Explained: all the different types of car

Once upon a time, we lived in a far simpler world. Open the Observer’s Book of Automobiles and, with a few exceptions, cars could be split into a small number of categories. Saloon, hatchback, estate, coupe, sports and off-roader: clear and simple. Sure, you could find the odd supercar or luxury car, but the point remains, we knew where we stood.

Today, we’re faced with crossovers, SAVs, coupes with four doors and ‘coupes’ that are little more than a cosmetically-challenged SUV with restricted rear headroom and a questionable rump. Yes, we’re looking at you, Mercedes-Benz. And don’t get us started on the subject of four-door shooting brakes.

Here, we select 20 different types of car and attempt to provide a definition for each one. Where possible, we’ve included a little background and an example for each classification. 



Defining the hatchback is far simpler than pinpointing the origins of the body style. Some will point to the Aston Martin DB2/4 of the mid-1950s, while others will credit the Innocenti-Austin A40S Combinata, which was very much ahead of the curve.

Our love affair with the hatchback arguably began when Renault launched the iconic 4 in 1961. The wide-opening tailgate presented estate-like loading potential, and more than eight million were produced over three decades.

But the saloon and estate refused to roll over and die, with innovative cars such as the Renault 16 and Austin Maxi failing to propel the hatchback into the mainstream. But things changed in the late 1970s when motorists finally saw the potential of the saloon-cum-wagon.

The Oxford Dictionary defines the hatchback as: “a car with a door across the full width at the back end that opens upwards to provide easy access for loading.”

A hatchback might be classed as a three-door or five-door, depending on the configuration, with the tailgate considered to be a door in itself. Today, the three-door hatchback is less popular, with designers working hard to disguise the rear doors.

The current Renault Clio and Suzuki are good examples of the rear door handles integrated within the C-pillar, to create the look of a three-door hatch.

Hot hatch

Without the hatchback, there wouldn’t be a hot hatch, which provides the proof that practicality can be fun. Although the hot hatch is seen as an 80s thing, there were fast hatchbacks before the term was used.

Cars such as the Simca 1100 TI, Renault 16 TX, Chrysler Sunbeam TI and Renault 5 Gordini provided the necessary groundwork for the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Peugeot 205 GTI: the first cars to be labelled hot hatches.

For us, a real hot hatch needs to be front-wheel drive, ideally with three doors. That said, a modern hot hatch is just as likely to feature five doors.


“A car having a closed body and a closed boot separated from the part in which the drivers and passengers sit,” is how the Oxford Dictionary defines the saloon car.

For generations, the family saloon was a familiar sight on Britain’s roads and the car you doodled in your sketchbook during double maths.

The traditional three-box saloon might be a dying breed, but the likes of the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4 keep the segment alive.

Estate car

For estate car, see Volvo.

Enough said.


Whatever you call it, what we class as a minivan, people carrier or MPV (multi-purpose vehicle) can trace its roots back to the Chrysler Corporation’s Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager, launched at the tail-end of 1983.

It didn’t take long for the rest of the world to catch on, with Renault blazing a trail in Europe with the Matra-designed Espace. It spawned a multitude of competitors, designed from the ground up to carry many passengers – usually five or seven – and their luggage.

Compact MPVs soon followed, often based on the platform and mechanicals of traditional family hatchbacks. Examples include the Renault Megane Scenic and Citroen Xsara Picasso.

Today’s MPVs are characterised by flexible seating arrangements and often sliding doors. While the market is in decline, cars such as the Volkswagen Touran, Ford Galaxy and Citroen C4 Picasso remain faithful to the concept of practicality over style.


An SUV is a Sport Utility Vehicle, a term used historically to categorise a 4×4 or off-road vehicle. The SUV has its roots in military-derived vehicles, such as the Willys Jeep and Land Rover.

As time moved on, the SUV became less workmanlike and more lifestyle-led. The Jeep Wagooner pioneered the idea of a sport utility vehicle long before the term was first used, feeling more car-like than any other 4×4 on the market.

Other SUVs soon followed, most notably the Range Rover, which first appeared in 1970. Early SUVs offered an off-road bias, with some feeling a tad primitive and unwieldy on the road, but today we expect them to offer a perfect blend of on- and off-road capabilities.

They come in all shapes and sizes, from the Suzuki Jimny compact 4×4 to the Bentley Bentayga, which is the fastest SUV ever built. Whatever, to be classed as an SUV, we’d expect a car to offer a commanding driving position, a practical interior and some off-road skills.


This is where things get slightly trickier. You’ll have heard the ‘crossover’ word being bandied about in the motoring press, but Joe Public might not have a clue what the word actually means.

In essence, a crossover is a car with the lofty suspension and practicality of an SUV, but with the running costs of a family hatchback. In other words, more urban-roader than off-roader.

The lines have been blurred by the increasingly car-like and more efficient SUVs, which spend more time on the road than off it. In our book at least, a crossover should be two-wheel drive, while an SUV should offer four-wheel-drive capabilities.

But then you find four-wheel drive variants of traditional crossovers and the lines become blurred once again…

The claim that Nissan invented the crossover when it unveiled the Qashqai in 2006 is nonsense, although it unquestionably led to the introduction of the term.

In respect of a front-wheel drive-crossover, the Matra Rancho led the way, although the world wasn’t quite ready for a car with off-road styling but next-to-no off-road ability. You could also point to the AMC Eagle as a crossover pioneer, although its inclusion would shoot a hole through the idea that a crossover should be front-wheel drive.

It’s a tough one. For now, can we all agree that a crossover is a daft name, but if it must be used, it needs to denote a front-wheel-drive vehicle with SUV styling and family car-like running costs?

Good, moving on.

City car

There should be no problems describing a city car, which is a small, fuel-efficient vehicle that is best suited to urban driving.

The BMW Isetta, Fiat Nuova 500 and Mini were early pioneers of the cutesy urban car concept, while today’s city cars might offer up to five doors and the level of kit you’d expect to find on a much larger and more expensive vehicle.


According to Austin 1100 Club historian, Chris Morris, the 1100 “was the first supermini, as we know them today.” You can understand the logic: here was a natural extension of the Mini, with compact proportions and a roomy interior.

