Crossovers Buying Guide
How To Shop For A Crossover
Although the name has become very trendy lately, crossovers have been on the market for well over a decade. As one of the hottest segments in the market now, virtually every manufacturer has at least one such vehicle now and lots more are on the way.
Since CUVs come in many sizes and at many prices, you need to decide where your priorities lie when searching for a crossover. Space, mileage, all-wheel drive ability and even performance considerations are all possibilities. Family considerations are always a strong influence on a buying decision as well.
If you have a long, solo commute and only an occasional need to carry passengers, rear-seat comfort and cargo space may not be all that important to you, but gas mileage and in-car entertainment and communication may top your list. Likewise, if you are shopping for your young family, you may find safety and the ease of getting children in and out of car seats more important than style or horsepower.
Perhaps you are the sort of person who keeps a car seemingly forever. In that case, looking at the reliability and durability history of a make and model may be tops on your list. Pay attention to the fine print on the warranty and any included services.
You should do your homework. Familiarizing yourself with the latest trends, available options, competitive products and, perhaps, most importantly, pricing information here at AOL Autos before you go into the showroom will greatly assist you in managing your time and give you perhaps a bit more leverage when dealing with the sales team. Ten years ago, very few people ventured onto the web before buying a car. Today, you have the tools to arrive at the dealership knowledgeable and prepared.
Perhaps the first step in deciding on which crossover to buy is to determine how much space you need, or want. You can find CUVs with space for at least five and up to eight passengers. Depending on their size, CUVs may or may not have a third row for seating, giving it two or three extra spaces in the rear.
The ease at which adults can get into and out of those rear seats varies depending on the vehicle. Some seats are so difficult to get into and out of that they should be considered suitable for children only. Some CUVs now offer the option of power folding for the rear rows, allowing you to lay them flat at the touch of a button. In some cases, the seats fold up to the side instead of down or are entirely removable for maximum use of cargo space.
Once you’ve determined a budget and an overall picture of what models fit your needs, you need to physically get into the vehicles you are comparing to determine if they literally fit your needs.
Do you need to regularly travel with four, five or even six passengers? Do you care about their comfort? One simple test for comfort is to sit in the front, adjust the seat as best you can for comfort and then climb into the back to see what kind of room is available for your passengers when you are at the wheel. Don’t forget to get a feel for the headroom, hip room and shoulder room, as some of the smaller CUVs are narrower than many truck-based SUVs.
As the segment grows larger, safety has not been ignored. Although CUVs mimic SUVs with a taller ride height, in general, they are less likely to roll over than an SUV, but more likely than a sedan. It’s a good thing then that most CUVs are equipped with some form of electronic stability control, an active safety system that uses a combination of selectively braking individual wheels and reducing engine power to prevent the vehicle from getting into a situation that may result in a skid or rollover.
Federal law only requires airbags for the front two passengers from the dash, but fortunately, the market – meaning you – demands maximum safety. In recent years, some manufacturers have added side airbags and knee air bags for the front passengers and there are now curtain airbags that extend to third row passengers, who use seat belts far less often than front row passengers.
Once a gimmick for show cars and heavily customized vehicles, rear-view and even wraparound cameras are showing up on more and more CUVs, offering an extra margin of safety when backing out of your driveway or into other tight spaces. Backup alarms are also available on many CUVs to audibly warn the driver of fixed objects that may be behind the vehicle.
Child Seat Accommodations
Although LATCH anchors are required on all new U.S. passenger vehicles, you will want to give any car a test run with your infant, toddler or booster seats. Perhaps you have a large family and need to fit three seats across the back. Some smaller CUVs may not accommodate three seats, while in other cases, you may need a third row just to keep the peace amongst your kids. Be sure that the seats aren’t so sculpted to fit an adult that a child booster seat won’t properly fit. While you may be able to compromise in certain areas of car buying, it’s best to not cut any corners or take any chances when dealing with child safety seats: Definitely test your seats in a new car during your new-vehicle test drive.
Usable cargo space has long been a hallmark of SUVs and the makers of CUVs intend them to be no different. Perhaps your life is burdened with strollers, playpens and frequent purchases of the extra large box of diapers from the wholesale club or maybe you just need a place to stash your wet kayaking gear. Either way, many CUVs will swallow up far more cargo than a standard sedan. But don’t be fooled, as some CUVs, with their sexy, sloping rear windows, are not as commodious as you might have expected.
Like minivans, the best crossover vehicles offer the ability to reconfigure the second and third row to best fit your mix of people and cargo. However, using that third row for people will cut down on available cargo space. Make sure you can easily open and close the rear hatch door. Some doors open very high and shorter people may have a problem reaching the handles. Fortunately, more and more CUVs are being offered with an automatic, power-closing door, sometimes even with a button on the remote. And for that kayaker, investigating roof rack options before you buy is always a good idea, both from the automakers as well as rack specialists.
So, take your stuff to the dealership, fill the back with your junk and avoid the surprise of ending up with a CUV that does not fit your life.
