What in the world is a crossover?

Would you like a car that looks like it can go off road but can’t? Yes? Well, step right this way because I think we can help. To begin with, they’re called Crossovers. Now pay close attention, because this is tricky.
Crossovers were conceived in the early noughties as alternatives for hatchbacks, MPVs and proper SUVs. In almost all cases, they’re derived from an existing product like a hatchback on an MPV and then tweaked with raised suspension, plastic body cladding and possibly four-wheel drive, all of which imply increased off road capability.
Now, though, it is soon becoming one of the largest segments in the automotive pie anywhere. To be brutally honest, crossovers are a cynical marketing exercise because they tend to cost a lot more than the hatchbacks or MPVs they’re based on, in return for some visual beefing-up and ground clearance. But that’s what India wants. So let’s look at some examples of what’s available.
First, the Renault (Dacia) Duster. The Duster was designed and engineered on the Sandero’s platform. Which is the updated version of the Logan’s underpinnings. To base a Crossover on a hatchback’s platform makes sense because SUVs tend to drive quite poorly — they roll in the corners and so on. But the Sandero, I’m told, is quite good to drive so that explains the why the Duster is as good as it is. Also, hatchbacks are light, frugal and mostly compact. None of these things are normally associated with traditional SUVs, so that’s good too.
Volvo, meanwhile, has launched the V40 Cross Country in India and straightaway, it looks brilliant. It’s easily one of the best-looking cars currently on sale in India. But my worry is this: we know that crossovers are fundamentally compromised because they’re derived from another product almost as an afterthought. So would you spend 30-something lakhs on the Volvo or the MINI Countryman? Or, for this kind of money, would you rather buy a proper SUV?
Reality check done with, let us get to what is undoubtedly my favourite crossover — the Skoda Yeti. To begin with this is all the car you’ll ever need. Big from the inside, small from the outside, plush, sophisticated, supremely comfortable at any speed and virtually on any surface, this car is what all carmakers should study before launching a car for India. Okay, so it’s not pretty in an obvious way. But it is attractive, and that’s the point. It’s not trying too hard. It is what it is, and Skoda hopes you’ll appreciate that. It is also quite the thing.
The 4x4 Elegance retails for about 20 Lakhs and is my pick for the best car on sale in India. Why? Apart from all the other pre-requisites, it’s got the Laura’s 2.0L diesel, a 6-speed DSG gearbox which is so good that you don’t really miss a manual. It also comes standard with power everything, a great touch-screen audio system, leather-seats, a better ride than some SUVs over twice its price, all the practicality you’d expect and then some. It’ll do over 200kph effortlessly while returning 14kpl+ (Skoda claims over 17) because the awesome 2.0 TDI that does business in VWs, Audis and other Skodas, puts out 140bhp and 320 torques. And it drives like a saloon car, not a great big jiggly SUV. At just over 1.5 tonnes, it’s also much lighter than its more expensive rivals.
See what I mean? The Skoda Yeti is better in many ways, than the more expensive BMW X1, Audi Q3 and the hopeless MINI Countryman. The only area in which it lacks slightly is badge. But Skoda’s not exactly down-market in India, is it?

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