What is a crossover?

Crossover is a term used to identify cars like the Nissan Qashqai and Vauxhall Mokka. But what does it mean, and what are they?

Simon Ostler
Sep 7, 2021

If you're keen to drive a car that has a high up driving position, but you'd rather not be lumbering around in a giant seven-seater SUV, then a crossover is likely to be your best option.

At first glance, the difference between a crossover and an SUV might not be immediately apparent. They both have that similar bulky shape coupled with a high driving position, but there is one key difference that actually makes these cars quite different.

It's all to do with how the cars are built. A crossover is normally based on the same mechanical framework a smaller hatchback, while an SUV tends to be built on a more substantial base. This has quite an effect on the overall capabilities of the car, meaning that while crossovers might look rough and rugged like SUVs, they are often less capable when it comes to things like towing heavy loads or venturing off road.

The flip side of this off course is that crossovers benefit from all the practicality, efficiency and comfort of your typical family hatchback, while also being more compact and easier to drive than their larger counterparts, which may well suit you if you find things like parking to be a tad stressful.

What is a crossover?

While there are technical differences between crossovers and SUVs, both terms are widely used to describe taller, rugged-looking cars with a high driving position. So there can be some confusion when it comes to trying to identify one from the other.

For the sake of this definition, we're going on the basis that a crossover is built from mechanical parts that are not designed to deal with substantial towing or hardcore off-roading; it is simply a taller road-going hatchback.

There are plenty of examples of crossover cars, and many of them are some of the most popular models on the market. The likes of the Nissan Qashqai, Peugeot 2008, Renault Captur, BMW X3, Mercedes GLA and Volkswagen Tiguan can all be placed under the crossover umbrella.

In each case, these cars all share mechanical frameworks with other compact cars, the Peugeot 2008 shares the majority of its engineering with the Peugeot 208 for example.

Used crossovers for sale

Crossovers have become hugely popular, they are perhaps the number one choice for families looking for an all-round workhorse for school runs, shopping trips and holidays. This means that every mainstream manufacturer now offers a range of crossovers in varying sizes, from the compact Nissan Juke to the imposing BMW X3. The shear volume of sales means the range of choice currently on offer from BuyaCar is practically endless.

SUVs: pros and cons

Crossover: pros

High driving position
Fuel economy similar to a hatchback
Interior usually practical and fairly spacious

Crossover: cons

Boot can be small
Most models will struggle off-road
 Less exciting to drive than hatchbacks

The upshot is that these cars work and behave in a very similar way to their relatives. You wouldn't expect a Peugeot 208 to be able to tow two tonnes of lumber to the tip, nor would you expect it to be able to scale Ben Nevis. You would, however, expect it to be comfortable, economical and easy to drive.

This is what crossovers are all about. They provide all of the usability and practicality that comes with a conventional family hatchback, and provides drivers with a higher and more confidence inspiring driving position. They have proven to be hugely popular as family cars, mostly due to their raised height which makes strapping in children far easier. Boot space also tends to be better too thanks to the higher roof, although this isn't always the case.

Crossovers are less economical than standard hatchbacks due to their bigger and bulkier stature. As a result, many of these cars are at their best when powered by a diesel engine, thanks to their greater pulling power and better fuel economy.

Despite the fact that crossovers are taller than normal hatchbacks, they are rarely more capable when it comes to off-road driving. Crossovers tend not to feature four-wheel drive (at least not as standard), and while some models such as the VW Tiguan or BMW X3 have improved ground clearance (the distance between the ground and the bottom of the car) compared to a Golf or 3 Series, many such as the Nissan Qashqai or Peugeot 2008 are a long way short of more established off-roaders.


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