Today, the Ford Fiesta is the archetypal supermini, with a size falling between a city car and a family hatchback, cheap running costs, and as good to drive in town as it is on a long journey.


A coupe is traditionally a closed two-door car with a fixed roof, either with two seats or with two additional seats in the rear (known as a 2+2).

Some of the German brands have attempted to stretch the definition by creating four-door coupes, but in reality, these tend to be nothing more than four-door saloons with restricted rear headroom.


In Europe, only the Germans purchase more convertibles than the British. Turns out our far-from-tropical climate is no barrier to getting the top down at any given opportunity.

A convertible – or cabriolet – is four-seater or 2+2 with a removable or folding roof. Examples include the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet, Mini Convertible and Range Rover Evoque Convertible.

The words are mostly interchangeable, with ‘Cabriolet’ a French word first used in the 18th century to describe a light horse-drawn carriage. Convertible has more modern origins.


Once again, the word ‘roadster’ has its origins in the equine world. In the 19th century, the term was used to describe a horse with an ability to draw a carriage over vast distances in a single day.

From an automotive perspective, a roadster is an open sports car with seating for two, with the MGB and Triumph Spitfire two prime examples from the past. Today, the Mazda MX-5 is the archetypal roadster.


A Targa top is a semi-convertible body style with a removable roof section and a full-width roll bar behind the seats. The name was first used by Porsche when it unveiled the 911 Targa in 1965, with the German firm having the foresight to trademark before the launch.

The 911 wasn’t the first car to feature a Targa roof. In 1961, Triumph created a ‘Surrey Top’ for the TR4, with the equivalent of a rear section of a hardtop and a removable canvas to bridge the gap between the windscreen and the rear of the car.

Sports car

Defining a sports car is a bit like explaining the offside rule to a non-footballist: in your head, it’s easy to grasp, but try educating somebody on the subject.

Google ‘what is a sports car’, and you’ll find that subject is the cause of some debate. “No one knows what ‘sports car’ actually means anymore,” proclaims Road & Track, while Jalopnik asks: “What is a sports car, exactly?”

Things were simpler in the black and white days of Terry Thomas. A sports car was an open two-seater with just enough power to perform. A chariot built with entertainment in mind, along with post-Sunday lunch galivanting through the countryside with your significant other. Ding dong.

An MGB was a sports car. A Ford Capri wasn’t. A Porsche 718 Boxster is a sports car. A Ford Mustang isn’t. And yet all four cars were built in the name of fun, with practicality sitting further down the list of priorities.

But where does the ‘open two-seater’ definition leave cars like the Toyota GT86, Subaru BRZ and Jaguar F-Type Coupe? Nobody could deny their sporting intent, but are they more ‘sports coupe’ than the classic definition of a sports car?

Does it matter? Answers on a postcard to the usual address.


Euro NCAP uses the ‘executive’ tag to categorise cars such as the BMW 5 Series, Jaguar XF, Audi A6 and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. In other words, cars slightly larger than the archetypal company motor.

There’s an aspirational quality to the executive car, seen as a cut above the ordinary family runabout. Something for middle managers to aim for: the carrot used as a motivational tool by MDs and CEOs.

The Vauxhall Carlton was the carrot for Cavalier drivers. See also: Granada and Cortina, 605 and 405, and Safrane and Laguna.

Today, as carmakers push further upmarket, the ‘executive’ tag is more far-reaching. Everything from the Ford Mondeo to the Tesla Model S can be classed as an executive, with size no longer a barrier to entry. Which is why the ‘exec’ label fits the BMW 3 Series and the 5 Series.


There’s a distinct gap between a premium motor and a luxury car. To be considered luxurious, a car must leave nothing to chance in the pursuit of perfection. The most exquisite materials, impeccable craftsmanship and, in today’s world, the most cutting-edge technology.

The Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the BMW 7 Series, the Audi A8 are luxury cars, as is anything built by Rolls-Royce and Bentley.


From the sublime to the, er… ridiculous. Actually, that’s a little unfair, because the Renault Twizy can be a barrel of laughs, given the right set of circumstances.

It’s just that a quadricycle isn’t really a car. Instead, the EU places the four-wheeled vehicle in the same category as mopeds, motorcycles and motor tricycles.

There are two sub-categories: light and heavy quadricycles. Nip across to France, and you’ll find a multitude of these tiny, low-powered and lightweight vehicles. The predominant brands are Aixam and Ligier.


What is a supercar? Again, it’s a hard question to answer, but it provides a useful extra layer above and beyond a standard sports car.

Perhaps it would be easier to start by naming the first supercar: the genesis of the breed. But this will spark yet another debate.

Was it the Bugatti 57SC Atlantic of 1936? Maybe the Mercedes-Benz 300SL of 1954? How about the Lamborghini Miura of 1966? A tough call, but the trio helps to form a precise definition of what makes a supercar.

What do you they have in common? An expensive price tag, exhilarating performance, drop-dead gorgeous styling and the capacity to make grown men (and women) go weak at the knees.

Above all else, if a child makes room on their bedroom wall for a poster of said car, then it is almost certainly a supercar. Think Ferrari 812 Superfast, Porsche 911 GT3 RS and Lamborghini Huracan.


“We can agree that both supercars and hypercars are expensive, exotic and fast. The difference between them is really a matter of extremeness. And in the case of companies with multiple models, the car’s position in the model line.

“No hypercar has a more expensive or more exclusive corporate sibling.” Maxim presents a pretty decent summation of the supercar versus hypercar debate.

Maxim goes on to claim that the Bugatti Veyron was “probably the first bona fide hypercar,” which is something many people would agree with. Although we’d also add an honourable mention for the McLaren F1.

It’s all about excess and pushing the boundaries. The McLaren P1, Ferrari LaFerrari, Bugatti Chiron and Rimac Concept One are 100% hypercar.


We conclude our rundown of the different car classifications with an easy one: the pick-up. There are various types – double cab, crew cab, single cab – but thanks to the Ford F-Series, the pick-up is the best-selling vehicle in the world.

Agree or disagree with our definitions? Let us know. In the meantime, we’re off to ask BMW why it felt the need to invent the Sport Activity Vehicle (SAV) tag, as well as sending a ‘cease and desist’ letter to Mercedes-Benz concerning its SUV coupes.

