Tuesday 16 July 2019

Dedicated followers of fashion? Why are we buying Crossover and SUVs that all look the same?

Opinion: SUVs and Crossovers


Cathal Doyle

Are we destined to all be driving around in jacked-up hatchbacks that might look rugged but have little or no off-road capability? Motoring expert Cathal Doyle reports

THE sales figures for last year confirmed what we already know - our love affair with crossovers and SUVs shows no sign of abating.

As many as 43,762 of us - representing just under 35pc of the entire new car market - forked out hard earned cash for a crossover type vehicle last year (classified as H1 under Society of Irish Motor Industry statistics).

And that's not including the H2 class for larger SUVs which accounted for a further 6pc of the overall market.

Indeed the combined sales figures for 2018 for the traditional Golf and Mondeo sized segments was more than 10,000 shy of H1 crossover sales, whereas in 2017 they comfortably exceeded them by more than 4,500.

So is this the future? Are we destined to all be driving around in jacked up hatchbacks that might look rugged but have little or no off-road capability? It's a bit depressing if it is.

Because when you look at it rationally, crossovers represent a triumph of marketing over functionality, style over substance.

Actually that latter analogy is incorrect. Because let's face it, originality is fairly well down the pecking order when it comes to crossover styling.

Put simply, they all look the same. I'd consider myself something of a car geek yet I struggle to identify one crossover from another.

A few weeks ago I was in a line of traffic and for the life of me I couldn't work out if the vehicle a few cars ahead was a Jaguar E-Pace or a Hyundai Tucson.

Yeah, yeah, time to visit the opticians you're undoubtedly saying, but with the greatest of respect to Hyundai, you should never be confusing a Jaguar with anything else.

Still, styling is a subjective matter…beauty in the eye of the beholder and all that.

Doubtless there are plenty of people who swoon at the sight of a high-rumped, high-riding off-road wannabe.

I'd take more issue with other ways in which crossovers compare poorly to their lower-slung brethren. Such as being less fuel efficient and having higher emissions thanks to their upright and relatively un-aerodynamic silhouettes.

For instance, a manual transmission 150hp 2.0TDi Volkswagen Tiguan Comfortline has emissions of emissions of 150g/km and average fuel consumption of 5.7 litres/100km.

Whereas the equivalent powertrain in a Passat saloon emits 135 g/km of CO2 and consumes diesel at a rate of 5.2 l/100km consumption (all WLTP measurements).

Or while Toyota's C-HR hybrid records fuel consumption of 3.8l/100 km and emits 86g/km of CO2, the new Corolla hybrid saloon betters it on both scores with 3.4l/100 km and 77g/km (NEDC figures).

That all adds up to additional road tax and higher running costs.

Then there's the fact that crossovers just don't handle as well as their lower-slung counterparts as that higher stance inevitably means more body roll.

Not only can this compromise ultimate cornering capabilities, but it also means a less comfortable journey for passengers.

For the keen driver, a well sorted hatch or saloon is much more rewarding to drive.

Ah, you say, because crossovers are bigger and higher than regular saloons or hatchbacks, they're safer. Actually no, that really depends on the specific car and safety equipment in it. In fact, the car that got the highest safety rating in 2018 from Euro NCAP was the Mercedes A-Class, a small-family sized hatchback.

There is an argument that a heavier and higher car will fare better against a smaller one, but bear in mind that a heavier car also takes more stopping than a lighter one.

So perhaps it's more likely to have that accident in the first place….

People also say they like the higher driving position.

Fair enough.

Personally I prefer to sit in a car rather than on it, but here's a question.

What happens when everyone is driving around in crossovers so that height advantage becomes moot?

Are we facing the prospect of truck style steps to get into our ever higher cars of the future?

That's being facetious I know, so let's conclude on a positive note.

One area where crossovers do score over conventional cars is in ease of access.

That can be a real boon for those who struggle to get in and out of low slung saloons or hatchbacks.

So crossovers have their place.

But for this driver, until such time as I need a walking aid to get in and out of my cars I'll be sticking with my saloons, hatchbacks and estates thank you.

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