cancel
Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Vellum Venom Vignette: Just call a crossover a car already!

Driving a vintage, classic, or antique four-door sedan of any national origin is quite the ordeal on urban roads these days. Yesteryear's low-slung beasts get absolutely lost in a parking lot full of crossover utility vehicles (CUVs), while the minuscule Nissan Kicks looks down upon you in traffic.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/car-design/vellum-venom-vignette-just-call-a-crossover-a-car-already/
94 REPLIES 94
Germanicus
Detailer

I've found the evolution of the CUV into the EV era interesting. The current electric CUV shape is an optimization for consumer preferences, aerodynamics, and current packaging constraints around EV platforms. (For an example of the last point, look at the Polestar 2, which looks like a lifted sedan in the same way that the D3 Lincoln MKS did.)

But the basic shape you get from this optimization just looks wrong. So automakers have to try all sorts of visual tricks to make a more visually appealing vehicle, similar to how a smartphone does loads of post-processing to get a good-looking image out of a tiny sensor. I think the most successful automakers so far at these tricks have been Hyundai and Kia with the Ioniq 5 and EV6 respectively.
Sajeev
Community Manager

Agreed with the issue present in the Polestar 2's overall design, it's a bit too AMC Eagle sedan for me. I presume battery packs should be a little higher up to keep cars from high centering, flooding out in standing water, etc. so the CUV body makes even more sense. I mean center of gravity isn't much of an issue any more. 

Both Hyundai and Kia have nailed it, making their CUVs look like sporty hatchbacks and not whatever the Tesla Model Y is. The Hyundai really appeals to me, something about the rear three-quarter view gives it a practical Chrysler Horizon feel about it but with a lot of muscle and surface tension (maybe more of an Omni GLH?).  

Flashman
Technician

Thanks for your insight. It's always good to periodically question one's views. You can't read this website for long without seeing a comment or article about the scourge of cute-utes (with which I agree, mostly). You postulate that the current era is just a return to the past's vehicle shapes and the wide-track era was just a phase. It's hard to argue with that and has given me a new way of looking at things. Plus ça change...
Sajeev
Community Manager

Glad you enjoyed the read!  To be honest, I became a bigger believer in my words after spending time with several modern sedans and just wishing I was in a CUV instead: terrible rearward visibility (big side view mirrors do help) mail-slot worthy trunk holes for luggage, rear door openings hindered by a fastback roof, etc. 

That said, the impracticality notion is also applicable to coupes...so perhaps new cars like the TRD Camry (which certainly looks interesting on paper) are the modern day equivalent of a 2-door muscle car from the 1960s-70s. Perhaps modern sedans are yesteryear's Cutlass coupe? 

ToyotaToyota

JohninNC
Instructor

Picture this Camry as a wagon, a real wagon not a swoopy rear hatch type setup. That'd be cool I think.
Mogowner
Detailer

I with you JohninNC, I think the wagon versions of most sedans are better proportioned than these (mostly ugly) S or C UVs'. I don't quite know what the appeal is for a vehicle that has the height of a pick-up without the carrying capacity or ruggedness. For the time being I'll stick with my AWD six-speed BMW wagon and wait for a good wagon to replace it.
Bostwick9
Advanced Driver

Sajeev, you gave completelt turned my head around on this.
I was getting there after my Little Bro picked up a pristine Geo Tracker, his wife bought a lime green Renegade and the a Kicks like you mentioned above.
You pushed me off the fence.
Car it is and I love the mental connection to old Chrysler Airflows.
When I was a kid I used to pretend my bile was a '57 DeSoto.
Not a bad upgrade to my Not a Schwinn but Western Flyer banana seat treasure.
Thanks for some true clarity on the matter.
I do love the styling of the current Escape.
Bostwick9
Advanced Driver

Sajeev, you gave completelt turned my head around on this.
Should be: Sajeev, the perspective you gave completely turned my head around....
And I was riding a bike not my bile. I save my bile for the internet.
OHCOddball
Advanced Driver

