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Exploring The Birth Of Crossover Vehicles

By raccars Published

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The Nissan Qashqai is often credited with inventing the crossover vehicles sector. While it certainly exploded the territory, it was far from ground-breaking.

Despite the indisputable success of The Nissan Qashqai, there were in fact a number of earlier cars which would these days be called crossovers but were at the time considered as simply useful genre-crossing utility motoring.

The best early crossover vehicles

Talbot Matra Rancho

In 1977 the Matra Rancho performed the function nowadays carried out by the Skoda Yeti. It was available as a six seater and was furnished with plenty of exterior plastic and four extra spotlights up front, covered with mesh for extra utility value. It was pretty rough and tough looking but wasn't in fact a particularly capable off-roader. Essentially it was a Simca with a little extra carrying capacity, but relied upon an 80bhp 1.4 litre petrol engine and front wheel drive. It was a good idea, poorly executed.

Suzuki Ignis

The Ignis predicted not only crossover vehicles but more specifically the compact crossover sector that's exploding right now. Released in 2001 as a jacked-up hatchback with four wheel drive, it pre-dated the Nissan Juke, Vauxhall Mokka and Renault Captur by nearly a decade. And rumour has it that the Ignis is set to make a return...

Honda HR-V

In 1999 Honda's HR-V offered all the practicality of the later Nissan Qashqai but failed to make quite the same impact. A funky marketing campaign labelled it as a 'joy machine' and its target audience was young hipsters living in the city. Its reception in the UK was luke warm and the HR-V was phased out in 2006. Nonetheless there's a new HR-V on the way which will have a very different and far more crowded marketplace in which to compete than its ancestor.

Suzuki Vitara

In 1988 the Vitara offered something rather different and unique. It was far less sophisticated than the modern crossover but was available in a number of formats including four wheel drive, which were commonly used as urban runabouts rather than off roaders. An unfortunate reputation as the car of choice for Essex hairdressers didn't help its prospects, but in fact the Vitara has always been rather more practical and capable than it appears. The latest Vitara is a far smarter car.

Subaru Forester

The Forester has been quietly blending genres since 1997, and would arguably fit into the emerging off road estates sector better than the mainstream crossover list. It's essentially a jacked up estate with four wheel drive, much like the Audi Allroad range or Volvo's XC70. Like the best crossovers it's practical, spacious, comfortable and agile.

Toyota RAV4

Like the Vitara, the RAV4 is synonymous with a less stylish, rather more cheesy era; one in which Robson and Jerome led the UK's top 40 charts. The original version was rougher around the edges than today's crossovers but otherwise had the potential to start the revolution that in the end did not occur until the arrival of the Qashqai in 2007. Toyota must be kicking itself for not having capitalised on the opportunity at the time.

Mitsubishi Delica

The crossover was really born out of the melding of the hatchback with the SUV, but the Delica illustrated another way in which genres could cross. This took an MPV and added a good bit of SUV capability, making the Delica a spacious minibus that you could reasonably take off road. It had genuine 4x4 abilities and was far cooler than your average people carrier. It was a surprisingly practical and usable vehicle but the format has never really caught on.

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