Tuesday, 6 January 2015
Crossovers. Part 4x4, part family car. They have become incredibly popular in the last few years, but the concept is not a new one. Jeep's Jeepster of 1948 was an early attempt to mate the practical body of a Jeep with an inexpensive two-wheel-drive drivetrain. Rover's "Road Rover" prototype of the 1950s was a more refined concept, but never made it to production. The Range Rover eventually became a successful, refined 4x4, but it still retained all the off-road engineering of its Land Rover brother. The Land Rover Freelander introduced the concept of the "soft roader", a vehicle with slightly less off road hardware, resulting in a lower price. In the late 1990s, demand for family 4x4s rocketed. However most of these vehicles never went off road. The time was right for a vehicle with the looks and practicality of a 4x4 with the economy of a regular estate car. The Nissan Qashqai, introduced in 2006, was an immediate success, with more than 39,000 sales in 2010 making it the tenth best selling new car in Britain. Other car companies have jumped on the bandwagon, with "crossover"models in varying sizes and styles. Some are more "soft-roader" like the Skoda Yeti, which is available with or without four-wheel drive. Others are essentially restyled or re-engineered conventional cars like the Volvo XC70, which is a 4x4 variant of the V70 estate car, or the Rover 25 Streetwise, which was a regular Rover 25 with chunky plastic bumpers and styling modifications. Similar to the latter is the Ford Fusion, which is based on the Fiesta chassis, but with raised suspension and a chunky 4x4-style body. It's a practical little car, although it's not very sporty. I just bought one and I love it. It's economical (the 1.4TDCi diesel I own managing 52mpg), practical (with a relatively large estate-style boot) and good looking. Confusingly, the Fusion name is used in the US market on an executive saloon, but that's a whole other subject.