They’re the gymnasts of the car market – flexible, muscular and versatile. That’s why this is one of the hardest gold medals to win
The term crossover describes any car that blurs the lines between traditional boundaries, but family hatchbacks-cum-SUVs have made the name their own. After the success of the Nissan Qashqai, launched in 2006, the race was on to create the best mix of 4x4 style and low running costs. And so, the crossover is now a class in its own right.
Price range: £14,830-£24,090
By definition, crossovers take inspiration from various corners of the market. None does this better than the excellent Skoda Yeti, and its influences are easy to spot. On the outside, it clearly apes the rugged appearance of a proper SUV, with bold proportions and chunky styling. Climb aboard, and you’ll detect more than a hint of MPV. The 40:20:40-split rear seats fold and tumble independently, and can even be removed entirely, just as they can in a people carrier.
If you think a combination of 4x4 looks and MPV practicality will spell disaster from the driver’s seat, think again, because the Yeti handles brilliantly. If anything, it’s almost too good, as it trades a degree of comfort for agility, but the sharp body control and responsive steering set the car apart from its major rivals.
Purposeful looks, a practical interior and entertaining dynamics are all very well, but they would count for nothing if the rugged Skoda didn’t come with a brilliant array of engines and attractive prices – and this is where it really scores. There’s not a bad engine/gearbox combination in the range of petrols and diesels, manuals and automatics. Low-mileage drivers should give the turbocharged 1.2 TSI a good look, as it packs surprising performance for such a small engine. Company drivers should consider the 119g/km GreenLine II diesel for its blend of equipment and efficiency.
Price range: £17,295-£26,920
A silver medal in such a talent-packed sector of the market is a big achievement, but it’s what we’re coming to expect from Kia. The Sportage is the embodiment of its values – it mixes eye-catching looks, a generous raft of equipment, classy interior quality and decent driving dynamics in an affordable package. It’s practical, despite its racy styling, and the engine line-up includes an efficient 1.7-litre diesel model with stop-start – so it’s sensible, too. In two-wheel-drive form, the car emits 135g/km of CO2.
Inside you’ll find as much space as in a family hatchback and a 465-litre boot. Add a superb seven-year warranty, and the Sportage’s second-place finish comes as no surprise. There are better handling and more practical choices out there, but few offer quite as much value for money as the Kia.
Price range: £20,340-£27,360
If the Yeti and Sportage aren’t for you, our bronze medallist may be up your street. The Volkswagen Tiguan is a conservative choice next to the Skoda and Kia, but that’s all part of its appeal. A range of efficient engines and a clever part-time four-wheel-drive system ensure the car won’t break the bank to run, but capable dynamics and a high-class interior are its key selling points – hatch-style handling and cabin quality are prize assets.
The Tiguan isn’t the biggest crossover around, but clever touches mean you won’t feel short-changed inside. These include a sliding rear bench that allows you to juggle boot space and rear legroom to suit your requirements. Just watch out for poorly equipped entry-level models, as mid-range Tiguans offer the best compromise between price and kit.
Price range: £16,445-£23,290
The entire crossover sector is a slave to fashion, so it was only a matter of time before MINI seized the opportunity to expand its line-up – and the car. The Countryman caused uproar among enthusiasts for the sixties icon, but that hasn’t stopped it from being a sales hit. Class-leading CO2 emissions, retro design details and competitive prices all help, but the Countryman isn’t the most practical choice – the optional four-seat configuration is particularly nonsensical in a family car. Still, if you want a crossover with a MINI flavour, the Countryman won’t disappoint.
Price range: £16,495-£28,245
It’s the original crossover, and still one of the best. Younger rivals provide classier cabins and more engaging dynamics, but the great-value Qashqai still sets the benchmark. A mixture of fashionable looks, low running costs and generous kit levels ensures it’s still a force to be reckoned with. The Qashqai+2 adds another dimension by offering an extra row of occasional rear seats. It’s still no MPV, but they make the Nissan incredibly versatile.
Price range: £17,445-£21,795
Legendary off-road brand Jeep took the wrong direction with its Compass crossover. It isn’t helped by a limited line-up, which doesn’t feature any eco-tuned models. Quirky styling and a low-rent interior leave it trailing class leaders. That would be forgivable if prices reflected this, but we don’t think the Compass offers enough value for money.
In this review
- 1IntroductionWe name the best new cars of 2012, with 72 contenders for Gold, Silver and Bronze
- 2Best city carsThis is one of the most hotly contested classes out there, and the fierce competition has produced some extremely capable cars...
- 3Best superminisPracticality, affordability, efficiency, style and fun – these best-selling cars have to offer it all. So which ones do the best job?
- 4Best small family carsHard-fought class has a vast range of new hopefuls – but an all-time classic takes gold
- 5Best large family carsLots of space, low running costs and a dash of style are needed to win this category
- 6Best estate carsBig is beautiful for estate buyers – but big has to be clever, too, in a category where all-round practicality is essential
- 7Best executivesAll of our contenders gain points for style, but class is permanent – and BMW is the big winner with updates to its timeless 3 Series
- 8Best crossovers - currently readingThey’re the gymnasts of the car market – flexible, muscular and versatile. That’s why this is one of the hardest gold medals to win
- 9Best compact SUVsGenuine mud-plugging ability meets comfort, refinement and efficiency in this fast-growing and increasingly competitive class
- 10Best large SUVsThese big cars make a big impression – but which off-road star is the class of our Championship field?
- 11Best roadstersFeel the wind in your hair and wear a smile on your face with these great-handling, stylish and quick drop-top sports cars
- 12Best MPVsExcellent carrying ability alone isn’t enough for the latest people movers. The best buys do it in style
- 13Best hot hatchesOn your marks, get set, go... These small cars all have pace, but it will take something special to outsprint VW’s reigning champ