A crossover SUV (CSUV) – also called a crossover utility vehicle (CUV) – is a type of sport utility vehicle (SUV) of unibody construction. Crossovers are often based on a platform shared with a passenger car. Compared to truck-based SUVs, they typically have better interior comfort, a more comfortable ride, superior fuel economy, and less off-road capability. Many crossovers lack all-wheel drive, which, in combination with their lesser off-road capability, challenges their definition as "sports utility vehicles". Furthermore, there are inconsistencies about whether some vehicles are considered crossovers or SUVs; therefore, the term "SUV" is often used as a catch-all for both crossovers and compact SUVs.
The difference between crossovers and other SUVs is sometimes defined[by whom?] as a crossover being built using a unibody platform (the type used by most passenger cars), while an SUV is built using a body-on-frame platform (the type used by off-road vehicles and light trucks). However, these definitions are often blurred in practice, since unibody vehicles are also often[quantify] referred to as SUVs. Also, "crossover" is a relatively recent term, and early unibody SUVs (such as the 1984 Jeep Cherokee) are rarely called crossovers. Due to these inconsistencies, the term "SUV" is often used as an umbrella term for both crossovers and SUVs.
Outside of the United States, the term "crossover" tends to be used for C-segment (compact) or smaller vehicles, with large unibody vehicles—such as the Audi Q7, Range Rover and Volkswagen Touareg—usually referred to as SUVs rather than crossovers. In the United Kingdom, a crossover is sometimes defined as a hatchback with raised ride height and SUV-like styling features.
Introduced in 1979, the AMC Eagle is retroactively considered to be the first dedicated crossover automobile that made its debut prior to the terms "SUV" or "crossover" being coined. The mass-market Eagle model line was based on a unibody passenger car platform, with fully automatic four-wheel drive and a raised ride height.
Though it is not part of the modern linear evolution, and only fifteen were built, some stretch the definition and history of the "crossover" to regard the off-road racing 1936 Opel Geländesportwagen as the first of the class.
The 1994 Toyota RAV4 is credited as the model that expanded the concept and the crossover market segment. Essentially a shrunken SUV, the RAV4 was based on the platform used by the Toyota Corolla.
Subcompact crossovers are usually based on the platform of a subcompact (also known as supermini or B-segment) passenger car. They typically have limited off-road capabilities, with some differing from the standard hatchback model with only a bumper hinge and more ground clearance.
Compact crossovers are usually based on the platform of a compact (also known as C-segment) passenger car. The first compact crossovers included the 1994 Toyota RAV4, 1995 Honda CR-V, 1997 Subaru Forester, 2000 Nissan X-Trail, 2000 Mazda Tribute, and 2001 Ford Escape.
The number of compact crossover models offered has rapidly increased since 2010. In 2019, it was stated by Car and Driver that "so many of these vehicles are crowding the marketplace, simply sorting through them can be a daunting task".
Mid-size crossovers are usually based on the platform of a mid-size passenger car. The first mid-size crossovers include the 1999 BMW X5, 2001 Toyota Highlander, Pontiac Aztek, and the Hyundai Santa Fe. Some mid-size crossovers have a 3rd-row of seats, while others have 2 rows.
Full-size crossovers are usually based on full-size cars. They are the largest crossovers that offer exclusively three rows. The first full-size crossovers include the 2007 GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook, and the 2008 Buick Enclave.
Sales of crossovers increased 30% between 2003 and 2005. By 2006, the segment came into strong visibility in the U.S., when crossover sales "made up more than 50% of the overall SUV market". Sales increased in 2007 by 16%. In 2013, the Audi Q5 became Audi's second best-selling vehicle in the United States market after the Audi A4 sedan. Around half of Lexus' sales volume has come from its SUVs since the late 1990s.
American manufacturers were initially slow to switch from their emphasis on light truck-based SUVs, and foreign automakers developed crossovers targeting the U.S. market as an alternative to station wagons that were unpopular there. But by the 2010 model year, American car manufacturers had caught up.
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“Crossover” is now used almost interchangeably with “compact SUV,” but some new vehicles are pushing those boundaries.
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