Can't make up your mind whether you'd like to buy an SUV or something smaller, like a station wagon or a hatchback? You don't necessarily have to decide. You can get a crossover vehicle, which combines the features of both. This is one case where you can have your cake and drive it too.
You might not even be able to tell the difference between a crossover and an SUV, at least not at first glance. Like full-scale SUVs, crossover generally offer lots of cargo space, a liftgate for stowing that cargo, and a slightly higher wheelbase than a sedan or hatchback. What most crossovers don't have is off-road capability -- you wouldn't want to drive these vehicles down to your favorite fishing spot by the river -- but if that's not what you're looking for in personal transportation, a crossover may be perfect for you. And if you're opposed to SUVs on principle, some of the newest crossovers are more environmentally friendly than you might expect.
Popular crossovers include the Audi AG and the Ford Escape (though note that in many cases these vehicles are marketed not as crossovers but as "compact SUVs"). This vehicle category has become so popular that auto manufacturers around the world have newer and more innovative models already in the concept stage. On the next few pages, we'll look at some of the most interesting crossover concepts that have recently gone beyond the drawing board and onto the floor at auto shows.
SUVs have long taken it on the chin for being environmentally nasty fuel guzzlers. But a lot of crossovers are trying to go green and use as little gas as possible, some even incorporating hybrid electric technology. The Mazda Minagi doesn't go quite that far, but it pushes the fuel efficiency of its internal combustion engine about as far as it can without adding an electric motor. It uses Mazda's new SKYACTIV technology throughout, including a lightweight body shell and a super efficient engine and transmission combo. The exterior features Mazda's new design concept that they like to call Kodo: The Soul of Motion. Whether a compact SUV can have a soul or not, we don't know, but we're pretty sure that it can have motion, and the Minagi's sleek lines make it look pretty good while moving. At least in concept.
Expect to see production versions of the Minagi on dealer display floors in 2013, probably as the Mazda CX-5.
What's an "urban activity vehicle"? We aren't sure, but that's how Korean automaker Hyundai describes its upcoming Curb crossover, a compact model aimed at younger, urban drivers who want their cars to look like something that's just been sent back from the city of the future. The interior features multiple touch screens for passengers as well as driver, and there's a heads-up display on the windshield for the GPS. The car can even send your current location to your Facebook page. Music is provided by Pandora Internet, for a customized sound mix.
To give it that tough urban look, the car's designers have taken its external cues from the edgy look of a motorcycle. Its headlights wrap around the hood in an angular lightning bolt pattern. This is one crossover you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley -- unless you were driving a full-sized SUV. Expect to see it at dealers in 2013.
The Ford Escape is doomed. Well, not really, but soon the Detroit automaker intends to merge the compact SUV with its European counterpart, the Ford Kuga, and create the Ford Vertrek, which debuted in concept form at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show. The name comes from the Afrikaans word for "departure" and Ford hopes that it will be a departure from the way that they've been making SUVs up until now. In other words, this is not your father's (or your older brother's) Escape.
The Vertrek is based on Ford's C platform, just like the Focus, and uses Ford's new Kinetic design language to give it a fast, muscular look. Think of it as a combination of European styling, a la the Kuga, and American cargo space. It should go into production in 2012.
So far Subaru has been coy about the XV, which debuted at the 2011 Shanghai Auto Show, but it looks like it will be the next-generation Outback. Although Subaru calls the XV a crossover, some auto journalists think it bears a striking resemblance to the Impreza hatchback. Whatever, the XV concept vehicle uses the latest version of Subaru's Boxer engine and a design language that Subaru calls "Protren," short for "professional tool" and "trendy design." The design is certainly modern, with three monitors on the center console and Subaru's symmetrical all-wheel drive. It probably won't be long before this concept vehicle finds its way into production.
The Renault Captur concept car looks as much like a sports car as a sport utility vehicle. (A lot of auto writers are comparing it to the Nissan Juke, which it strongly resembles.) The concept vehicle is full of touches that make it seem not only futuristic but downright weird, like the seats that seem to float in mid-air and the stretched fabric ropes that cover much of the interior. How much of this will make it into the production model is anybody's guess.
The Captur also incorporates Renault's Visio system, a front-mounted camera that provides an "augmented reality" image of what's happening outside to give the driver an improved awareness of the vehicle's surroundings. What's augmented reality? Think of it as combining the view through the car's windows with computer imagery to provide the driver with a stream of real-time information that an F-15 pilot might envy. If Renault doesn't put the Captur into production as a crossover, they might consider making it into a spaceship.
What are the best reasons to buy a crossover vehicle? Read about 5 reasons to buy a crossover vehicle at HowStuffWorks.
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