Audi Q2

What is a crossover car?

If you’re looking to buy a used car, you’ll often come across the word ‘crossover’. But what does it mean and why do you need to understand it? Here’s everything you need to know.

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By Cazoo editorial team

Updated: 21 February 2023

You’ll find a lot of jargon when buying a car and one term you’re very likely to see is ‘crossover’. It refers to a type of car that’s become incredibly popular in recent years. But what, exactly, is a crossover? Read on to find out...

What does ‘crossover’ mean?

‘Crossover’ is a word that’s used to describe a car that combines the qualities of a conventional hatchback or saloon with those of an SUV. 

It’s a term that’s only been around a few years and there’s no hard and fast rule for what a crossover car is. Some car brands (Nissan, for example, with the Juke and Qashqai) call their cars crossovers while others don’t. In fact, the terms ‘crossover’ and ‘SUV’ are largely interchangeable (more on that in a moment).

In general, though, a crossover has the higher ground clearance and some of the rugged design features of an SUV but is slightly sleeker in appearance and even less likely to have four-wheel drive (not all SUVs do). 

At Cazoo, we don’t use the term ‘crossover’ as such. Any cars that might be considered a crossover will be included if you search for an SUV in our car listings.

Nissan Juke

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Which cars are crossovers?

You can argue a case for labelling a variety of cars as crossovers. Compact examples include the Audi Q2, Ford Puma, Honda HR-V, Nissan Juke, Seat Arona and Volkswagen T-Roc.

Moving up slightly in size, there are cars such as the BMW X1, Kia XCeed and Mercedes-Benz GLA. Mid-size crossovers include the BMW X4 and Nissan Qashqai, while large crossovers include the BMW X6, Jaguar I-Pace, Kia EV6 and Lexus RX 450h.

Some crossovers are so low and sleek they’re not much taller than a hatchback, even though their suspension puts them slightly higher off the ground. Good examples are the BMW X2, Kia XCeed and Mercedes-Benz GLA. As you can see, there are so many variations on the crossover theme that you can find one to suit you whatever your needs.

Volkswagen T-Roc

What’s the difference between a crossover and an SUV?

The line between crossover and SUV is blurred and the terms are largely interchangeable.

If anything sets crossovers apart it’s that they’re generally slightly lower than SUVs, and even less likely to have four-wheel drive. Many cars classed as crossovers aren’t available with four-wheel drive, whereas traditional SUVs are more likely to have it included as standard or as an option. SUVs are also more likely to come with additional features (such as special driving modes) that make them more capable off-road.

Jaguar I-Pace

What’s the difference between a crossover and a 4x4?

For many people there’s no difference between an SUV and a 4x4, so the differences between a crossover and a 4x4 are about the same as those between a crossover and an SUV.

The term 4x4 is older than SUV, however, and generally applies to cars that have four-wheel drive and usually some extra features that make them well-suited to driving off-road. A 4x4 is also more likely than an SUV or crossover to have a tall, bulky shape.

Nissan Qashqai

What’s the difference between a crossover and a hatchback?

Most crossovers have a hatchback boot opening (one that opens from the roof, unlike a saloon that opens from below the rear window) and in some cases the difference between a hatchback and a crossover can be minimal.

You could argue a case for calling the Jaguar I-Pace or Kia EV6 a hatchback, for instance – both are only an inch or so higher than a Honda Jazz hatchback and neither has much in the way of SUV-style design features. Each sits slightly higher off the ground than most hatchbacks, however, and doesn’t fit quite as neatly in the ‘hatchback’ category.

Kia EV6

Why are crossovers so popular?

Crossovers have become extremely popular in the past 10 years or so, largely because the best crossovers offer a combination of qualities that many people find appealing.

Take the Seat Arona, for instance. It’s just 8cm longer than the Seat Ibiza, a conventional small hatchback, but the Arona has a tall, square body like an SUV that gives it much more passenger and boot space.

The Arona’s body sits higher off the ground than the Ibiza does, so you sit higher and don’t have to lower yourself into the seat, as in the Ibiza. This can be helpful for people with mobility problems and also makes it easier to put children in child seats. Sitting higher can give everyone on board a better view out, and some people just like how it feels.

Seat Arona

Are crossover cars safer?

There’s little or no difference between the safety ratings of crossovers and other types of car. 

Safety organisation Euro NCAP awarded the latest A-Class hatchback a maximum five-star overall rating when it tested it in 2018, with a 96% score for adult occupant safety and a 91% rating for child occupant safety. When it tested the GLA – a crossover car closely based on the A-Class – it also scored five stars overall, with a 96% rating for adult occupant safety and a 90% rating for child occupant safety.

In the case of the Kia XCeed crossover, Euro NCAP simply classifies it as a derivative of the Ceed since the underlying structure and safety features of the XCeed are identical to those of the Ceed hatchback.

Kia XCeed

Do crossovers cost more to buy and run?

Compare any crossover with a conventional hatchback of similar size and the crossover will generally cost a bit more to buy. In some (but not all) cases, the crossover will be slightly bigger so you could argue you’re paying for the extra materials but it’s more likely to be simply that car brands can charge a bit more for a crossover because crossovers (arguably) have a more desirable image.

Crossovers sometimes include more features as standard, however, or are only available in higher-spec trim levels.

Servicing and insurance costs for crossover cars are likely to be very similar to those of a hatchback but because they’re often slightly taller and heavier than a hatchback they can often be slightly less fuel-efficient and emit more carbon dioxide (CO2), if only by very slim margins.

Mercedes-Benz GLA

Are there any drawbacks to a crossover?

Compare any crossover with a conventional hatchback of similar size and the crossover is likely to cost more to buy and run. Servicing can cost more, too. But these may be minor concerns considering the breadth of qualities crossovers offer.

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