What is a Crossover Vehicle?
The term crossover is a modern motoring buzzword that seems to sell cars by the hundreds of thousands. But what is a Crossover vehicle and what do they mean for the automotive landscape? We heading over to Switzerland with Nissan, the self-claimed pioneer of the Crossover with the launch of the Qashqai back in 2007.
There may be no better place to test such mythical creatures, from the bustling city streets of Geneva to an hour’s drive taking us right into the heart of the French Alps. A place where adventure really doesn’t come much thicker, no matter what time of year.
The first thing you notice with any Crossover vehicle, or at least should, is a stance and presence that hints towards off-road and 4X4. Perhaps not in true size, but in character and heart. As we all know, any 4X4 is rarely used as a true off-roading machine with 4 wheel drive engaged. As such the removal of this option reduces weight and the need for a lager powertrain. Giving advantages to fuel economy, emissions and of course the overall ride.
After the initial feeling of height and a visual dose of masculinity, the next thought will actually be, ‘hang on, this isn’t as big as I thought’. As any Crossover should really maintain a very small footprint for such a high vehicle, think small family hatch around the size of a Ford Focus. Space enough to put things in, but a design that is just a little more, well, fun.
Talking of fun, the beauty of the Crossover segment is the ability to push the boundaries and to have the potential to create something different, something unique. In car terms, they are very much in their infancy and as such, apart from size, there are very little design guidelines or rules for people to be worried about. As such manufacturers can try something different, walk on the wildside and ultimately build something a little more exciting. Nissan have already made their future intentions clear by revealing the Nissan Gripz Concept in Geneva.
The market is now the fastest growing of all automotive sectors and selling nearly 300,000 in 2014 (UK only), it is actually not the most popular segment of all. With all brands trying to get a piece of the action, you can expect some cool and interesting models to hit our roads in the next few years.
Nissan themselves have what they believe to be 3 different Crossovers, the X-Trail, Juke and of course the original Urban Explorer, the Qashqai. Though whilst many may argue the Qashqai and the X-Trail are a little too close for comfort in terms of, well, everything. The latest version of the Qashqai has hit 500,000 European sales in little over 6 months. Which makes it the fastest selling car in Europe, with more being built per month than any car since the Ford Cortina!!
The Juke is of course becoming one of the most iconic Crossovers, well compact Crosses! The most raucous to date has to be the Juke-R Type 2.0. The original concept was so loved, Nissan were offered crazy amounts of money to make just a handful (less than 5) for wealthy suitors. When the 2nd generation body came along, Nissan wanted to update their offering, but not just on the outside. Upgrades were aplenty including new power lifted straight out of the latest GTR. The results are a mind boggling 600PS and a 60 miles per time of just over 3 seconds (trust us, we tested it along an airstrip!!). Currently the only one in the world, there is no doubting future orders will come flooding in and this may even become a little more mainstream. Well let’s hope not that many.
So after pinging through the Alps in three different ‘Crossovers’, how would we define ‘What is a Crossover?’. Our belief is that a Crossover is a vehicle which whilst maintaining a small family hatch footprint has characteristics (and character) which are closer and more aligned to that of a 4 x 4. Perhaps not in terms of off-road capability, but that of a higher ride-height, seating position and spacious cabin. A vehicle to throw anything in from the bike to the kids, an Explorer of Urban if you will. And after all, would you rather drive a Focus or Crossover?