Vans vs Crossovers

March 30, 2018


Generic crossover vehicles
Some generic crossovers

As I drive around Salt Lake, I am stunned by the huge amount of crossover vehicles on the road. Crossovers, also called CUVs or crossover utility vehicles, are in my opinion, the lamest possible choice. They are horrible, blob shaped monstrosities with very few advantages. And yet crossovers are EVERYWHERE. Any other type of car is better, especially minivans.

Looks

Supposedly, crossovers beat minivans in looks. Phrases like "aggressive styling", "sporty", and "powerful design cues" are thrown around. What are these people thinking? The best way to describe a crossover is a "blob". That is their shape. They sort of look like a real SUV, but don't be fooled, they are not SUVs, they are wannabes. Vans, on the other hand, are obviously just vans. They aren't trying to be anything else. And why should they? Vans have good qualities as you'll see in the next few sections.

Seating

You might be thinking, crossovers and vans are practically the same thing, my crossover happens to seat eight. Anyone who thinks that has obviously never sat in the back seat of a crossover. As a normal sized young person, if there is limited seating in a vehicle, I usually end up in the back. Part of this is because a typical American can't even get to the back seat of a crossover. It could almost be an obstacle on Ninja Warrior trying to climb into the back seat. And once you are there, it's the most uncomfortable possible seat position. Even the second-row seats are horrible. I had the displeasure of sitting in the second row of a Ford Explorer driving across Indiana last summer. The Explorer itself is a massive blob. And yet, the middle row is smaller than a Honda Civic's. How is this possible? Is it an optical illusion?

Minivans are the exact opposite. The doors conveniently slide open to comfortable seats. Both second and third row seats are easy to get into, AND comfortable to sit in. You aren't cramped, even as an adult. (Maybe the third row is slightly cramped, but it's still better).

Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo
I'm not surprised Mystery Inc. chose a Van

Space

Maybe crossovers have terrible seating because all their room is dedicated to trunk/cargo space? Sadly, no, they have horrible cargo space. Honda's most recent large blob crossover, the Pilot, has 16.5 cubic feet of space. That sounds pretty good until you learn my compact Subaru Impreza has more than this. Then, if you fold some seats down in the Pilot, you get 83 cubic feet. Meanwhile, the Honda minivan gets almost 145 cubic feet, almost doubling the crossover's space. I've fit three adult sized bicycles in my mom's minivan, without taking any wheels off. You won't be able to get a single bike in a crossover without taking some wheels off. Minivans with the rear seats down can even hold longer cargo than a standard pickup truck. A minivan is insanely good at carrying stuff.

Driving

Before buying my car, I test drove a bunch of others, including some crossovers. While it was fun car shopping, accelerating in a crossover was always a huge letdown. They were sluggish. Like an old person trying to get out of his chair, or a young lady reluctant to stop watching Netflix and get up. Maybe this sluggish performance reminds them of themselves, and draws them to the crossover. Meanwhile, my mom's old minivan seems like it was built for speed. It accelerates fast, and is fun to drive.

Miscellaneous

If I had to choose a normal vehicle (not an RV) to live in for a few days, it would absolutely be a minivan. With the seats down, you can lay nice and flat, and even stretch out. If you are interested in living in cars, TEN CONSECUTIVE YEARS LIVING IN CARS: Living, Traveling, Camping, Attending College and Performing Surveillance in Cars (LivingInCars.com) is the ultimate guide, and an interesting book. I know the author personally too!

Somehow, crossovers have the edge for people who like texting while driving. It's extremely common, I'm betting they are all sending each other messages about how they are sick of riding in a crossover.

Seriously though, crossovers do have slightly better average mpg numbers. Vans and crossovers are both in the mid 20's with crossovers having a slight edge. I know I'd save a ton of gas money if I had a crossover, as I'd never want to drive anywhere in it.

Crossovers also have better ground-clearance, making rough roads more accessible. This is a valid advantage. Maybe the rock crawlers in Moab will start using crossovers instead of Jeeps.

Overall

Vans cleary win in all the categories that matter. A few months ago, I heard Mitsubishi was bringing back the Eclipse, a very cool car, known to be fast. Then I read the article, and the new Eclipse IS A CROSSOVER. You'll notice that the website doesn't mention speed or driving like an old Eclipse at all. Just styling and a touchscreen. It is probably a slug too. This is like if the Statue of Liberty somehow disappeared, and then they brought it back as an eight foot tall statue in a park, covered in graffiti and bird poop. I hope this article helps people realize how vans can be a cool, practical choice.