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Q: What is a Crossover?

December 17, 2013 12:53 PM

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Crossover utility vehicles, also known as CUVs, have the upper body of a sport utility vehicle essentially riding on the chassis of a car. Due to this combination of features, crossovers have some of the pros and cons of both SUVs and passenger cars.

A crossover SUV is meant for more lightweight, everyday use than traditional sport utility vehicles. A crossover vehicle has many of the highlights of both the car and SUV categories. These qualities make for a good family car that is suitable for long trips, assuming those trips don't involve hardcore off-roading.

The SUV bodies of crossovers allow for extra space, which results in expanded seating and increased cargo storage areas compared to a car. The chassis and suspension are designed for a car, which means the vehicle is lighter, so it will get better gasoline mileage and it will ride more like a car. Crossovers can be front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive or all wheel drive, offering an important preference choice for drivers. Hybrid versions are also available.

The downside of a crossover SUV is that it isn't as tough as a classic "body-on-frame" truck-like SUV. It may look like an off-road vehicle, but it handles like a car and is meant more for highway travel than the bumps and dips of dirt or gravel trails.

It's important to realize that most crossover SUVs look like they're ready for off-road work, but they don't have the same strength in their undercarriages as a heavier, truck-framed SUV, thus giving them a point of weakness. If terrain isn't safe for a car to drive through, it'll likely pose a challenge for a crossover SUV as well. Off-road adventurers would be happier with a traditional (truck-based) sport utility vehicle that can take more wear and tear, even if the added weight increases the fuel costs.

Safety, fuel efficiency, and storage space are the core advantages of crossover ownership -- not to mention the panoramic outward vision that comes from riding higher than in a traditional car. These vehicles aren't the only type to offer those features, but the rugged SUV style exterior of a crossover might be more appealing than that of a minivan or station wagon.

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