The fastest growing segment of new cars is the Crossover Utility Vehicle, which now represents nearly 25 percent of new vehicle sales, according to Edmunds.com.
This figure represents an astounding growth spurt, since crossovers barely existed a decade ago, when Sport Utility Vehicles and minivans ruled the road. There are more than 70 crossover models to choose from.
The growing popularity of crossovers, also called a CUVs, is based on the appeal that they offer something for everybody. The CUV segment combines the cargo space of an SUV with the versatility of a minivan and the fuel economy of a family sedan, and often the ride and handling of a performance sport sedan.
The best-selling crossover is the Ford Edge. Ford has sold 400,000 since introducing the Edge in 2006, and sales continue to climb. The 2011 Ford Edge gets a make-over with an upgraded interior, including a new instrument cluster, and the addition of the award-winning EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder engine to the list of engine choices.
Ford also has added a new sport-tuned Edge to the line-up. The Edge Sport features 22-inch wheels and a Euro-style suspension that hugs the road on curves, but doesn’t rattle your brains on bumpy roads. All 2011 Edge models have the new generation of the MyFord Touch information and entertainment system, with simplified voice controls and a control panel that replaces buttons and dials with a large, flat touch screen. One feature I especially like on the 2011 Edge is a control that speaks the next three turn-by-turn commands, not just the very next one.
“Half of Edge buyers are women,” Amy Maurentic, a Ford marketing executive told me recently. She says women are attracted by the styling and safety features, such as blind spot monitoring. The 2011 Ford Edge base price is $27,220.
Nissan describes its all-new 2011 Juke as a merger between a sports car and an SUV, even calling it a “sport cross” rather than a crossover. The Juke looks more like a hatchback than an SUV, and packs Nissan’s turbocharged direct injection engine. Inside, the cockpit is a stand-out with a glossy, rounded design that is more youthful and fun than the traditional designs. With a base price of $16,960, the all-new 2011 Juke will appeal to first-time buyers.
The 2011 Kia Sorento crossover is the first vehicle being produced at Kia’s new assembly line in West Point, Ga. Safety features including hill start assist, which prevents rolling backward on an uphill start, and downhill brake control, are standard on all models.
The Sorento has been named a “Top Safety Pick” by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Like SUVs and sedans, crossovers come in all price ranges and luxury levels, and the top of both may be the BMW X6, which the German automaker calls a Sports Activity Coupe. Whatever you call it, this five-door vehicle handles like a performance sedan. BMW claims the X6 equipped with a beefy V-8 can accelerate zero-to-60 mph in 5.3 seconds. There’s also an ActiveHybrid X6.
New for 2011 is BMW’s eight-speed automatic transmission, designed to improve engine performance and deliver smoother shifts. The price range for the BMW X6 ranges from $56,500 to $89,000 for the X6 M, with a monster 4.4-liter, 555-horsepower engine that drinks premium fuel. — Evelyn Kanter, Motor Matters
Manufacturer photo: BMW X6 (White); Ford Edge (Red)