>NEXT: Car clocking is on the rise – and PCP deals could be to blame

New SUVs and crossovers launched at Geneva

New SUVs and crossovers revealed at Geneva

New SUVs and crossovers launched at GenevaWhether they are new cars ready for launch, concepts offering a vision of what’s to come or updates of current models, SUVs and crossovers are everywhere at Geneva 2017.

Arguably, Jaguar and Land Rover have the hottest stands at the show, with the world premiere of the Range Rover Velar and the first sighting in Europe of Jaguar’s revolutionary all-electric SUV concept: the I-Pace.

If it’s luxury you’re after, look no further than the most opulent version of the Bentley Bentayga, or the monster that is the Mercedes-Maybach G65 4×4 Landaulet. There really is something for everyone at the Geneva Motor Show.

Nissan QashqaiNew SUVs and crossovers launched at Geneva

Europe’s most popular crossover just had a facelift. Due to hit UK roads later this year, the Nissan Qashqai now sports a V-shaped grille at the front, along with new bumper and headlamp designs, plus a reshaped bonnet.

The new Qashqai doesn’t just look better, it has more of a quality feel. Propilot autonomous driving tech gives it the ability to steer, accelerate and brake itself within a single lane on motorways.

Volkswagen Tiguan AllspaceNew SUVs and crossovers launched at Geneva

VW’s acclaimed Tiguan has grown into a full seven-seater. On sale in the UK this summer, there’s an extra row of seats, thanks to 109mm added to the wheelbase – stretching the car by 215mm overall.

Despite the stretch, the Tiguan Allspace doesn’t look out of proportion. What’s more, it now boasts 760 litres of luggage capacity (up 140 litres) with the front two rows of seats in place. With all the rear seats down, there’s a van-like 1,920 litres available.

Bentley Bentayga MullinerNew SUVs and crossovers launched at Geneva

Meet the new Bentley Bentayga Mulliner: “the most exquisitely appointed luxury SUV ever created”. Bentley’s in-house bespoke division, Mulliner, has given the Bentayga a makeover to create a range-topping, uber-sumptuous sports utility vehicle.

High-end features on the Bentley Bentayga Mulliner include ‘Duo Tone’ paintwork, Mulliner 22-inch Paragon seven-spoke wheels with floating centres, a bespoke Mulliner bottle cooler, exclusive Ombré burr walnut veneer, plus ‘My Mood’, which allows occupants to choose from 15 different interior lighting colours, while also adjusting the brightness in doors, armrests and footwells.

Vauxhall Crossland XNew SUVs and crossovers launched at Geneva

A world premiere for the latest crossover from Vauxhall/Opel, which is now part of PSA Europe (Peugeot-Citroen). Effectively replacing the Meriva MPV, it will slot below the Mokka X in terms of size and price.

Billed as an urban crossover, rather than an SUV, Vauxhall reckons the Crosland X “has a firm family focus, with a Tardifs-like cabin providing high degrees of practicality and flexibility”.

Range Rover VelarNew SUVs and crossovers launched at Geneva

The sleek Velar is Geneva’s SUV star. Slotting into the Range Rover line-up between the Evoque and Sport, it’s an obvious rival to the Porsche Macan. And indeed its cousin, the Jaguar F-Pace.

Priced from £44,830 to £85,450, the British-built Range Rover Velar will go on sale from July in the UK and more than 170 markets worldwide. Combining Land Rover’s legendary all-terrain ability with an upmarket cabin and lashings of tech, it promises to be the most driver-focused Range Rover ever.

Subaru XVNew SUVs and crossovers launched at Geneva

The wraps are off Subaru’s next generation XV, which is due to go on sale in the UK early in 2018. Looking like an evolution of the current car, it’s certainly more appealing to the eye and should bring the model into the mainstream.

Built on a new global platform, just like the new Impreza, Subaru claims the XV will have significantly enhanced refinement, safety, ride comfort, and agility. Needless to say, symmetrical four-wheel drive will be standard on all models.

Mitsubishi Eclipse CrossNew SUVs and crossovers launched at Geneva

Plugging a gap between the ASX and Outlander, Mitsubishi’s new Qashqai-rival doesn’t look as flash as the teased design studies suggested, but it will freshen up the Japanese company’s range.

With its distinctive, wedged profile, the Eclipse Cross will certainly stand out when it hits UK roads early in 2018. Its most unusual design element is at the back, where a high-mounted strip of rear lamps divides the upper and lower segments of the rear window.

Jaguar I-PaceNew SUVs and crossovers launched at Geneva

A European premiere for Jaguar’s all-electric SUV concept – now in vibrant Photon Red. The I-Pace isn’t due to go on sale in the UK until 2018, but this show car looks pretty much ready for production.

The I-Pace’s looks seem to divide opinion, but there’s no doubting that it stands out from the crowd – those massive 23-inch wheels are something else. Two electric motors, producing a combined 400hp, power the car, allowing it to sprint to 62mph in around four seconds, with a claimed range of 300 miles.

Mercedes-Maybach G65 4×4² LandauletNew SUVs and crossovers launched at Geneva

Mercedes-Benz is giving Range Rover and Bentley something to think about with its ultra-luxurious all-terrain Mercedes-Maybach SUV – a landaulet version of the legendary G-Wagen. In other words, a covered cab with a retractable fabric roof at the back.

Powered by a new twin-turbo 6.0-litre V12, the Landaulet is likely to become the world’s most expensive sport utility vehicle, with a rumoured price of around £400,000. Just 99 will be built, but sadly this opulent monster is not due to be sold in the UK. For the record, it is 5.3m long, 2.2m tall and has more than half a metre of ground clearance.

Audi Q8 Sport ConceptNew SUVs and crossovers launched at Geneva

Based on the Q8 Concept first revealed at the Detroit Motor Show in January 2017, the Q8 Sport Concept is more sporty – and very orange. It combines a 3.0-litre V6 and a mild hybrid system (a world first) that enables it to deliver a handy 476hp “with the efficiency of a four-cylinder”.