I don't care what the car is or is called, just give me something with some style instead of a lump and I don't want it full of cheap plastic that will break, computer modules running everything and I hate those huge touch screens pasted on the dash. Electric cars seem to be the worst for having 'technology' trash just because they can.
smtguy
Intermediate Driver

I completely agree! Also why would anyone want to have to step up into a car? What good is it just being taller? Do you really want a vehicle with a higher center of gravity? Not sure you would in a heavy cross wind. CUVs and SUVs look like warmed over mini-vans, except the minivan is far more practical. And what is this idea that Americans need to haul stuff as a part of their daily routine? No, I can't stand them; they are a very poor excuse for a car, and I for one am unwilling to refer to those abominations as cars.
Studenorton
Instructor

I predict you'll be hearing from a lot of Model T owners, because they are shockingly good off-roaders. A 90-degree twist from front to back axles without anything breaking? You try it.
DavidHolzman
Advanced Driver

Thanks for bringing some perspective, Sajeev. Let's toss out the marketers' ridiculous appellation, "crossover utility vehicle," and just call the damn things cars! Once they get rid of "CUV," maybe the styling will improve. Most of them are SO UGLY!

hyperv6
Racer

I have pointed out a while ago that many CUV/SUV models are the size of the old sedans of the past. There is just a size and utility people in America like and that is what they gravitate too. 

 

As for styling many still cling to the more traditional SUV truck based look.  Vehicles like my Acadia are more car than Truck but with it looking like a truck holds a different appeal. The HHR was a perfect example where it sold in six figures a year and did well. It was really a Cobalt wagon but being more truck styled it sold many times the number vs just being another car. 

 

Detroit went overboard on sixe in the early 70's and GM hit the sweet spot with the Impala and Malibu in 77-78. But then they decided to make everything FWD on cooperate platforms and it failed measurably. Ford and Chrysler faired no better accept for the mini Van and Chrysler. 

 

It used to be you were a Packard man or Cadillac man. People identified by their cars as to just who they were and their status. Your grill was your standard bearer. Today people just want affordable, Reliable,  safe and utility.  They no longer identify by their cars. 

 

Just look around I have never heard anyone brag I am a Hyundai man or that they bought a Nissan anymore. Even the big names Lincoln and Cadillac are not the image they one were. 

 

There are a few names that still work. One is Denali. The brand image and value of the Denali name is to kill for in this market. It makes money. I got a good deal on my Denali truck. I really did not set out to buy one. But since then I have been hit with Oh you have a Denali. Not a GMC or A Canyon but a Denali I am told. It is rare today outside Corvette and the like to have a vehicle name mean more than the brand name. There are some single models like Raptor but not many trim brands get this attention. 

 

The biggest thing is people in the 80's were subjected to smaller cars that could not haul  much. The minivan brought with it utility that many want today. But lets face it most men in a Minivan are screaming my wife made me do it. The larger higher CUV is much more a cross over for the sexes as models. 

 

In the past most people did not own a truck or SUV. Cars were your go to vehicle. My fathers Chevelles were his trucks. The trunks could carry a ten speed. The roof was strong enough to carry a load of plywood with no damage and only a blanket between it and the paint. His cars could carry 6 with no issues too. 

 

Today my 08 Malibu is nice but the trunk opening limits what fits in the large trunk. Too often I am unboxing to get things in. Heck I could never got my OLED TV in there. It only carries 5 not comfortably. God forbid I put one sheet of plywood on the roof as it would dent in and never come out. 

 

My Wife changed to a SUV a while ago and has not wanted to go back. To be honest her most recent SUV drives rides and handles as good or better than our old SSEI Bonneville.  It is more sports sedan in AWD than the Bonnie ever was. 

