A blue 2022 Chevy Equinox is shown from the side parked near a hiking trail.

What Makes a Crossover SUV Great?

Midsize, full-size, compact…there are so many types of SUVs that it can be difficult to keep them all straight. Many shoppers go into the car buying process thinking, “I just want an SUV,” and are surprised when they get to the dealer and are asked what kind of SUV. One popular variety in recent years is the compact crossover. It’s an interesting option that has a lot of the features people love about full-size SUVs while boasting a few differences that can be just perfect for the right driver. When it comes to the top compact crossovers, the 2022 Chevy Equinox vs 2022 Ford Escape is a common topic of conversation. But there are many great options to choose from. It’s just important to know what exactly makes a compact SUV crossover great. Here, we break it down.

Car Platform

One of the basic distinguishing factors of a crossover SUV is that it’s built on a car platform. This means that its body and frame are all one single piece. Meanwhile, on a traditional SUV, the body sits atop a truck platform. These two pieces are manufactured separately and then later fused together. On the consumer end, what you’ll experience in a crossover with its single-piece design is that it drives really smoothly, handles really great with good response, and feels light. Plus, its light build will generally make it more fuel-efficient than a full-size SUV.

Meanwhile, an SUV, with its body-on-frame build, is going to be more durable and have more towing power than a crossover. Neither is better or worse––it just depends on your needs. And for the record, none of this is to say that a crossover can’t tow an impressive amount. The 2022 Ford Escape, for example, can tow up to 3,500 lbs depending on the engine choice and towing package. Many drivers will find that that’s plenty of towing capacity. Unless you live that RV life, it’s uncommon, you’ll need much more power than that. However, the 2022 Chevy Equinox is more common for the segment, with a tow rating of 1,500 lbs.

A silver 2022 Ford Escape Titanium is shown during a 2022 Chevy Equinox vs 2022 Ford Escape comparison.

A Broader Size Range

When talking about traditional SUVs, you’re typically going to hear about midsize and full-size models. The main difference between the two is that, while both typically offer third-row seats, in a full-size SUV, the back will often be roomier––nearly offering the comfort of front row seats. But the main point here is that midsize and full-size will be your standard options in a traditional SUV. Meanwhile, when shopping for a crossover, you might encounter a broader range of sizes, including subcompact, compact, and midsize models. A lot of advancements have been made in crossovers, so shoppers have a lot of sizes to choose from.

Don’t Let Labels Confuse You

It should be stated that there are many names for the crossover. You might hear it referred to as the Crossover Utility Vehicle, a Sport Activity Vehicle, or a Compact Crossover SUV. All of these refer to the same thing: an SUV built on a compact car platform. If you’re ever confused about the options that a dealership is giving you, just ask them: is it a unibody or body-on-frame design? (They’ll probably be impressed you even know that difference).

Still Plenty of Storage

Don’t let the word “compact” mislead you to think that you or your stuff will feel cramped in a crossover. Many compact crossovers have a good amount of storage for everyday items like all of your groceries or your kids’ sports gear. The 2022 Chevy Equinox, for example, offers a generous 63.9 cu.ft. of storage behind the back seats. The 2022 Ford Escape has a convenient 60/40 split back row to help make room for even more stuff. Crossovers will generally give you a spacious trunk, plus lots of convenient pockets and cubbies around the car for miscellaneous items. It’s no pickup truck, but when compared to larger SUVs, a crossover holds its own in the storage department.

Two vs Three Rows

Another main difference between crossovers and traditional SUVs is how many rows of seating there are. Your compact crossover is typically going to just have the two rows of seats, while a midsize or full-size SUV will usually boast three rows. This is part of what makes it more like a sedan––the seating capacity. Many would say a crossover is essentially a sportier sedan with more storage room. Your larger SUVs have their reputation for being roomy and spacious because they can hold a lot of passengers. But that’s also what makes them feel like boats to maneuver.

A red 2022 Chevy Equinox RS is shown speeding down a city street.

Is a Crossover Right for You?

There’s a lot to love about a crossover because it really does combine the best of both worlds from an SUV and a sedan. It’s spacious, comfortable, and rich with storage compartments like an SUV. However, a crossover is going to feel light and handle easy, much like a sedan. If you drive in a busy metropolitan area where you have to take sharp corners and make sudden moves, you could find a midsize or full-size SUV clunky to drive, while a crossover will feel just right. Its smaller size and easier handling also make the compact crossover much easier to get into tight parking spots than bigger SUVs. It’s no secret that finding a parking spot for a full-size SUV is quite the battle. If you live in a city where parking is hard to come by, a crossover could mean fewer parking headaches.

You’ll also want to think about how many passengers you need to drive around. Obviously, if you’re in charge of the carpool or you just have a large family, you could need the third row offered by a larger SUV. But, if you don’t transport many passengers, then that third row just means a car that’s heavier to manage without much upside.

Then, of course, there’s the matter of fuel economy. The 2022 Ford Escape is a crossover that gets up to 30 MPG combined, which is comparable with many sedans out there. Considering the seating and storage capacity of these vehicles, that’s some impressive fuel economy. For comparison’s sake, a full-size SUV like the 2021 Toyota Sequoia only gets 15 MPG combined, so you can really see the difference in fuel economy when you jump from a crossover to a full-size SUV. If you’re trying to slim down your budget, then you can expect to save much more at the pump with a crossover compared to a large SUV. And if you’re trying to do right by the environment, you could also prefer a crossover.

Getting the Right SUV

In many cases, you’ll find that a crossover will be more affordable than midsize and full-size SUVs, too. Full-size SUVs are made with very heavy-duty materials, but that also means a higher price tag. So, while larger SUVs do come with some advantages, you should make sure that you plan on making use of those advantages before paying the premium. If you don’t really need to tow an RV or a boat, and you don’t need to take lots of passengers on board, then you could be paying the higher price tag for nothing.

In the end, it’s easy to see that a crossover SUV was the answer to many a driver’s problems. Sedan drivers who needed more room but didn’t want a massive SUV and SUV drivers who wanted to downsize, but not all the way to a sedan, are both happy. Whether you are shopping for the 2022 Equinox, the 2022 Escape, or another model, the compact crossover is a remarkably versatile vehicle.