Perhaps the most obvious visual change is that Audi’s signature ‘singleframe’ grille design has ditched the vertical bars and horizontal slats for a more pleasing honeycomb design. Capable of 0-62mph in just 4.7 seconds, it has a top speed of 170mph.

Skoda Kodiaq ScoutNew SUVs and crossovers launched at Geneva

A rugged version of the Skoda Kodiaq has been unveiled at Geneva. With seating for up to seven and the largest interior and boot space in its class, the Scout also boasts off-road ability thanks to all-wheel drive, hill-hold and hill-descent control, plus a ground clearance of 194mm.

Apart from its slightly raised ride height, the Scout looks pretty similar to the standard Kodiaq, with only tinted windows, silver colour details and special 19-inch-alloy wheels emphasising the visual differences.

SsangYong XAVLNew SUVs and crossovers launched at Geneva

South Korean brand SsangYong has previewed its XAVL seven-seater SUV concept at Geneva. An eventual rival to the Land Rover Discovery, Kia Sorento and Hyundai Sante Fe, its awkward moniker is derived from “eXciting Authentic Vehicle Long SUV”.

The angular show car looks like a work in progress, or a larger, less attractive version of SsangYong’s Tivoli. Inside, there’s plenty of connectivity, while a 10.25-inch infotainment screen dominates the centre console. Expect to see the final version on the road by 2020.

Citroen C-Aircross ConceptNew SUVs and crossovers launched at Geneva

Citroen’s new SUV concept looks like an overgrown C3 and is expected to appear in showrooms as soon as 2018. Effectively replacing the C3 Picasso in the line-up, it will take on the likes of the Nissan Juke, Renault Captur and Audi Q2 in the highly-competitive compact crossover category.

Rear-hinged rear passenger doors are a stand-out feature on Citroen’s concept, though it has to manage with just three Airbumps on each side. A 12-inch touchscreen dominates the centre console, while the C-Aircross also makes use of Grip Control for extra traction when soft-roading.

Volvo XC60New SUVs and crossovers launched at Geneva

The long-awaited next-generation XC60 crossover takes a bow at Geneva. It’s a good-looking car that pays homage to its best-selling predecessor, while sharing many design cues with its big brother, the XC90.

Naturally, the new XC60 will be one of the safest cars ever, so it’s packed with tech. However, just like the XC90, there will be a T8 Twin Engine petrol plug-in hybrid version capable of reaching 62mph from standstill in just 5.3 seconds.

DS7 CrossbackNew SUVs and crossovers launched at Geneva

The first SUV from DS could be the car that gets the till ringing for Peugeot-Citroen’s standalone premium brand. Just as the F-Pace has accelerated Jaguar sales, the stylish DS7 Crossback should put DS on the map.

Rivalling established SUVs such as the Range Rover Evoque and Audi Q3, the spacious DS7 Crossback is fully connected and packed with tech. The interior is dominated by two 12-inch touchscreen displays. Outside, the front of the car features a dramatic diamond-effect grille and distinctive jewel-like LED headlights.

Mazda CX-5New SUVs and crossovers launched at Geneva

First revealed at the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show, Mazda’s next-generation CX-5 makes its European debut at Geneva. Always a good-looking crossover, the new model is now longer, lower and sexier.

The CX-5 is hugely important to Mazda. Not only is it the company’s best-selling model in Europe, it’s also sold in more than 120 countries and represents around a quarter of Mazda’s global sales. The new model delivers “responsive performance” while also “prioritising passenger comfort”.

Renault CapturNew SUVs and crossovers launched at Geneva

Renault’s best-selling compact crossover gets a welcome mid-life makeover inside and out. The most notable exterior change is the updated front end, which is now similar to its big brother, the Kadjar. There are also new skid plates, front and rear, plus three new wheel options.

Three new colours now join the updated Captur’s palette, meaning that 36 different combinations are now available. The new Captur, which goes on sale in the UK this summer, looks especially good with two-tone paint and a fixed glass roof.


Opinion: crossovers are big, but they aren’t clever


It’s ten years since the launch of the Nissan Qashqai – widely considered to be the world’s first crossover.

Sure, the Qashqai wasn’t really the first crossover to grace the tarmac driveways of suburbia – you can credit Nissan’s marketing team for its part in this common misconception – but it did shake things up a little. And by little, I mean a lot.

Other carmakers had tried to convince Mr and Mrs Family that there was a crossover-shaped hole in their lives, but it wasn’t until the first Qashqai rolled off the Sunderland production line in December 2006 that this new segment finally took hold.

Simply by being the first out of the blocks, the Nissan Qashqai was able to steal a march over its competitors, quickly becoming the brand generic for what became known as a crossover. Three years later, Nissan gave birth to a smaller sibling in the shape of the Juke and the rest, as they say, is history.

In basic terms, defining a crossover is relatively simple. Combine hatchback dynamics and running costs with the practicality and high driving position of an SUV and, hey presto, a crossover is born.

But it’s not as straightforward as that. Many crossovers offer the option of four-wheel drive, taking them perilously close to what we would – in simpler times – have called an SUV. Actually, scrub that, we’d have called them a 4×4.

This blurring of the lines has resulted in SUVs becoming the dominant sector in Europe, with its market share growing from 19.8% to 22.5% in 2015. The star players: Renault Captur (small SUV), Nissan Qashqai (compact SUV), Volvo XC60 (mid-size SUV) and BMW X5 (large SUV).

The upward trend is set to continue, with JATO Dynamics reporting that SUVs and Vans were the only segments to grow their sales across the five big European markets in October 2016. Meanwhile, MPVs, city cars and medium saloons appear to be spiralling into the abyss.

Soon, the roads will be littered with these odd looking cars with equally odd sounding names. Estate cars, saloons, even hatchbacks will be confined to the history books as carmakers seek to quench our thirst for these high-riding hatchbacks.

Don’t get me wrong, I can see the appeal. We feel safer when perched high above the road, with a commanding view over the traffic ahead. No longer the preserve of the Range Rover driver, today you too can feel imperious at the wheel, and you need not remortgage the Victorian semi to be able to fund the experience.

