What is a crossover?

What is a crossover and how does it differ from an SUV? Here we explain everything you need to know about crossovers

Simon Ostler
Jan 5, 2022

If the idea of a high up driving position appeals to you, but you’re put off by the enormity of a fully sized seven-seater SUV, then a crossover may be perfect for you.

It’s difficult to tell the difference between an SUV and a crossover at a quick glance. They share a high driving position coupled with bulky, off-road styling, but these two types of car are separated by one key difference: the way the cars are built.

Crossovers are usually built upon the foundations of a hatchback car, while SUVs are underpinned by far larger platforms.

This makes the two cars perform very differently. Crossovers may look like they are ready to tackle a dirty off-road track, however their looks are often deceiving and they are far better suited for use on the tarmac roads. SUVs, on the other hand, are usually much more adept at tackling off-road hill climbs and muddy tracks.

It’s not all bad news for crossovers, though. These vehicles often sacrifice their off-road capabilities for a more comfortable ride and the added practicality you’d usually find on a family hatchback. Crossovers are also much more compact than fully-fledged SUVs, making them easier to drive and less stressful to park.

What is a crossover?

In general, SUVs and crossovers are cars that are taller, more rugged looking and feature a higher driving position than a typical hatchback. It can be difficult to identify an SUV from a crossover, but crossovers usually look like a hatchback that has been raised up from the ground. A giveaway that a car is a crossover rather than an SUV is it’s compact length whilst maintaining a high driving position. 

Crossovers have become some of the most popular cars on the market, and almost every car manufacturer now makes their own version. The likes of the Ford Puma, Peugeot 2008, Renault Captur, BMW X3, Mercedes GLA and Volkswagen Tiguan can all be classified as crossovers.

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. The sheer volume of sales means there’s a wide range of crossovers available on the used market through BuyaCar.

Audi Q2

Used deals from £15,200
Monthly finance from £226*


Used deals from £18,320
Monthly finance from £269*

Skoda Kamiq

Used deals from £14,779
Monthly finance from £191*

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 hatchbacks. 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.

That’s where crossovers are at their best. They provide all of the usability and practicality you get with a conventional family hatchback and the higher, confidence-inspiring driving position of an SUV. The rear seats are also raised, which makes strapping children in their seat belts much easier. The higher roof gives rear passengers more headspace whilst also providing a larger boot space in some cases.

The bigger and bulkier stature of a crossover adds a bit of weight and makes the car less field efficient than a traditional hatchback. Most crossovers are at their best when powered by a diesel engine, thanks to their greater pulling power and better fuel economy.

Even though crossovers may look more competent at off-roading than a hatchback, they are rarely more capable. 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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