What's the difference between an SUV and a crossover?

SUV vs. Crossover: What Is the Difference?

Given the similarities between SUVs and Crossovers, consumers and manufacturers alike use the words interchangeably. However, a crossover is a lighter vehicle while an SUV is heavier and features a truck chassis.

Many drivers looking for a car that is heavier than a sedan find an SUV or crossover to be the perfect option because of their similar body style. If you have been wondering what exactly a crossover is, you are not alone.

It is not uncommon to find manufacturers advertising a car as both an SUV and a crossover which makes it even more confusing. In this article, we explore the key differences between an SUV and a crossover.

What’s The Difference Between Crossovers And SUVs?

While they both have their benefits and drawbacks. SUVs and crossovers do have their differences when it comes to making a buying decision. Let’s take a look at them below:

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A crossover utility vehicle is slightly higher than a car but not as high as an SUV. While crossovers come in different sizes, they are designed to be smaller than SUVs but bigger than regular cars. They also feature an open cargo space, four doors, and an all-wheel or four-wheel drive option.

Unlike the SUV, a crossover is built on a car platform which gives it a unibody construction. This means it is one solid piece from the body to the frame. However, the key distinction between a crossover and an SUV is in the chassis.


The sports utility vehicle rides slightly higher than the crossover giving it a higher center of gravity. It is designed to handle different environments and is purposely built to be fast and agile with a tow weight similar to that of a pickup truck.

SUVs are typically bulkier than crossovers which makes them more spacious. They are built on a metal frame chassis which makes them more rigid and gives them a better hauling capacity. Modern SUVs also feature all-wheel drive while traditional SUVs are known for a four-wheel drive for extreme off-roading.

Key Differences Between a Crossover and an SUV

As earlier discussed, it is not uncommon to find manufacturers marketing a car as both an SUV and a crossover. However, there are significant differences between the two despite the major styling similarities they share.

SUV vs Crossover


The crossover’s body features a unibody construction because it is built on a single piece. The SUV’s body and frame are built separately and molded together during manufacturing. SUVs are truck-based which allows them to haul larger loads. The crossover unibody gives it a better ride quality and because it is lighter, it also gives drivers better fuel efficiency.

However, some crossovers also allow towing and come with significant towing capacities. For instance, the Outlander, Mitsubishi Eclipse, and Outlander PHEV are crossovers built on a unibody platform with a significant towing capacity of up to 2000 lbs.


The body-on-frame design of car manufacturing is popular because it is cost-effective as it allows different bodies to be set over the same frame. Manufacturers all over the world use this model of building cars for most vehicles aside from trucks, commercial vehicles, and other off-road cars.

Crossovers are specifically built on a unibody frame where the body and frame are built together as one structure. This makes them safer due to incorporated crumple zones. Most SUVs are set on a truck’s frame.


While bigger cars offer you better protection in case of a collision, a bigger crumple zone gives your car more room to absorb impact keeping you safe.

SUVs are considered safer than crossovers because they are significantly bigger. However, they are also more likely to topple over because of their bigger size.

Both crossovers and SUVs come with advanced safety features making them safer for use. It is worth noting that accidents involving larger cars can be life-threatening and potentially devastating.

The bigger your crossover or SUV the more responsibility you have, so it is always advisable to drive more carefully or even take a defensive driving class to prevent accidents.

Under The Skin

The crossover’s skeleton and body are designed in a seamless assembly which makes it lighter and more flexible. The body supports the car’s weight, load, and force as well as the stress of the driveline, suspension, and chassis.

Crossovers also use engines, driveline components, and transmissions designed to deliver power and fuel efficiency. Some crossovers such as the Highlander and RAV4 come with fuel-efficient hybrid engines.

On the other hand, SUVs are heavier and stronger because of their body-on-frame design. They are less roomy but make up for it with toughness. SUVs are designed to tackle heavier towing capacities and challenging off-road activities.

Most SUVs also feature a 4X4 system allowing drivers to switch between 2-wheel or 4-wheel drive. They also feature low-range gearing which allows smoother driving on tough terrain.


