Why settle for an ordinary boring boxy little hatchback that looks like everyone else’s? Why not get a bit of sporty style, off-road height and go-anywhere looks, and people carrier versatility and packaging?
That’s the reasoning behind this year’s motoring phenomenon – the baby crossover. They look like hatchbacks that have been working out, are the coolest cars on the block and may signal the end of the standard superman.
The Vauxhall Mokka and Dacia Duster are already creating a stir. Arriving on our roads this spring will be the Renault Captur (a mini crossover based on the Clio), Chevrolet Trax (slogan: ‘compact SUV, big opportunities’ – but essentially a Mokka with an American accent), Peugeot 2008 (a chunky little 208-based SUV), Hyundai ix35 (‘a practical, spacious crossover that can take so much in its stride’) and the sexily sleek Volvo V40 Cross Country.
Cars expected in 2014 will include compact SUVs from those struggling to keep up: Ford EcoSport, Mazda CX3, Audi Q2 and Mercedes GLA.
This is the small urban crossover (SUC) category (although we at CreditPlus are sadly not expecting manufacturers to adopt this acronym). Nevertheless the SUC is clearly the hottest car style of the year.
With all this attention on what used to be a tiny niche, you can see why car watchers like The Sun’s Ken Gibson is saying: “The dinky SUVs will become the fastest-growing sector in Europe over the next two years.”
“A growing number of car buyers see them as the ideal compromise – eye-catching design and the high-up seating position of an SUV, with drastically improved fuel economy and prices that are far more affordable.”
And of course the one vehicle we haven’t mentioned yet is the established star of the SUC world – the Nissan Juke.
Nissan showed with the Qashqai that a high-riding hatchback with taste of SUV is a winning formula. While everyone struggled to match the Qashqai with Kugas, Sportages, CX-5s and even Yetis, Nissan was already preparing to apply the same recipe to the next class down. The result was the Juke.
Just 15 years after the launch of the mould-breaking softroaders, the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV-4, Nissan has certainly thrown all its eggs into the SUC basket. It no longer makes normal hatchbacks and saloons. With the Juke it became “a post-modern car company and champion of the crossover concept” says Autocar.
The Juke certainly is the epitome of crossover. It looks like nothing else on the road and takes cues from SUVs, sports coupés and even motorbikes.
To many car buyers it seems that crossovers like the Juke offer the rugged go-anywhere ability of an offroader, wrapped in stylish clothes, with the speed and comfort of a luxury sports coupe and the versatility of a people carrier. Just the look of the vehicle conjures up the potential for promising adventures to come.
To the cynical, the crossovers are just a way for manufacturers to charge more for what is essentially a supermini with different clothes on. “Whether the mix creates a car capable of multi-disciplinary miracles, or whether each attribute is fatally compromised by every other, is open to debate,” ponders Autocar.
And the biggest question is how the Mad Max ultra-urban styling will look in a few years’ time. Will the baby crossovers age gracefully like a classic Mercedes or Alfa Romeo? Or will they become an embarrassing leftover hidden at the back of the dealer’s forecourt, like a PT Cruiser or BMW Gran Turismo? As Autocar says: ‘There are timeless designs. Then there is the Nissan Juke.’