We compared 15 popular crossovers to find out if they have characteristics making them more car-like or SUV-like. Specs studied included engine size, horsepower, MPG, towing capacity, payload capacity and ground clearance.
The "most car-like" crossovers are at the top with the city backdrop and the "most SUV-like" crossovers at the bottom in front of the mountain. During the analysis we had to define what makes a car and what makes an SUV. Keep reading to find out why we determined a CR-V is more like a Civic than a Suburban.
What makes a car?
We examined the most popular midsize cars on the market like the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, and Hyundai Sonata to find similarities. All of them came have around 180HP powering the front wheels on their base models and achieved a combined 30 miles per gallon. Not surprisingly, none of them were rated for towing. Simply put, a car is the best option if you're commuting to work, moving two to four people and running errands. Beyond that, these sedans don't have much else to offer.
What makes an SUV?
When sport utility vehicles entered the market, they were nothing more than pickups designed to carry more people and less payloads. They came with heavy duty suspensions and body-on-frame construction that made them difficult to handle and hard to navigate on any road other than highways or the trails. However, these features meant SUV's could do far more than the average car.
Their towing capacity usually matched their pickup truck counterparts and the 4X4 drivetrain made even off-roading possible. The downfall of the SUV was their large and inefficient V8 engines that were necessary to move those absurdly heavy vehicles. By the late 1990′s, SUVs had gained a reputation within American culture as being the choice of the soccer moms with money to burn.
Age of the Crossover
In the early 2000′s, the SUV was damned by a reputation for inefficiency and overindulgence. While cars weren't considered big enough for a family and no one wanted to be seen in a minivan anymore, where could the American family turn? The automotive industry had to devise a way to rebrand cars that were large and powerful enough to carry families while simultaneously avoiding all of the previous stigmas. Enter the crossover. Crossovers weren't so much a new type of car as they were a combining of two pre-existing vehicle types. They have unibody constructions instead of the heavy-duty frames of the SUV's, which was acceptable because the majority of SUV's never saw their full potential. Most SUV's were being used as people movers anyway.
Crossovers still retain the look of SUV's but are much lighter, allowing manufacturers to outfit them with smaller V6 and even I4 engines that got much better mileage than SUV's. Another way crossovers are different from SUVs are their drivetrains. If you did not opt for 4X4 on your SUV, it typically came with rear wheel drive. With crossovers, if you don't opt for AWD, you get FWD which adds to the sedan-like driving experience. Over the years, the term crossover became increasingly ambiguous and the line between a car, crossover and sport utility vehicle is blurry.