these smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles are catching the eye of the buying public who care about space, comfort and better gas mileage.

So what exactly is a crossover? A crossover fits a range of definitions, but is basically a small SUV built onto the unibody chassis of a passenger car. The buyer gets the space and interior flexibility of a larger vehicle, but with a more car-like feel, drive and fuel economy.

Some cross-utes feature optional four-wheel drive systems like their bigger, SUV brethren. Crossovers are usually lower to the ground than most body-on-frame truck-based vehicles, which should make an aging baby boomer population much happier than climbing into a full-size, high-off-the-ground SUV.
The crossover, or CUV as it is sometimes called, is a no-compromise vehicle that affords the best of all worlds, while also providing a somewhat greener footprint. It's too bad the word hybrid was already taken.

The Ford Edge is a perfect example of this new breed of CUV.  Smaller than an Explorer, larger than a wagon, it's the right size in this day and age of expensive gas and lifestyle downsizing.

"At the beginning of the decade, the crossover segment was a niche segment; there were only 14 models available on the market and annual sales were 500,000. By 2006, sales were 2.4 million, and there are now 50 models on the market. Wards predicts over 70 by 2009," says George Pipas, sales analyst at Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan. "It's the fastest growing segment I've seen in my thirty years at Ford Motor Company. It surpasses the growth of the minivan in the 1980s and the SUV in the 1990s."

The automotive manufacturers are constantly releasing new crossover models.


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