I’ll be completely honest with you; I absolutely hate crossovers and SUVS. I can go on all day as to why this is, but one of the biggest reasons that’s becoming more and more apparent is that it’s stopping us from getting the cars we really want.
When you go looking for a new pair of shoes, you likely buy a generic sneaker/running shoe and call it a day. For the majority of the time, those shoes serve you well. However, if you have to spend a weekend in the bush, your generic runner can handle it, but your feet may get soaked, or muddy, or eaten by a bear. If you do this often, you’ll eventually smarten up and buy proper hiking boots and bear repellant. If you have a big date and you really want to impress them, your generic runners won’t do much to help your chances (neither will your Crossover). Put yourself in the spotlight enough and eventually you realize you need some more formal footwear.
My point with this is that where you expect to find one thing that can do everything; you often end up with something that can’t do anything at all. Your generic runners are the pinnacle of mediocrity, achieving just what’s needed and nothing more. Of course, you didn’t come here to read about footwear, and this not so subtle metaphor touches on what the biggest problem is with Crossovers and SUVs, is that they are advertised as magical do all machines, but excel at doing nothing.
A typical advertisement for Crossovers features twenty to forty something’s enjoying a nice time in an urban environment, then having them seamlessly transition into the great wilderness. That’s a fairly accurate picture of my life, I regularly play live music in a club in the middle of downtown Ottawa, only to eat dinner at 11 at night and drive an hour out of the city to camp with my friends, car loaded with thousands of dollars of equipment but also somehow 5 or 6 people. Wait a minute, I actually never do that at all ever.
This dual-purpose vehicle shows two different scenarios, urban and outdoors lifestyles. So what is essential for these two scenarios? Let’s look at what makes a good urban vehicle:
• Compact size
• Fuel efficiency
• Simple maneuverability
Pretty straightforward right? A simple, small car is undoubtedly the most adept at navigating tight downtown cores and urban sprawl. This type of vehicle is completely useless when the pavement ends, but fortunately there are a number of different vehicles that can cover these needs. A outdoors vehicle should be:
• Built nearly bulletproof
• Raised enough to cover any terrain
• Powered by an engine that produces enough torque to get it out of a chasm
In describing those two vehicles, you no doubt had a specific make and model come to your mind (mine was a Mini Cooper and a Jeep Wrangler). Why not just smash the two together? Simple right? It works for peanut butter and jam, why can’t it work for vehicles?
What makes the Mini Cooper and Jeep Wrangler such enduring examples of success is that they are purpose built, and stick to their guns. Jacking up a Mini to handle off-road terrain takes away its small size and maneuverability. Putting a smaller engine and wheels on a Wrangler would make it useless off-road. These vehicles don’t try to do everything, they do something really well and they know it. For a comparison, let’s look at our ideal models compared to the GMC Terrain, a leading Crossover SUV:
Size (L/W/H in millimeters, and weight):
Mini – 3,998/1,727/1,425, 1,277kg
Wrangler – 3881/1871/1800, 1716kg
Terrain – 4706/1849/1684, 1747kg
As expected, the Mini has the smallest and lightest package. That must be where it gets its name or something?
Fuel Efficiency (MPG):
Mini – 32
Wrangler – 21
Terrain – 22
While the Terrain edged out the Wrangler, the Mini was once again far and away the winner.
Ground Clearance (Inches):
Mini – 5
Wrangler – 8
Terrain – 6.9
The Wrangler is built to handle off-road endeavors, but the Terrain is less than two inches taller than the Mini! The remake of The Italian Job is said to use GMC Terrains.
Torque (ft-lbs @ RPM)
Mini – 118 @ 4250
Wrangler – 260 @ 4800
Terrain – 172 @ 4900
I accidentally almost proved that the Mini was more capable for off-roading than the Terrain. That isn’t good.
What we can see from this is that the vehicle designed for everything excels at nothing. There’s your proof. Put away your pitchforks. So why do I think that it’s so important that we stop buying the vehicular equivalent of plain oatmeal?
Because if we stop buying Crossovers, we can start buying wagons.
Wagons? I’ve been reading all this time and now you tell me it’s all been for WAGONS? LIKE STATION WAGONS? That’s right. I’m a mysterious internet blogger and I’m here to tell you the solution to all your problems is in the wagon.
Why did people start buying Crossovers? Space, mixed with luxury. I will admit, driving in a Crossover is fairly roomy, and cargo space is quite valuable in this day and age. If I may completely blow your mind for a moment, I’d like to share a little secret with you, dear reader. You’ve been shopping for wagons for years, and you didn’t even realize it. Today’s modern Crossover is nothing more than a slightly shortened, lifted wagon. The next time you see a Crossover and reach for your holy water and crucifix, take a minute and picture it maybe 3 to 5 inches lower. BAM! That’s a wagon you got there friendo.
In most countries in the world, major automakers offer a wagon variant of their biggest sellers. Most countries, excluding the tiny nations of The United States and Canada that is. We’re still coming down off the initial SUV/Hummer high we started on years ago and we’ve caused the major automakers of the world to completely give up on selling wagons here (minus a few diehards like Volkswagen, Subaru, and Volvo). One of the most popular and critically acclaimed vehicles on the road today, the Mazda 6, has quickly become a common sight on our roads. Outside of North America, this fantastic vehicle is available in a 6 speed, diesel wagon. Call the police, because we are being robbed of a great option.
I know what you’re thinking “why am I still listening to this mysterious blogger, he can’t even crunch some basic numbers in defense of the wagon” Well I have choice words for you, something along the lines of “yes I can”
SportwagenVolkswagen currently offers the Tiguan, a Crossover SUV. They also make me swoon with the Golf SportWagen, which, SPOILERS AHEAD, is a wagon. I’m not going to argue who has the cooler name, as Tiguan is literally a German mash-up of “Tiger” and “Iguana” which is just about the most awesome thing I’ve heard. SportWagen should get an even cooler name, since it is hands down better. I propose “Solid Gold Thunder Dragon” but you can feel free to call it what you like.
So why is the Sportwagen so much better than the Tiguan? You don’t have to go far to find out. The Sportwagen is narrower and shorter than the Tiguan, weighs less, features more torque, drastically more cargo room, all while using considerably less fuel. These aren’t slight gains either, the Sportwagen features nearly 200L more cargo capacity while using nearly half the amount of fuel. Both are six speeds, both are available for less than 30k.
You can’t use the excuse “but I have to haul my family around to this week’s semi-interesting sport!” as an excuse to choose a Crossover, as wagons simply have more space. The lower ride height means better performance in the corners as well, so you don’t have to go full minivan with a wagon. Crossovers have the potential to roll over more than dough at a cooking class.
So you get functionality, performance, price, and comfort all in one package. Where can you get one of these amazing vehicles? You can’t, unless you want to move to Europe (wagons are tempting, but perhaps not that tempting). You can make yourself heard the only way auto manufacturers understand however, through your wallet. Stop buying grey blobs of Crossovers that are as exciting as an office supply tradeshow. We’re also only just getting the hot hatches available in Europe (Civic Type R, Focus RS) because we’ve been too busy buying boring Crossovers. Major performance companies like Lamborghini, Aston Martin, and Lotus are all developing Crossover concepts because they think that’s what we want. Bentley just released their version of Crossover, and in making a big car bigger they nearly caused a black hole at their factory.
Buy some of the available wagons. Take them for a test drive, meet their parents, ask them to be your one and only daily driver and ride off into the sunset. Accept that no car can do everything, but wagons are a lot closer to that goal than Crossovers. Make your daily driver interesting rather than simply existent; you’ll be glad you did.
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