 

As it is now sales of coupe is near a dead end. Sedans are well on the way to the same ending as sales erode. One thing that may save them is the change to EV.  SInce most vehicles will be on similar platforms it may permit the production of more limited models in limited numbers. The numbers on coupes today are just not sustainable. Look at the price of the Shelby now? The low end models are also not making money. I once had a GM product person tell me the Camaro needs to have 100K units to remain viable. I am not sure if that has changed but seeing the Camaro is not set past next year is telling. 

AG1962
Instructor

My old 2002 Saab five-door turbo hatchback ran happily at 120-160 km/h for hours on end, over mountains or on the flat, and fit a 150-litre hot water tank (inside its box; rear seats folded down) with the hatch closed. Hatchbacks are the key to making lower cars more useful. Imagine a Lincoln Town Car “Turtle” with a hatchback!
Be that as it may, “CUV”-style vehicles do indeed seem to be the future of the car. And I agree that CUVs emulate the tall sedans of the 1930s through early 1950s.
hyperv6
Racer

The trouble is hatchback are a Euro thing. Americans just never were driven much to a car Hatchback. They tried a number of times but with mixed results.

Now you shape it like a SUV or sit it up higher Americans are attracted to them.

Now if you look to Europe today the CUV is slowly replacing the hatchback there.

That is the problem with the global automotive market. While we may be one planet we are not all the same on many individual things and autos are one.
dcx
Pit Crew

-- "Just look around I have never heard anyone brag I am a Hyundai man or that they bought a Nissan anymore"

I suspect you have spoken to any Tesla cultists.
dcx
Pit Crew

I should say haven't spoken to any Tesla cultists.
hyperv6
Racer

That is a whole group unto their own. While they may take personal pride many outside the bubble are not in envy like they used to be with Packards, 16 Cadillacs or a Duesenberg.

Hey kids used to have Lambo posters in their rooms and today nothing automotive.
Stixx
Detailer

I could not help but notice in the side by side trunk comparison the old car had a full size spare in the "Trunk" and a shelf of sorts over it so you could access the bloody thing without taking all your luggage out first. Sometimes original packaging might actually be better packaging than the current never mind the spare . Even trucks used to keep a spare on the side of the bed not bolted underneath so you get damn nasty dirty in the process of changing the flat...
Tinkerah
Gearhead

That's true but tires are so much more durable than they were then that accessibility isn't such a concern.
MustangJim
Instructor

Sajeev, I like your Lincoln and that escape is the same year and color as ours.
Great article and I agree with the perspective that we have come full circle. The illustrations of the old cars certainly demonstrate this. As far as calling cuv,s and suv,s,crossovers cars, I have for a long time. Someone asked me if station wagons are still made, I said yes they are but they are called crossovers. To me, our escape is a focus station wagon with awd. I consider my explorer a car also, it's not a truck. I think of it as a modern day galaxie wagon. I'd call it an ltd but I'll leave that for the platinum and king ranch models.
Sajeev
Community Manager

I like the way you think! Thanks for reading, best of luck with your Escape! They are great CU...I mean cars! 

bwytodd
New Driver

This is an argument I have made for years, the "3 box sedan" is a design that makes little sense for most people, especially in smaller cars where the trunk cargo space is limited (not so much in that Lincoln). Having recently gone through the process of finding a vehicle for my wife that I felt should be more practical than her '98 XK8 (really impractical) and C-4 Corvette (hatchback, not AS impractical), but having been told in no uncertain terms that an SUV was not acceptable, and a wagon was REALLY no acceptable, we finally settled on what I consider to be a true CUV, the BMW 535 GT. It looks and drives much more like a sedan than an SUV, yet it's a hatchback with plenty of room for the dog crate, etc. in the back.

While the newer X6 is more of a fastback SUV (about 6" taller), the GT is closer to a hatchback sedan than an SUV, a great balance and a car that we both love.
Ranger240
Intermediate Driver

The CUV acronym works, but I like to call them Compact Utility Not-Trucks as it more closest defines what they are, they’re not Ford Transits, or kei trucks, they’re jacked up (sometimes awd) 5 door utility hatchbacks (aka not trucks).

