Iím all onboard with the whole ďeconomy carĒ thing. I think Prii (I think thatís how Toyota
decided to pluralize Prius, pronounced pre-eye), in reference to the whole Prius family, are some of the best cars out there. Honda
Civics and Toyota Corollas and Chevy Cruzes and all of the cars in that class are all fine automobiles. They get great gas mileage
and with all the competition and interest in that class now, most of them are well appointed not only in interior fit and finish but
also in tech offerings and standard features. I just donít like them.
That said, I also
donít like the big gigant-o trucks-turned-SUV. Theyíre not all that hot either. For the most part, theyíre ugly. Uglier than hybrids.
Land Roverís LR4 may be the exception here, but even then, driving any of it around basically sends the message that youíve got money
and enough to not give a big fat one about the environment.
So whatís in between? Well,
itís a class of vehicle thatís most commonly referred to as the ďcrossoverĒ. Each individual automaker has its own term for it. Hondaís
is perhaps the most infuriating. The CR-V used to be called an SUV (it was their only SUV for years before the Pilot was born). Now
the CR-V is a CUV. CR-V stands for Compact Recreational Vehicle. CUV, Iím assuming, stands for Compact Utility Vehicle. Couldnít you
just choose one or the other? Not both?
Regardless of name, these are cars that automakers
have either built from the ground up on a new platform to fit the size class (Mazda CX 7) or built off of an existing platform that
fit the size class (Honda CR-V). In the case of the CR-V, Honda took its tried and true Civic platform and built a taller, wider shell
and dropped in a slightly more powerful engine. The result was a small SUV that was agile like the Civic, sipped fuel like the Civic,
yet was able to carry passengers more comfortably with an impressive cargo area. And although some credit Honda with inventing the
crossover segment, theyíre no longer the only pupil in this class. Toyotaís Rav4 was recently ranked the top small SUV by Consumer
Reports, an honor to be sure. Ford has two crossovers, depending on how you look at their lineup. The Escape is slightly smaller than
the CR-V and Rav4, while the Edge is slightly larger. Nissan has one true crossover, the Rogue, and one Scion-esque crossover-ish,
It used to be the case where if you wanted high-end touches such as leather,
in-dash navigation, premium audio, tech options, etc., youíd have to look away from this class of vehicle, instead going for either
a model from a high-end automaker, or a higher-end model in the line. For example, if you wanted these features in a Honda vehicle,
youíd have to go with the Accord. For Toyota, tech came with either the Camry or Avalon. But as more and more consumers started to
turn to smaller vehicles, automakers started to cater to them, offering both packages and a la carte options in vehicles like the
Civic, CR-V, Rav4, and Corolla.
When Honda brought out the 2006 Civic, it introduced an
upgraded interior, upgraded technology, and upgraded interior options. The vehicle then featured a digital speedometer on the upper
level of a two-tiered dash, and digital readouts for remaining fuel and engine heat. In addition to that, Honda built in an auxiliary
input on all Civics and USB/Compact Flash on models equipped with Navigation. This trend of debuting high tech on an entry level model
followed in the 2011 Civic, in which Honda introduced itís new i-Mid (intelligent Multi-information Display), which would then make
its way into the 2012 CR-V.
Next time you go out on the road, look around. Look around
when youíre circling for a space in a parking lot. Chances are, the majority of the vehicles you see are small to midsize sedans and
crossover SUVís. There arenít a lot of minivans and full-size SUVs around anymore. Those that are there are probably four or more
years old. Times are changing. Even moms and families with young kids arenít investing in a Sienna, Odyssey, or Grand Caravan anymore.
Minivans are no longer in vogue. If you want a car with seating for seven, you go and buy a Pilot or a Highlander. Even the Rav4 has
an option for a third row of seating.
The crossover is an infinitely useful vehicle. You
probably wonít buy one if youíre looking for appearance, as many in the category arenít the prettiest vehicles around. But if utility,
versatility, and functionality are what youíre looking for, you might want to check one out. And to help you justify one, read on
for my five reasons why I wonít buy a small car.
1. Hybrids Donít Count
Hybrids are a totally different breed of car. If you buy a
hybrid, you have to be willing to commit to a higher MSRP. That might be worth it for some depending on how quickly youíll earn back
the price premium in fuel savings. If you live in California and commute, it may be worth it to you. Gas prices are high and if youíre
going to be spending an hour or so twice a day every day, it might make sense for you to invest in a hybrid. Before you invest, track
your fuel consumption and cost. Put the numbers of your current vehicle up against the 50MPG of a Prius. Big difference? Buy one.
Small difference? Your call. I priced up a Prius at my local Toyota dealer and my price out the door came to around $27,000. If I
could earn back $7,000 of that in a reasonable amount of time, Iíd get it. But I probably wouldn't, so instead Iíd go with a Rav4,
$22,000 out the door.
2. The Fuel Efficiency of Crossovers is Good
Crossovers generally get really good fuel efficiency. It will depend
how you drive it, whether youíre a lead foot or not, whether you maintain it well, and of course whether you sit in traffic all day
or not. But even if you do, youíre likely to get decent fuel efficiency. In cars like the CR-V and Rav4, youíre likely to get anywhere
from 23 in the city to 31 on the highway. Thatís not bad considering that youí
3. Visibility For You and Others
I donít like sitting
down low on the road. I donít like looking up at other vehicles. Itís intimidating to me. Especially on crowded highways and freeways
where everyone is fighting for space. There have been quite a few times in both heavy traffic and light traffic where a truck has
tried to merge into me because from his vantage point he couldnít see me. In a crossover, you sit up higher. Maybe not as high as
you would in a full-size SUV, but definitely higher than you do in a sedan. Itís something of a preference, some people like being
close to the ground, but I prefer to be up higher. You can see more around you in traffic, and (with a few exceptions) most crossovers
have excellent visibility because of all the glass around you. Also with a larger body, your vehicle is also more visible to other
drivers on the road.
4. Valuable Real Estate
Say you have a family of four or five. Mom and dad are up front, the kids are in the
back. A crossover gives you more space in the car for all of you. Some crossovers include rear seats that slide back to give the kids
more legroom. Some include that valuable third row, in case Junior wants to bring a friend along for the ride. Even if you donít get
the third row, imagine how much soccer, baseball, football, swim, dance, gymnastic, aerobic, etc. gear you can fit in the back of
a crossover. Family ready. But maybe itís just you and your partner. No kids ó yet. You want to go on vacation? Load up the back of
the car with your stuff! Need to pick up friends at the airport? Seating for the, space for their stuff. Need to haul stuff around?
Maybe help a friend move into his new bachelor pad? Your crossoverís your lifesaver.
For reference, a Honda Accord starts
at $21,480, a Toyota Camry starts at $22,055, a Nissan Altima starts at $20,550, and a Chevrolet Malibu starts at $22,110. Now letís
look at the crossovers. A Honda CR-V starts at $22,495, a Toyota Rav4 starts at $22,650, a Nissan Rogue starts at $22,070, and a Chevrolet
Equinox starts at $23,530.
Looking at all these prices, a crossover from any given brand is only a thousand (give or take a few hundred)
more than the sedan from the same brand. In the case of Toyota, the difference between a Camry and a Rav4 is only a few hundred. Again,
your needs and design sense will determine which class of vehicle you buy, but for the minimal price difference, a crossover isnít
out of reach financially.