Main SUV Features

  • Space: SUVs have more cabin and cargo space allowing you to fit more people and keep you safe in case of a collision.
  • Rugged Built Quality: SUVs are designed for extreme off-roading in different weather conditions. They also have better rigidity because they are built from steel and aluminum. In addition, their body-on-frame structure provides higher tolerance and sturdiness. They are also easier to repair.
  • Off-roading Capabilities: SUVs are known for their off-roading capabilities because of their 4X4 drivetrain which gives them better clearance. Most SUVs are also equipped with powerful engines which makes it easier to handle uneven terrain and steep angles.
  • Higher Towing Capacity: An SUV can handle up to 10,000 lbs because of its truck frame which gives it a higher hauling capacity compared to most cars.

Main Crossover Features

  • Space: Crossovers are generally smaller than SUVs so they do not have as much space. While full-size crossovers can fit up to 6 passengers, a smaller subcompact model can only take three. Manufacturers also include folding seats to allow flexible cargo space. Larger crossovers also have a bigger towing capacity of up to 6000lbs giving you the freedom to add a trailer.
  • Fuel Efficiency: Crossovers are designed to be fuel-efficient because of their lighter weight and aerodynamic body. Some crossovers even feature a fuel-saving hybrid powertrain which adds to their fuel efficiency.
  • Safety: Car manufacturers originally made crossovers for family transportation, so they are designed to pass government crash tests. Their unibody design also allows more crumple zones to absorb impact on collision making them safer for use.

Should You Buy an SUV or a Crossover?

The easiest and quickest way to know which car is best for you is to identify your needs. If you are looking for a car to use every day, a crossover is an ideal option because of its fuel efficiency.

Its compact size also makes it easier to handle in urban and suburban areas. You can also use it for light-duty road trips and regular highway trips.

If you are looking for a heavy-duty vehicle that can handle serious trailering, an SUV is best for you. SUVs are also ideal for use in mud, sand, snow, and other uneven trails with steep climbs.

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Which Is Better A Crossover Or SUV?

While they have their differences, both crossovers and SUVs offer a great deal of space and versatility. So, which one is the better choice for you?

It really depends on your needs and preferences. If you need a vehicle that can handle off-road driving or towing, an SUV is probably the better choice. However, if you’re looking for something that’s more fuel-efficient and easier to maneuver, a crossover might be the way to go.

Ultimately, the best way to decide is to test drive both types of vehicles and see which one feels better for you.

Whichever you choose, crossovers and SUVs are both great options for anyone looking for a spacious and versatile vehicle.

Why Do People Buy Crossovers?

Crossovers have become increasingly popular due to their fuel efficiency, versatility, and maneuverability.

Fuel efficiency is one of the main reasons people choose to buy a crossover. Crossovers tend to have smaller engines than SUVs, which makes them more fuel-efficient. They also tend to be lighter than SUVs, which also helps with fuel economy.

Another reason people choose crossovers is for their versatility. Crossovers can be used for a variety of purposes, such as hauling cargo or transporting people. They’re also great for taking on trips because they have plenty of space for luggage and other belongings.

Finally, crossovers are often preferred over SUVs because they’re easier to maneuver. This is especially beneficial for city driving or parallel parking.

Should you buy an SUV

Why Do People Buy SUVs?

SUVs offer a number of advantages over crossovers, such as more power and more space.

One of the main reasons people choose to buy an SUV is for its power. SUVs tend to have larger engines than crossovers, which gives them more towing and hauling power. They’re also capable of handling more tough terrain and driving conditions.

Another reason people opt for an SUV is that they need extra space. SUVs have more room than crossovers, so they can comfortably seat up to eight people. They also have larger cargo areas, which is ideal for families or anyone who needs to transport a lot of stuff.

SUVs also tend to have more advanced safety features than crossovers. This is because they’re built to handle more rugged conditions.

SUVs typically have four-wheel drive, which helps them maintain traction on slippery or uneven surfaces. They also usually have higher ground clearance, which helps them avoid obstacles on the road.


If you are in the market for a new set of wheels, a crossover or SUV may be the best option for your needs. A crossover will give you fuel efficiency in everyday driving while an SUV allows you to discover comfort on offroad terrain.

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