But answer me this: what happens when we’re all driving crossovers and SUVs? The commanding driving position will simply give you an elevated view of the equally tall car in front of you. You’ll need a six-wheeled Mercedes-AMG if you want to stay a cut above the rest.


Terror awaits in the retail shopping centre car park, too. According to a recent study, the average parking space is 4.8m long and 2.4m wide, which is too small for some large SUVs.

Our love of obese cars is being blamed by the increase in the number of car park accidents, which now account for a whopping 30% of all prangs in the UK.

In response, NCP told The Times that it intends to increase the size of its parking bays, as it recognises “that vehicles are growing in size, especially SUVs”. Good news? Perhaps not.

Something will have to give. At best, there will be fewer spaces to choose from, which might lead to more incidents of parking rage (if parking rage actually exists). At worst, parking operators will be encouraged to increase prices as it minimises the prospect of lost revenue from fewer bays.

And when you emerge from the shops, armed with bags for life packed with expensive gear you probably didn’t need, you’ll find the crossover isn’t quite as practical as you would have hoped. The Nissan Qashqai – Britain’s favourite crossover – offers 430 litres of boot space.

Not bad, you might think, especially when you consider the fact that the Ford Focus hatchback offers a paltry 316 litres of shopping capacity. But that’s not the end of the story.

Back in the day, motorists who demanded a little more practicality bought an estate car. And the Ford Focus estate offers 476 litres of boot space – 46 litres more than the Qashqai. It’s narrower, too, so you’ll have no problems exiting your car in a modern slim-size parking bay.

Not only that, the Focus will be better to drive and doesn’t have the appearance of a Tonka toy making its way out of Mothercare. And don’t get me started on the behaviour of some crossover drivers.

Ever since Nissan promoted the original Qashqai as “more tough” and “urbanproof”, some drivers have had the mistaken belief that they can charge about the streets as if they were pushing a Matchbox toy car along the living room floor.

Confession time: as my colleagues have told me, I have an “unconventional taste in cars” and have never been one to “follow the herd”.

I’m acutely aware that my tastes are of the acquired kind. I found love in a hopeless place (Nissan Pulsar 190) and would choose a Suzuki Swift Sport over any of the current breed of mega-horsepower hot hatches.

It’s just that I steadfastly refuse to accept that a crossover offers any tangible benefit over a decent estate car. I’d take a Subaru Outback, Audi Allroad or Volvo XC70 over any of the current breed of crossovers.

And don’t think for one minute that I’m not a fan of proper SUVs. Proper, authentic 4x4s remain joyous machines and I can certainly see the appeal of a Toyota Land Cruiser or Land Rover Discovery. If had to choose one car for the rest of my life, I’d have no hesitation in asking for a Volvo XC90 T8.

Does this make me a hypocrite? I don’t think so. There’s no mixed messaging with a proper SUV – it does exactly what it says in the brochure. Conversely, an extra large two-wheel drive hatchback with a styling bypass offers some of the looks with none of the talents.

Granted, a two-wheel drive crossover will be cheaper to run than a four-wheel drive SUV, but if efficiency tops your list of priorities, you can buy an even more practical diesel estate. It’ll be nicer to drive, easier to park and won’t give you the look of someone who has given up on life.

And while you might point to the raft of cutting edge technologies found in a modern crossover, I’d simply say they are also available in superminis, hatchbacks and saloons.

What we’ve got is a me-too culture in which crossovers have become the dominant force. It’s a little like the dawn of the hatchback, which led to the nation falling out of love with conventional family saloons.

But these hatchbacks used the same footprint as the cars they replaced and offered genuine ingenuity in terms of packaging. A modern crossover has got nothing on say the Renault 16.

No, the ingenuity of the crossover lies in the selling of a lifestyle. A crossover is positioned as the only car that can handle our active and hectic lives – other cars are simply not up to the task.

Our supposed need for more crossovers has resulted in carmakers building some of the most lacklustre and unappealing cars in recent memory. Do we really want our children’s memory of childhood blighted by trips to the seaside in a Ford EcoSport or Vauxhall Mokka?


And wouldn’t it be nice to see an end to the countless Qashqai references rolled out in the motoring press? ‘Qashqai killer’, ‘Qashqai rival’, ‘The car to beat the Qashqai’… enough already.

I’m prepared to accept my irrational dislike (not hatred) of crossovers puts me in a minority, and I’m fully aware that this ramble is dangerously close to becoming a rant. But for some balance, allow me to say this: clever crossovers do exist.

The Citroen C4 Cactus is a good case in point, offering something different in a crowded sector. I also like the influence it has had on the new C3, which stands a good chance of giving Citroen a much needed shot in the arm.

The Skoda Yeti, whilst long in the tooth, remains a fun and genuinely compelling proposition, even if I still haven’t forgiven the Czechs for doing away with its unique face. And, yes, the Nissan Qashqai is annoyingly competent in just about every area.

All I ask is that you look beyond the hype and marketing messages to see if there’s a better alternative to a crossover.

And if you – like many other motorists – haven’t got the foggiest idea what a crossover is, simply look across the fence at what your neighbour is driving. Then buy something totally different.

2017 Toyota C-HR review: a trendy crossover from an untrendy company

2017 Toyota C-HR review: a trendy crossover from an untrendy company

2017 Toyota C-HR review: a trendy crossover from an untrendy company

There’s a British-built crossover made by a Japanese car firm (not Toyota) that has dominated the sales charts since it was launched in 2006. It’s become a cliche that almost every car ever launched is trying to compete with this crossover. Which is why we’re going to attempt to get through this review without mentioning the Q-word.

Fortunately, there’s no shortage of other rivals we can mention. There’s the Renault Kadjar (which itself is based on the same platform as you-know-what), Volkswagen Tiguan, fab new SEAT Ateca, Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson. You could even compare upmarket alternatives, such as the Audi Q3 and BMW X3 to the C-HR. Toyota isn’t shy about using the word ‘premium’ when describing its new crossover.

So where does this fit alongside the RAV4? On sale for 22 years, the RAV4 was initially a fashionable alternative to the likes of the Volkswagen Golf. You could even say it started the crossover craze, ahead of Nissan and its Kumquat.

