When the original Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V models first came to market in the United States all those years ago, many journalists mocked their diminutive size and soft-ride with thinly veiled claims that they were nothing more than “SUVs for girls.” Fast forward to 2011 and it is pretty much common knowledge that most SUVs are, in fact, bought by women (they do make up half the new car buying pool, after all) and the once tough SUV has been replaced by the “crossover.”
But come on, is there really anything that makes a “crossover” all that different from the old Jeep Cherokee, Toyota 4Runner, Nissan Pathfinder and Ford Explorer models that all sold like hotcakes during the 1990s? As it turns out, automakers are really taking a long term view when it comes to which new models that they are investing most of their development dollars into nowadays. And it usually isn’t into SUVs.
Most people right now would assume that I was going to talk about fuel efficient, Euro-style hatchbacks in the style of the itsy-bitsy 2011 Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit and Mazda2 but judging by their sales figures, that revolution will be muted. In reality it will be vehicles one size up from the subcompact market that will actually be the fastest growing new car market segment according to NHTSA Government estimates.
These highly sought after models will have names like Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Chevy Cruze, VW Jetta/Golf as well as the aforementioned compact “crossovers” with names like CR-V, RAV4, Chevy Equinox, Subaru Forester and Kia Sportage. So why the sudden interest in smaller family sedans and SUVs?
Well, if you hadn’t noticed the outlook for the United States experiencing another unrestrained economic boom time is looking pretty slim, at least for the immediate future. Growth will be slow and prices for goods, services and gasoline will probably all go up eventually. This price fluctuation fear, even if unrealized, is going to be what drives countless Americans out of their F-150’s (unless they work construction, of course) and straight into a 40 mile per gallon Focus, Elantra or Cruze.
Having recently been hugely impressed by a 2011 Chevy Cruze LT during a week long road test, I do have to say that would be my personal choice for sensible transportation for the years ahead. But if you need an SUV for your family, you might want to look into the Kia Sportage, Kia Sorento and Chevy Equinox as my top choices in value, space and build quality respectively. Yes, the Chevy models have the best interior quality feel. You got a problem with that?