Last Updated on January 7, 2023 by Victor A

If you want to find a lot of conflicting information, look for the meaning of the word “crossover” on the internet. There are too many opinions regarding what a crossover is, what are the characteristics of them, and what are the differences between SUVs and CUVs; this divergence keeps the doubtfulness in place. Things shouldn’t be this unclear. 

This confusion has been occurring for a long time, and it seems like it won’t get any better.

Why? Because automakers never agreed on proper naming for SUVs and their variants; they never gave us a proper joint response; this has led to a bunch of SUVs that can be considered crossovers and a bunch of crossovers that can be considered SUVs. Which only furthers the confusion.

Not so long ago, everything was simpler, when a car was built on a body-on-frame platform (truck-like platform) it was considered an SUV, and when a big car with a high ground clearance was built in a unibody platform (passenger car platform) it was considered a CUV (crossover); there were also clear distinctions between them in looks and driving dynamics. But as crossovers improved over time, they started to look more like SUVs, while at the same time SUVs improved and gained many qualities that CUVs had, like the sporty looks, and the better handling.

Silver Nissan Qashqai Crossover SUV
Nissan Qashqai Crossover

The confusion increased as:

  • SUVs and CUVs started having similar sizes
  • SUVs started to look sportier
  • SUVs driving dynamics improved
  • CUVs started offering AWD
  • CUVs cargo space expanded
  • CUVs off-road capabilities got better

We’ve reached a point where automakers don’t make distinctions between them, and choose to call them whatever fits better the current marketing campaign.

If you ask us, we think everything works better when simplified, that’s why we consider SUVs an umbrella for both SUVs and crossovers, CUVs are no more than smaller SUVs with driving dynamics closer to a passenger car than a traditional SUV.

Crossovers’ Characteristics

Crossovers are recognized by having great interior comfort, acceptable fuel economy, RWD (except for some AWD models), a ground clearance closer to passenger cars than to traditional SUVs, and limited but fair off-road capabilities.

When can we consider a crossover to be a better option than a traditional SUV?

Generally, crossovers are superior to SUVs when city driving for the following reasons:

  • Crossovers tend to be smaller than SUVs; this gives them better maneuverability, allowing them to cruise well through tight streets and tackling sharp corners; it also proves to be beneficial when parking, both in streets and in garages.
  • RWD vehicles get better gas mileage than AWD vehicles; this makes them a great option for cities where you don’t really need AWD. Additionally, Crossovers tend to be smaller and weigh less than SUVs, improving upon the gas mileage.
  • Crossovers are usually cheaper than SUVs; as the market for CUVs gets saturated with more models, the prices become more competitive. When automakers have both SUVs and CUVs in their portfolios, they always set a lower price to CUVs.
Gray Mazda CX-5 Crossover SUV
Mazda CX-5 Crossover


In essence, It’s all about what the automaker wants you to perceive the car to be.

If the car looks big, rugged, and off-road capable it will more likely be called an SUV; while if a similar car has a lower suspension; looks slightly smaller and sportier, it would probably be called a crossover. 




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