The Toyota RAV4 has now grown-up. It’s bigger than ever before, and is more of a compact SUV to transport families and take on the Ford Kuga and Mazda CX-5 than a fashionable crossover. And, with sales of Nissan’s crossover-that-shall-not-be-named stronger than ever, Toyota has a gap in its line-up that desperately needs filling.

And that’s where the C-HR comes in. Based on the same TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture) platform as the Prius, the C-HR was first previewed in concept form at the Paris Motor Show in 2014.

Toyota’s not being shy with its expectations for the C-HR. The carmaker is gunning for more than 100,000 sales across Europe – taking 11% of the segment share – and is expecting it to account for around 15% of Toyota’s sales in the UK next year. When a high proportion of those are expected to be trendy buyers who haven’t bought a Toyota before, that’s significant for a manufacturer better known for selling reliable saloons to Uber drivers.

So how does it drive?

So how does it drive?

An unexpected gem in the Toyota C-HR is the turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol engine. Recently launched in the Auris hatch, the 1.2 produces 116hp and accelerates the crossover to 62mph in 10.9 seconds when paired with the slick six-speed manual ’box.

That manual gearbox is a new Intelligent Manual Transmission, making its debut on the C-HR, but set to spread across other Toyota models. It works like a heel-and-toe action, blipping the throttle when you change down a gear (and rev-matching on the way up). Many sports cars have similar features, but it’s not designed to benefit enthusiastic drivers in this case. Instead, it makes for a smoother ride.

It’s not the torquiest engine (boasting 136lb ft at 1,500-4,000rpm), but it’s refined and suits the car well. We prefer it to the hybrid…

75% of sales will be the hybrid

75% of sales will be the hybrid

Unfortunately, Toyota’s expecting most buyers to overlook the petrol turbo and opt for the hybrid. This combines a four-cylinder 1.8-litre petrol engine with an electric motor, using a CVT automatic gearbox.

Although CVT ‘boxes have a bad reputation, Toyota says it’s sticking with it because of the durability and efficiency it offers. Around town it’s fine, remaining hushed as the car automatically switches between petrol and electric modes.

Out of town, it soon starts to feel strained. Anyone who’s floored a car equipped with a CVT gearbox will be all too familiar with the intruding noise as the car gradually picks up pace.

Still, around three-quarters of C-HR buyers in the UK will opt for this set-up, says Toyota. And with official CO2 emissions as low as 86g/km, resulting in low company car tax (it’s in the 15% band) and free VED road tax (if you’re quick), it does make sense on paper. And that’s before we get to the 74.3mpg fuel economy figure.

The obvious answer for those wanting favourable fuel economy and company car tax rates could be a diesel – but being the eco-friendly brand that it is, Toyota isn’t offering one. Technically, a turbodiesel could be fitted, but Toyota’s engineers have told us that’s unlikely. What’s more likely is a sporty derivative, perhaps powered by a larger naturally-aspirated petrol engine. Now that we’d like to see.

It handles better than most other crossovers

To give chief engineer Hiroyuki Koba an idea what Europeans expect from a car’s handling, the part-time race driver apparently spent a lot of time in Europe, speaking to crossover drivers and seeing for himself how we drive compared to folk in Japan.

His conclusion? Europeans love to drive fast – and won’t slow down for anything. Roundabouts, obstacles in the road, blind bends… we’ll tear around them, and expect our car to take it.

The result is a car that not only handles better than its Sunderland rival, but also soaks up poor road surfaces with a minimum of fuss. The steering is light (a bonus around town), and there’s a typical shortage of feedback. But body-roll is well managed, helped by the C-HR’s low centre of gravity, and the car remains composed when driven enthusiastically, both in town and out.

There’s tonnes of kit

There’s tonnes of kit

A trick of many manufacturers is to offer a low-spec entry-level model that no one really buys. Sure, fleets favouring low costs over everything else like them – but private buyers generally favour higher-spec models.

As Toyota is firmly aiming its C-HR at fashion-conscious private buyers, it’s not offering a traditional low-spec entry-level model. Instead, the range starts with the £20,995 Icon trim (or, more temptingly, £229 a month on PCP, following a deposit of around 25%). This comes with 17-inch alloy wheels as standard, along with a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system and Toyota’s ‘safety sense’, consisting of an urban automatic braking system and adaptive cruise control, amongst other useful systems.

Walking up the range, the Excel starts at £23,995 and top-spec Dynamic is £25,495. The latter features LED lights, a contrasting black roof and an eight-inch infotainment system. Despite the large, upright screen on the centre of the dash (which, incidentally, seems to be the perfect location for reflecting the sun), there seem to be buttons everywhere.

It falls short on practicality

It falls short on practicality

People typically buy crossovers because they offer good interior space compared to equivalent hatchbacks. But Toyota’s unashamedly put design above practicality with the C-HR.

While there’s no shortage of headroom for passengers (front or rear), those in the back will complain about the mediocre legroom. And the car’s rising beltline results in a very small, and high, rear window – something that is begging for child sickness if you use the C-HR to transport young children.

The boot is reasonable, albeit a tad on the shallow side and, at 377 litres, not as roomy as the Nissan’s. The coupe-esque roofline, mimicking the BMW X6, means anyone looking to carry large loads would be better off with a RAV4.

Should I buy a Toyota C-HR?

Should I buy a Toyota C-HR?

We’ve deliberately steered away from mentioning the C-HR’s divisive design. It won’t appeal to everyone – us included – but there are no doubt many people wanting something a little bit obscure, ready to flock to Toyota showrooms.

Then there’s the practicality, which isn’t great for a crossover of this size, although headroom is good. If you’re the trendy young urbanite Toyota tells us this model will appeal to, that perhaps won’t be a huge issue either.

It’s a shame about the engines, though. The hybrid powertrain, while efficient, is fairly joyless to drive. The 1.2-litre is good in comparison, but it’s down on power and feels strained at motorway speeds.

Should you spend your money on one? If you’re desperate to be different and aren’t concerned about these points, then yes. Us? We’d probably stick with the Qashqai. Ah…

Best used crossovers and SUVs

Best used crossovers and SUVs for £10,000

Best used crossovers and SUVsYou want a crossover or SUV and have £10,000 to spend – what are your options? We’ve selected 10 of our favourites for you to consider, including everything from a much-loved Skoda to a legendary Land Rover.

