Crossover vs SUV - What's the difference?

Crossover vs SUV - What's the difference?

If you’re in the market for a family car, you will have come across the options of either SUVs or crossovers. But what do they mean and how do they differ?

A few years ago, a family car was just that – a car. But in recent times, the boundaries have blurred, with more and more people moving towards increasingly different types of vehicle to suit their family motoring needs.

Two of the most popular types of car on the market right now are SUVs and crossovers, both of which are chunky cars with a raised ride height and high driving position. But what are the key differences?

Volvo XC90 large SUV

What is an SUV?

An SUV is a car designed from the ground-up to be a chunky off-road style vehicle, though these aren’t to be confused with full-on 4x4 off-roaders, as the driving characteristics are very different.

Quite a few, but not all, SUVs are four-wheel-drive, and many are also seven-seaters. They’re generally taller, wider and longer than crossovers, and are more geared up for heavier duty work, such as towing or light off-roading.

That said, car-like handling is a focus, too – SUVs have unitary body construction (unlike 4x4s, which usually have a separate chassis), and are quite stiff as a result.

There are SUVs on the market of all prices, shapes and sizes, ranging from budget models such as the Dacia Duster up to luxury cars like the Volvo XC90 and Audi Q7.

Our favourite SUVs on the market right now are the Volvo XC60, SEAT Ateca and Skoda Kodiaq, all of which offer great dynamics, quality and equipment levels at a sensible price.

2017 Skoda Kodiaq large SUV

What is a crossover?

A crossover is a car that once had an identity crisis, but has since gone from niche interest to being the fastest growing sector of the car market, with every car manufacturer clamouring to get in on the act.

A crossover is normally based on a car platform, but with a slightly raised ride height and chunky body protection. The extent at which it differs from a ‘normal’ car can be as little as a few tweaks such as taller springs and skid trays, such as the Skoda Octavia Scout, to more purpose-built crossover models such as the Vauxhall Mokka X and Kia Niro.

The key advantage is that a crossover is often cheaper to run than an SUV, as it weighs little more than its hatchback or estate equivalent. As many (but not all) are two- rather than four-wheel-drive, this also delivers fuel economy benefits.

They’re also generally smaller and easier to park and manoeuvre, yet still have the advantages of a raised ride height and good all-round visibility.

Our favourite crossovers on the market right now are the Nissan Qashqai, Skoda Karoq and BMW X2.

2018 BMW X2

Which is best for me?

If you have a family and just need the one car, then an SUV is probably the better bet. Yes, it’ll normally be more expensive, but as your children grow up the car will still fit them, while the boot will be big enough for family holidays. They’re also better for towing if you have a caravan or trailer tent.

A crossover is a better choice of second car, though models such as the Nissan Qashqai and Mazda CX-3 have a bit more space than their rivals and still make good all-purpose family cars.

Smaller crossovers, such as the Renault Captur, Nissan Juke and Vauxhall Mokka X are more suited to urban life or smaller families, but will be cheaper to own and run.

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