Suburban growth and the crossover boom: Why CUVs are here to stay

The year is 2015 and the crossover is king. A class defined by its aim to be several things at once is more popular than ever before, in fact it overtook the sedan last year as the most purchased body style in the United States. And with the space of an SUV, the price of a family car, and the fuel economy of a coupe, that should come as no surprise. What more could you want?

As the segment continues to skyrocket and unlikely brands like Aston Martin and Lotus mull over CUV entries, we’d like to take a short look back at what made these automotive half-breeds so desirable in the first place. For clarity, we’re categorizing crossovers as small, SUV-like vehicles built on car platforms, examples of which you can see in the gallery above. For more on the difference between full-fledged SUVs and crossovers, check out our in-depth breakdown here.

A star is born

Though the term “crossover” wasn’t applied to automobiles until about the turn of century — the product of marketing firms and members of the media — vehicles with the same basic layout appeared much earlier. Subaru introduced the four-wheel drive DL station wagon in 1974, which could “climb like a goat, work like a horse, and eat like a bird,” according to the ads. Sound like a crossover to you? Five years later, AMC partnered with Jeep to create the Eagle, a high-riding hodgepodge that laid the groundwork for the CUVs of today.

AMC Eagle
The AMC Eagle was among the first wave of crossovers in the U.S.

As disco came and went and the Berlin wall fell, crossovers began to morph into something closer to what we see on the roads today. One of the best known examples is the Honda CR-V, which debuted in 1997. The CR-V could fit the whole family, offered all-wheel drive, and boasted a generous (for the time) 8.1 inches of ground clearance, yet it was based on a Civic platform and returned up to 23 mpg. Crossovers were officially in, and as they say, the rest is history.

Rockin’ the suburbs

The proliferation of CUVs has been widely influenced by increased suburban growth. Despite what sitcoms and advertisements will tell you, more Americans are leaving the city for quieter, cheaper pastures than entering it, as evidenced by U.S. Census data. In 2014, 529,000 Americans aged 25 to 29 (a crossover’s target audience) moved to the ‘burbs from the city, while 426,000 did the opposite. For younger people, the anti-metropolitan trend was even more pronounced, with 721,000 leaving and 554,000 coming.

Tesla Model X
Tesla Model X

Obviously, movements like these have a direct impact of the types of products and services companies offer. Suburbanites need the room of an SUV to haul their kids and their sports equipment across town, but want good fuel economy while doing it. They need ground clearance and towing for the occasional camping trip, but want something easy to drive and park, all while remaining comfortable and somewhat rousing. CUVs generally meet all these criteria, which is why 36.5 percent of the market was claimed by crossovers last year. Fertility rates are actually (slightly) rising in the U.S. right now, so if you add in the current migration trends, these automotive amalgamations probably aren’t going anywhere.

As with every other vehicle segment though, crossovers will have to evolve to survive. Electric interpretations like the Tesla Model X could push the class in an entirely new direction, and with potential competition coming from Audi and Mercedes-Benz, the next wave of CUVs could very well be battery-powered.

The big picture

Ok, so crossovers aren’t the most exciting cars in the world. Your palms probably don’t get sweaty every time you see a Ford Edge, and the Chevy Trax probably won’t be the star of too many bedroom posters. That being said, these vehicles put a ton of cash into automakers’ wallets, meaning there’s more to spend on eye-popping concepts and tire-shredding sports cars. Do you like the new Porsche Cayman GT4 Club Sport? Direct some gratitude toward the Macan crossover, Porsche’s second best-seller behind the Cayenne SUV. Because without daily drivers like these, there’d be far fewer weekend warriors.

Social Media

‘YouTube Rewind 2018’ is about to become its most disliked video ever

YouTube is about to achieve a record it really doesn't want — that of "most-disliked video." Yes, its annual recap of featuring popular YouTubers has gone down really badly this year.
Music

Spotify is the best streaming service, but its competitors aren’t far behind

It can be hard to decide which music streaming service is for you, so we've picked out the individual strengths of the most popular services, aiming to make your decision a little easier.
Gaming

Apple Mac users should take a bite out of these awesome games

Contrary to popular belief, there exists a bevy of popular A-list games compatible for Mac computers. Take a look at our picks for the best Mac games available for Apple fans.
Smart Home

Google Store sale is on now through December 24!

Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2018 may be history, but fans of Google hardware including the popular Google Home Hub, Pixel 3 and 3XL mobile phones still have lots of deals in store -- the Google Store, that is.
Cars

2020 Toyota Supra caught hiding in a trailer without a shred of camouflage

Toyota's plan to once again lure enthusiasts into showrooms involves bringing back the Supra, one of its most emblematic nameplates. Here's what we know so far about the upcoming coupe, which Toyota is developing jointly with BMW.
Cars

NYC mandates minimum wage for Uber, Lyft, other app-based rideshare drivers

New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission approved a rule that drivers for companies such as Uber and Lyft must be paid at least minimum wage, even though they are independent contractors. The new pay rate includes operating costs.
Cars

Driving a prototype 2020 Passat at Volkswagen’s Arizona Proving Ground

Volkswagen’s Arizona Proving Ground is where new cars are tested to the breaking point, including the 2020 Passat midsize sedan. Ride along as the new Passat completes testing ahead of its 2019 launch.
Cars

LM Industries’ autonomous shuttles head to Phoenix, Sacramento campuses

LM Industries will deploy Olli low-speed autonomous shuttles at school campuses in Arizona and California as part of its ongoing "fleet challenge," which asks local groups to propose uses for autonomous vehicles.
Cars

Bosch’s CES-bound shuttle concept takes us on a trip to a not-too-distant future

Bosch envisions a future in which driverless shuttles occupy their own market segment. The German firm won't build the shuttles, but it wants to provide everything else, ranging from the drive system to the apps used to hail them.
Emerging Tech

A lidar-equipped truck knows exactly how much de-icer to apply on roads

Lidar is best known as the laser-based technology that helps self-driving cars sense their surroundings. But the city of Knoxville has another, more seasonal use for it: De-icing roads.
Product Review

Boring takes a back seat as 2019 Corolla Hatchback mixes fun with practicality

We drive the 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback, the latest hatchback to bear the Corolla name. As the best-selling nameplate in automotive history, Toyota has high expectations to meet. This model mostly lives up to the legacy.
Cars

Hertz speeds up car rentals with biometric scan technology

Biometric security technology that uses face, fingerprint, and voice recognition is gaining traction, with Hertz emerging as the latest company to incorporate it into its daily operations.
Product Review

Inside Maserati's Levante SUV beats the heart of a Ferrari

Maserati’s luxury SUV gets a shot in the arm by way of Ferrari-derived V8 power, but is it enough to go toe-to-toe with the established players in the high performance sport-utility segment? Let’s find out.
Mobile

McLaren puts the pedal to the metal in special-edition OnePlus 6T

The OnePlus 6T is yet another flagship killer smartphone, bringing powerful specifications to a much lower price than the competition. Now, OnePlus has teamed up with McLaren for the OnePlus 6T McLaren Edition.