While I have a habit of orbiting my car perspectives around my own horde of junky old Brit cars, the 89 Conti as the center of the article universe gets a bit silly. Wish the author would branch out and try some cars that aren’t as simple to own, it’d make the articles more interesting. That said it always appeals to me how Egan often orbits his articles around MGs and race cars, so there’s my bias.
Bostwick9
Advanced Driver

You missed Sajeev's search in junk yards for unobtanium Continental parts recently ?
Sajeev. Egan. All of us can relate to the problems running old cars whatever the make.
Perhaps you can write your own columns. Your experience basis is valuable and it's narrowed in scope just like anyone else's: by your experiences.
He bases his content on the cars he owns FFS. He's not "trying" some cars, he's living with HIS cars.
Something all of us do and a universal experience.

Sajeev
Community Manager

I appreciate your comments. To be honest I wish I had a library of cars I could "check out" locally for photography, because a 1977 Impala and some full size CUV (i.e. car) is what I really wanted for this photo shoot.

 

But the world we want to live in vs. the world we live in are two totally different places. 

Ranger240
Intermediate Driver

It's clear re-reading your article and my response that my previous comment was made during the ugly bitter hangover reality that cars are continually drifting in an unappealing direction. I do appreciate your good writing, just wish new cars offered something else to write about.

New sales of compact utility not-trucks lumbering around with automagic or CVT transmissions mean that the stock of "interesting" cars currently available aren't likely to be replenished as they reach the end of their life cycle.

"But the world we want to live in vs. the world we live in are two totally different places. " Well put. Obviously the most pressing problem today isn't the world making too many jacked up 5 door hatchbacks, but wouldn't it be a treat if red light intersections were nice distractions from other contemporary issues, filled with genuinely pretty/elegant new cars, not bulbus "bold(ly ugly)" designs with 2 foot tall oversized grilles and other nonsense.
Tom9716
Intermediate Driver

Wash your mouth out, Ranger240, when using that 4-letter acronym. Although, a lot of those folks can be seen driving these awful lifted station wagons. I didn’t like the AMC Eagles, back then, either.
Rider79
Technician

Yeah, that acronym isn't going to work...
Sajeev
Community Manager

Considering the Conti is about the size of an E34 with a bigger butt, it's a pretty fair approximation of what 3-box sedans used to be for a large swatch of the global population. What I really wanted as a 1977 GM B-body, but those don't grow on trees anymore, nor do I have one conveniently available in my garage. 

TonyT
Technician

No mention of the granddaddy of them all, the 1936 Chevrolet Suburban Carryall?
audiobycarmine
Technician

Right! — Except that was Truck-Based.

Many here seem to have forgotten that their beloved SUV's — the Blazers, Explorers, et al; all had truck chassis'.

As gas mileage standards became more important, our wonderful vehicle manufacturers found a loophole... They could create a vehicle that was much like a car on the inside, but upon the structure of a truck.
Voila! They got around the fuel-efficiency rules.

Now, I realize that CUV's are primarily car-based, and should adhere to car standards.
Still, when I find myself parked next to one, I still could use a periscope to pull out.
OldFordMan
Advanced Driver

Well I have the Lincoln MKZ & 1938 Ford fordor "humpback". Have also owned a 2017 Subaru Outback.
For the life of me I don't know which feels better cruising around town. Lincoln over both others wins hands down out on the road trip.
Joakes
New Driver

Just want to say, since the first crossovers it the market,I fled it was a step back in time as I drive my ‘31 model A and park next to any of the CUV’s
Your timing with this article is right on. Thanks
Joe oakes
Zephyr
Instructor

Those sedans of the 30's had an interior height that would allow a man to drive the car while wearing a hat (a real hat, not a baseball cap). Even in today's tallest SUVs the hat has to come off. So at least in that sense, the sedans of the past were more like a CUV than a CUV is.
RallyRaid
Detailer

1930s man was half a foot shorter than 2020s man.
Sajeev
Community Manager

Very good point. 