Best used crossovers and SUVsSkoda Yeti

We make no apology for leading with the Skoda Yeti, because it remains one of our favourite crossovers at any price. It offers a strong blend of economy, driving dynamics and practically and can boast a legion of loyal and satisfied customers. The £10,000 budget should stretch to a good, pre-facelift 2013 Yeti.

Best used crossovers and SUVsNissan Qashqai

The £10,000 budget won’t quite stretch to a second generation Nissan Qashqai, but you shouldn’t rule out the original. Introduced back in 2007, the Qashqai spawned a string of imitators, but it remains Britain’s most popular crossover. There are plenty out there, so you can afford to be choosy. Opt for the diesel engines for the ultimate blend of punch and economy.

Best used crossovers and SUVsSuzuki SX4 S-Cross

Suzuki’s Qashqai rival has been eclipsed by the newer and superior Vitara, but it shouldn’t be overlooked. The SX4 S-Cross is based on the Swift supermini, meaning it’s pretty good to drive. What’s more, we’ve seen 2014 and even 2015 models available within the £10,000 budget.

Best used crossovers and SUVsKia Sportage

The previous generation Kia Sportage is one of the slowest depreciating cars in the UK, largely thanks to its blend of kit, space and seven-year warranty. For our budget, grab yourself a low mileage and well-equipped 2010 or 2011 car and enjoy what’s left of Kia’s acclaimed warranty.

Best used crossovers and SUVsHonda CR-V

The Honda CR-V offers a large boot and a 40:20:40-split rear seat, so if practicality is your thing, this could be the car for you. The 2.2-litre diesel engine manages to combine performance and economy, while the CR-V offers the dynamics that might seem alien to drivers of other SUVs. Also, it’s a Honda, so reliability should be guaranteed.

Best used crossovers and SUVsFord Kuga

The Ford Kuga is based on the Focus, so if good handling tops your list of priorities, this could be the crossover for you. Though the load capacity is smaller than the Focus, the split-tailgate should be useful. The revised Kuga, introduced in 2012, provides an extra 82 litres of boot space.

Best used crossovers and SUVsCitroen C4 Cactus

One-year-old cars are just creeping below the £10,000 mark, so while you might not have the pick of the Cactus crop, you will have one of the freshest faces in the crossover sector. The 1.6-litre BlueHDi diesel engine offers super-frugal running costs and the best compromise if you intend to cover long distances.

Best used crossovers and SUVsSubaru Forester

For years, the Subaru Forester has been the default choice for those looking to combine on-road dynamics and off-road ability. Ignore those who tell you the interior is a tad dated, because these things are built to last and owners swear by them.

Best used crossovers and SUVsVolkswagen Touareg

Sitting somewhere between the likes of the BMW X5 and more mainstream rivals, the Volkswagen Touareg is a full-fat SUV. It was developed alongside the Porsche Cayenne and offers a feeling of quality and refinement. As good off the road as it is on it.

Best used crossovers and SUVs

Nissan Juke

The Juke followed in the footsteps of the Nissan Qashqai to become one of Britain’s favourite crossovers. Though it has been eclipsed by more modern rivals, it remains as popular as ever, largely thanks to its exterior styling, unique interior and excellent value for money.


Aston Martin St Athan

Aston Martin picks Wales for new car plant

Aston Martin St AthanAston Martin will build its its vital new DBX crossover at an all-new car plant at St Athan, Wales – meaning the UK has won the fight to host the sports car firm’s second car factory.

Beating numerous other sites worldwide, construction work will begin at the new site in Glamorgan next year, with full vehicle production targeted to being in 2020.

Part of a planned £200 million Aston Martin investment drive, the 90-acre facility (located around 15 miles west of Cardiff) will repurpose what’s currently a Ministry of Defence base: three ‘super-hangers’ will be turned into a modern car factory building the production version of the 2015 DBX crossover concept.

In pictures: Aston Martin DBX concept

The decision to choose Wales was celebrated by the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones. “I am delighted to officially welcome Aston Martin to Wales,” he said.

“We have been working closely with the company for almost two years in the face of fierce competition from other potential sites across the world.

“Today is the start of a long-term relationship between Wales and Aston Martin.”

Gaydon also boosted

Aston Martin isn’t forgetting its HQ at Gaydon, Warwickshire though. Now the home of its next generation of sports cars, Gaydon is also to build the all-electric RapidE from 2018: by 2020, Gaydon will have expanded to a planned maximum volume of 7,000 sports cars. St Athan will be incremental crossover volume on top of that.

There’s a jobs boost too: between the the sites in England and Wales, up to 1,000 new Aston Martin jobs will be created by 2020.

3,000 more jobs will be created in the supply chain and local businesses.

It’s even good news for UK plc: Aston Martin believes 9 in 10 vehicles produced at St Athan will be exported – something that’s delighted Prime Minister David Cameron: “Aston Martin is an iconic British brand and the decision to invest here shows real confidence in our economy,” he said.

Aston Martin CEO Dr. Andrew Palmer added: “During our 103-year history, Aston Martin has become famous for making beautiful hand-crafted cars in England.

“Through a detailed evaluation of over 20 potential global locations for this new manufacturing facility, we were consistently impressed with the focus on quality, cost and speed from the Welsh Government team.

“As a great British company, we look forward to St Athan joining Gaydon as our second centre of hand-crafted manufacturing excellence.”

New Renault Kadjar and the five crossovers it needs to beat

01_CrossoversThe crossover conundrum

Not to be confused with cross dressers, crossovers combine the affordable running costs of a hatchback with the pumped-up, steroidal styling of an SUV. The phenomenon was kick-started by the original Nissan Qashqai in 2006 and has proved irresistible to buyers. Crossovers now account for nearly a third of medium-sized car sales in Europe.

Unsurprisingly, other car manufacturers have been quick to follow Nissan’s lead, meaning an ever-growing degree of choice. There really is something for everyone here. We start our round-up with the latest contender for the crossover crown, the new Renault Kadjar. Then we look at five key rivals it needs to beat – including, of course, the ubiquitous Nissan Qashqai.

