It might be hard to believe, but there are over 130 various SUV models sold worldwide. It is by far the most crowded car segment, which is dominating the industry for the last several years and shows no signs of stopping. You just need to look through the window and realize that majority of the cars on the streets are SUVs. However, since there are so many SUVs in various shapes and sizes, there are several subcategories, and today, we will help you to understand the difference between them.
Before we start, let’s make a distinction between Crossovers and SUVs. Although they originated from the same idea of a sport utility vehicle, Crossovers are more on-road oriented models with a sporty appearance and “wagon-like” stance. On the other hand, the SUVs are bigger, with more comfort and boxy styling, as well as optional all-wheel-drive and off-road capabilities.
These are the smallest Crossover/SUV vehicles you can buy, and most of them are built based on entry-level, economy cars like Ford Fiesta or Toyota Yaris. However, with tiny dimensions, modern features, and decent driving dynamics, subcompact crossovers are great commuter vehicles with good fuel economy, enough room for four adults, and a usable trunk. The best-known cars in this category are Mazda CX30, Hyundai Kona, Jeep Renegade, or Honda HR-V. Almost all of them have front-wheel-drive, and AWD is an option.
Based on the ordinary hatchback platform, compact crossovers offer more interior space and features but retain small dimensions, practicality, and affordability as the subcompact models. However, compact crossovers are practical family and even somewhat capable Overlanding vehicles if equipped right due to bigger dimensions. Models like Ford Escape, Kia Sportage, Subaru Forester, or Toyota Rav4 are amongst the best-selling cars and very capable everyday vehicles designed to make your life easier. Of course, if you are looking for proper off-road use, you need to look elsewhere.
The mid-size crossover segment is where things start to get interesting. Those vehicles offer a lot of space with significant size, both for occupants and luggage, decent driving characteristics, and comfort. The mid-size crossovers can be equipped to be off-roaders or even street rods if you opt for performance versions. This is why most people are looking for such a model, and it is no surprise that over 2.2 million mid-size SUVs and crossovers were sold in the US alone last year. Models like Kia Telluride, Ford Edge, Honda Pilot, Kia Sorento, and Mazda CX9 dominate this segment.
We have full-size models like Chevrolet Traverse, Volkswagen Atlas, or Nissan Armada on the top of the crossover segment. All of them are big, comfortable wagons with third-row seating and plenty of room. Those full-size crossovers are perfect people-carriers that can accommodate big families and drive them in comfort and safety. Again, people in the market for such cars are looking for a comfy ride rather than off-road capabilities.
Designed as a bit tougher-looking and slightly more capable than the crossovers, compact SUVs are a very popular category on today’s market. With a decent amount of interior room, modern features, sufficient engines, and affordable price, compact SUVs can range from dependable family transport like Hyundai Tucson to desert-conquering Jeep Wrangler. Depending on your preferences and needs, in this segment, you can find basic, economy-spec models as well as luxury propositions like BMW X3, for example.
In our opinion, the mid-size SUV is the definitive class that perfectly sum-up the whole SUV philosophy. Not only is there the most significant number of models available, but this class consists of some legendary names like Jeep Grand Cherokee, BMW X5, or Chevrolet Blazer. However, there are significant differences amongst the models in this segment, and customers have a wide choice of technology, designs, and features. If you like comfort and luxury, you can opt for a model like Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport, but if you are looking for something to go racing in Baja 1000 off-road race, there is Toyota 4-Runner with its tough mechanics and off-road tires.
What once were luxury sedans today are full-size SUVs. Big, spacious, comfortable, and fitted with the latest features and creature comforts, full-size SUVs present this segment’s pinnacle. Although almost all of them come with all-wheel-drive trains, full-size SUVs are best when cruising the highways. Models like Chevrolet Suburban, Ford Expedition, Lincoln Navigator, BMW X7, and upcoming Jeep Grand Wagoneer perfectly describe the esthetics and ethos behind the prestigious and enormous full-size SUVs.
Performance Crossovers and SUVs
Although the crossovers and SUV models originated from off-road vehicles that were never equipped with powerful engines, car manufacturers introduced performance models over the years, which made sports car fans very nervous. SUVs like Porsche Cayenne Turbo S, Jeep Trackhawk, BMW X5 M, or Mercedes GLC 63 AMG are not only extremely powerful but also amazingly quick with the 0 to 60 mph times matching or exceeding well-known sports and muscle cars. Although the cornering abilities are still less than ideal due to hefty curb weight and size, high-power SUVs and crossovers are the perfect way of combining the comfort of a big SUV with blisteringly fast performance.
SUVs and crossovers are the first vehicle concept that successfully managed to combine a large vehicle’s comfort, driving dynamics of a hatchback, luxury of a premium sedan, and off-road abilities of the all-terrain models. In that case, the unmatched global success of such vehicles shouldn’t be a surprise. SUVs and crossovers are very practical and usable vehicles, regardless of the class, price, and dimension, and appeal to the broadest range of customers in all parts of the world.