Zephyr
Instructor

Let me put it to you another way: when I started working fulltime in 1970 I occasionally had to drive one of our company cars. They were full-sized Dodge and Plymouth sedans. I am 5'6" and I felt like a ten year old when I drove one - I literally had to look THROUGH the steering wheel, not over it, and I couldn't see anything closer than 10' in front of me because my view was blocked by the enormous hood. It had a bench seat in front that was about the size of a couch. Even the interior of the Chevy Equinox that I was driving in 2011 seemed small by comparison.
964c4
Detailer

The Chrysler airflow was artistic perfection. The likes of which we may never see again.
Bostwick9
Advanced Driver

Too bad it was considered an eyesore at the time
Numberscruncher
Detailer

CUVs and SUVs are horsesh!t and all belong in the junkyard. They are NOT and will never be cars. Throwbacks, maybe. 

Patrician
Detailer

I always thought the AMC Eagle was the first crossover. Car body, car interior, car platform but a 300 pound 4 wheel drive system added. My understanding is a CUV is a vehicle that has 4 wheel drive on a car platform. Edge vs. Explorer for example. 4 Runner vs. Highlander.
Bostwick9
Advanced Driver

No. CUV based on a car chassis with an SUV like body. It may offer 4 wheel drive but doesn't necessarily have to.
kyree-williams
Detailer

I remember my 2014 Lincoln MKS, which had a very tall H-point that was comparable to some crossovers. Indeed, it sat about as high as my grandmother's 2014 Kia Soul +.
MrKnowItAll
Advanced Driver

Specious argument. Today's "cars" are evolved from post-war station wagons. The basic shape may mimic old 30's sedans, but that's where the similarity ends. Many thirties cars had NO trunk lid, or separate trunk. Real trunks (as the name derives from) were strapped to the back.
Kaiser had no wagon and created a hatchback sedan, while Plymouth brought out the affordable all steel station wagon in '49 (as did Willys, earlier, but it was truck-like). Wagons became minivans became SUV's, etc.
Sajeev
Community Manager

Good point, but station wagons have far too much overhang in the side view to be the descendant of the the CUV.

 

That and they are too low.

 

And the DLOs are too big.

 

The pre-war stuff does it for me. 

MrKnowItAll
Advanced Driver

Its an interesting idea you proposed, but it really doesn't pass muster.
It's about utility and use, not profile. Long and low was squeezed to short and tall, for a number of reasons.
It's about practicality as an appliance, not a passing similarity.
Nearly all cars today are, no matter what you call them, "station wagons" in utility.
Scramboleer
Intermediate Driver

Hat tip for the Willys reference. The Willys Wagon and Delivery came out in 1946. They shared a lot of parts with the Willys Truck which came out in 1947, but they have different frames.
Bostwick9
Advanced Driver

'arguably making them more of a two-box design with a small tumor'.
LMAO.
If the industry had not edited out the utility of sedans over the decades [poor visibility, stupid size consoles eating up space, 'coupe like' styling, fastback profiles but not even a bloody hatch for utility with that configuration, editing out seating spaces], perhaps there would be three box sedans still. Perhaps they would have retained their popularity.
Sajeev I have been fighting this suggfestion because..."fad"... "the mob" and that 10 year old inner kid that counts cars as cars and trucks as trucks and he only likes "cars".
Growing up in the '60s a vehicle of any utility was a truck. Even wagons didn't count for me.
But you have made the connection, with pictures, words and dimensions that unhooked my grip on my entrenched ideas.
Besides, I've had this idea that a Buick Encore would complement my 86 Olds Calais quite nicely,
You've given me the perspective I need to let go and 'let car'.