02_CrossoversRenault Kadjar

Best for: latest crossover on the block

The Qashqai proved that having an odd name is no barrier to sales sucess. That bodes well for the Kadjar, which is apparently named after the French terms for ‘quad’ and ‘agility’. So now you know. Renault’s new crossover shares its platform and engines with the Nissan, so it’s an oddly familiar package – albeit one wrapped in distinctive and rather handsome styling.

Inside, the Kadjar is spacious and very practical, with a larger boot than its Japanese cousin. The efficient 110hp 1.5 diesel engine is likely to be the bestseller. It emits just 99g/km of CO2 (low enough for free car tax), even if you opt for the automatic gearbox. There’s also a 130hp 1.6 diesel – available with four-wheel drive – and a 130hp 1.2 turbo petrol. The latter is much cheaper to buy than the diesels, and probably the best option unless you cover a high annual mileage. The Kadjar goes on sale in July, priced from £17,995.

03_CrossoversNissan Qashqai

Best for: all-round crossover competence

On paper, the concept of a crossover doesn’t make much sense. They’re heavier, slower, less efficient and probably don’t handle as well as a hatchback with the same engine. Yet spend a few hours – or indeed a few years – with the sector-defining Qashqai and it’s easy to see its appeal. For starters, it looks great, with just enough SUV attitude to get your neighbours talking. That boxy body also means plenty of interior space, plus the high seating position provides a better view of the road.

The Qashqai is easy to drive and very refined. Its engines are almost inaudible when cruising and the suspension smoothes out potholes and speed humps. The 115hp 1.2 petrol is competent and good value, but the gutsier 110hp 1.5 diesel is the best all-rounder. It returns a claimed 74.3mpg and tax-dodging CO2 emissions of 99g/km. Nissan no longer sells a seven-seat Qashqai+2. You’ll have to trade up to the larger X-Trail if you have more than three children.

04_CrossoversSkoda Yeti

Best for: driver appeal

It isn’t just the Top Gear boys who rave about the Skoda Yeti. This rugged crossover always scores well for owner satisfaction in the Which? Car Survey, and has finished first in the Auto Express Driver Power survey on two occassions. That’s partly because the Yeti is great to drive, with nimble handling that’s definitely more ‘car’ than ‘SUV’. It’s also due to the Skoda’s superb practicality; despite being smaller than many rivals, its slab-sided lines mean a useful, box-shaped boot. You can even remove the rear seats altogether.

We’re big fans of the 110hp 1.2 TSI petrol engine, which revs eagerly and is cheaper to buy than the 1.6 and 2.0 diesels. Fuel economy is a respectable 51.4mpg, with CO2 emissions of 128g/km – and those figures are identical if you choose Skoda’s excellent DSG semi-automatic gearbox. Like its mythical namesake, four-wheel-drive versions of the Yeti are surprisingly capable off-road. Outdoor versions look the part, too, thanks to skid plates and chunkier bumpers.

05_CrossoversSuzuki SX4 S-Cross

Best for: value for money

Suzuki is a small player in the UK market and its cars can be hit or miss. The SX4 S-Cross, though, is definitely the former – especially when you take price into account. It starts from a whisker under £14,000, which buys you a 120hp 1.6 petrol in entry-level SZ3 spec. A well-equipped 120hp 1.6 diesel SZ5 is much pricier – at nearly £23,000 – but that’s still at least £3,000 less than a similar-spec Qashqai. Allgrip four-wheel drive is a £1,800 option.

If you want a crossover to stand out from the crowd, the Suzuki probably isn’t for you.  It’s blander than the other cars here, with fewer SUV styling cues. The interior won’t win any design awards either, but it is roomy and practical. The S-Cross also drives pretty well, with direct steering and a lively diesel engine.

06_CrossoversCitroen C4 Cactus

Best for: head-turning style

Whether you find its space-age style beguiling or bemusing, there’s no denying the Citroen C4 Cactus looks like nothing else on the road. Its most distinctive feature is the Airbumps on the doors, which protect from parking dings and come in a range of contrasting colours. The Cactus is just a radical inside, with a minimalist dashboard and optional sofa-style seats. It is on the small side for a family car, though, and it has obviously been built to a budget (the rear seat only folds in one piece, for example).

On the road, the Cactus is set up for ride comfort rather than sporty handling. This isn’t a car that likes to be rushed. Fuel economy is impressive – the BlueHDi diesel promises a remarkable 91.1mpg and CO2 emissions of 82g/km. And it’s hard to argue with the Citroen’s starting price of just £12,990.

07_CrossoversHonda CR-V

Best for: space and reliability

When does a crossover become an SUV? We’re not sure, but Honda’s ‘Compact Recreational Vehicle’ is certainly one of the larger cars in its class. That brings great benefits in terms of interior space and versatility – the boot is simply huge – but CR-V isn’t cheap to buy (prices start at £22,345). It is reliable, though. The petrol-engined CR-V was rated the most reliable 4×4 in the latest Which? Car Survey.

That said, we’d opt for the excellent 1.6-litre diesel, which comes in 120hp and 160hp outputs. Fuel economy for the 110hp version with two-wheel drive is 64.2mpg, with 115g/km CO2. The CR-V isn’t sporty to drive and its light steering offers little feedback. However, it’s comfortable, stable and safe. All versions come with city emergency braking, which can prevent low-speed shunts by slamming on the brakes if it detects a collision is imminent.


SsangYong teases Juke-rivalling Tivolo crossover

Ssangyong teases Juke-rivalling Tivoli crossover

SsangYong teases Juke-rivalling Tivolo crossover

Ssangyong has teased its new small crossover SUV based on the XIV-Air and XIV-Adventure concept cars, and revealed that it’ll be called the Tivoli.

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Audi TT offroad concept

Audi hints at future TT SUV with Beijing offroad concept

Audi TT offroad conceptAudi has revealed a crossover SUV TT show car in Beijing – and boss Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg admits it’s “a glimpse of how we might imagine a new model in a future TT family”. Read more

Honda Vezel

Honda launches Nissan Juke-boxing Vezel

Honda VezelHonda has launched its new Vezel mini crossover in Japan – and has confirmed European sales will begin in 2015.

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