CUVs in general get better mileage than SUVs, but they are still not as fuel-efficient as sedans, wagons or hatchbacks. Fortunately, we have seen many advances in fuel-saving technologies in recent years, from more efficient fuel injection to six and seven-speed transmissions to clean-burning diesels and even hybrids. Don’t forget that how you drive and in what conditions you drive have a lot of effect on your fuel mileage. There is a reason they say, “Your mileage may vary.”
With all that space and capability to offer, crossovers are typically not small vehicles, so you will want to look for one that makes enough power to get out of its own way. While there are some sporty CUVs that make more than enough power, don’t expect sports car performance. Most CUVs are offered with five- and six-speed automatics that are, in many cases, as fuel efficient as manuals and smooth in their operation. Some vehicles are equipped with continuously variable transmissions (CVT) that mimic gear shifts, but in reality manipulate the speed of the transmission to keep the engine in its sweet spot for developing efficient power and improving gas mileage. If you absolutely must have a manual transmission, your choices will be limited amongst crossovers.
While many truck-based SUVs are available with rear-wheel drive only, many crossovers offer a base front-wheel drive model. But all-wheel drive is available on most CUVs, from the smallest to the largest. Even if CUVs are not intended for off-road work, they can at least play the part with all-wheel-drive surefootedness when it comes to inclement weather. Knowing that most crossover buyers opt for all-wheel drive versions, several manufacturers, such as Audi, BMW and Volvo, do not offer their crossovers in any guise except all-wheel drive. While most CUV all-wheel drive systems are designed to keep you on the road when the weather gets nasty, some do offer off-road capability, like the Trail Rated version of the Jeep Patriot.
For some drivers, performance trumps economy and the car makers have just begun making sportier and more powerful CUVs. There are not nearly as many hot rod options in the CUV space as you will find with sedans or coupes since most CUV buyers tend toward the practical.
Alternative Fuel CUVs
With their added weight and less-than-aerodynamic shapes, CUVs are a segment of that market where hybrid and diesel technologies can make a big difference in efficiency without having performance suffer. Carmakers are taking notice. Ford, Mercury, Mazda, Toyota and Saturn all offer hybrid CUVs and BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Volkswagen offer diesel options in some of their crossovers. We expect those numbers to grow greatly in the coming years. Just be prepared to lose some cargo space for those large hybrid battery packs.
Budget and Price
From small, frugal front-wheel drive CUVs, which are more like tall wagons than anything, starting under $14,000 to high-performance luxury models with a fancy badge on the hood that run north of $80,000 with options, there are CUVs for the budget of every new car shopper.
Before entering the showroom, check AOL Autos for the various trim levels of a given vehicle. For instance, the base Honda CR-V starts at $20,700 for a front-wheel drive LX, but an all-wheel drive EX-L model with a navigation system and a leather interior lists for $28,400, an almost 40% increase over the base model.
Families with children may want to consider not only such mundane issues as the number of cup holders available but also the seating fabric. Leather certainly sounds like an unneeded luxury perk, but with its availability on many crossovers, you may want to think how much easier it is to mop up a strawberry milkshake from leather than it is from soft, sponge-like, velour fabric.
With space efficiency being one of the key factors of a CUV, look for accessible storage to stash your stuff. Bins, cubbies, extra large glove boxes and other places throughout the vehicle may be an advantage for those families who feel like they live in their cars. Some crossovers that are geared toward a more active lifestyle will have separate places to store those muddy boots after a day of hiking while some even offer a floor that is entirely plastic – not a carpet in sight – that can be hosed down for easy cleaning.
Just as in the living rooms of our homes where the line blurs between computer, television and stereo, in-vehicle information, communication and entertainment systems are converging into a single, unified system. In the Dodge Journey, you can opt for uconnect, a hard-drive-based system that combines a voice-activated, traffic and navigation system with hands-free Bluetooth, MP3 connectivity with USB support for music, Sirius satellite radio and TV and even high-speed, mobile web surfing. In many cases, especially vehicles equipped with rear-seat DVD players and upgraded sound systems, the speaker count may reach into the double digits, satisfying even the pickiest audiophiles. More and more manufacturers are now offering wireless headsets for the rear passengers to enjoy the DVD player, allowing little Adam and Sarah to become enraptured with The Polar Express for the 79th time, while Mom and Dad can ride in peace up front.
If you live in an area that experiences cold winters – which means well over half of the United States – consider a vehicle with availability of heated seats and outside rear-view mirrors. Even headlamps washer and a heated windshield can help you weather the storm.
- What Is A Crossover (CUV)?
- How To Shop For A Crossover (CUV)
- Notable Newcomers
- Crossovers Under $15,000
- Crossovers From $15,000 - $20,000
- Crossovers From $20,000 - $25,000
- Crossovers From $25,000 - $30,000
- Crossovers From $30,000 - $40,000
- Crossovers From $40,000 - $55,000
- Crossovers Over $55,000