What's the Difference Between a 4x4, SUV and a Crossover?

What's the Difference Between a 4x4, SUV and a Crossover? We breakdown each and explain the key characteristics in detail in this article.

Added: 07 August 2020


UK Sales of 4x4’s have increased dramatically over the past 10 years and you may well have noticed this anecdotally if you’ve been driving around Britain's roads recently!

The increased popularity in 4x4’s has coincided with a steep decrease in the sales of Saloon cars as UK drivers opt for more space, luxury and style.

A significant percentage of the increase has been attributed to the huge surge in sales of new ‘Crossovers’ which blur the line between 4x4’s and more traditional car body types.

With this increased popularity has come a number of new makes, models and designs which continue to make distinguishing between a 4x4, SUV or Crossover ever more challenging.

For many car experts, the difference between each type is the car’s platform, chassis which affects how the car handles and performs.

However, to fully understand the differences so you can make a more informed purchasing decision, it’s important to understand each of the car type's initial intended purposes and the key characteristics of each of them.

We’ve broken down each car type in detail:

What is a 4x4?


4x4s originally got their name from the fact all four wheels were driven by the engine (4 wheel drive) but is now frequently used to refer to a class of vehicles in general.

Originally, 4x4’s were designed for farming and anything that required driving in challenging, off-road conditions. It’s no suprise that 4x4s are the car of choice for adventurers and those who love to travel!

However, there are also the favorites of families and those living in less rural environments due to the raised vehicle height, space, style and comfort when driving even at high speeds.

Some of the most popular 4x4 models include the Range Rover, BMW X Models & Mercedes - Benz G Class.

What is an SUV?


SUV stands for Sports Utility Vehicle and refers to a class of cars that came after 4x4’s which are intended to be similar in that they are robust, powerful and have a high ride height but also differ in that they handle better, have lower running costs and improved luxury.

With bodywork and a chassis that can sometimes be more comparable to more traditional car types, SUV’s can be more fun and car-like to drive – as they share regular cars’ construction methods.

With a better fuel economy and added space and comfort, SUV’s became really popular within the mainstream audience as they appealed to the family market.

Some of our favourite SUVs include the Audi Q7, Jaguar F-Pace & Land Rover Discovery Sport

What is a Crossover?


As we’ve already touched on, the popularity of Crossovers in the UK has exploded in recent years. There are several reasons behind this but perhaps one of the most important is that a Crossover allows drivers who are used to owning more typical car types such as hatchbacks, estates and saloons, a way to dip their toe into owning a larger car.

4x4’s and SUVs are famous for their size, power and fuel consumption but a Crossover allows you to benefit from a few of these advantages without necessarily choosing the most expensive car to run on the market.

Everything about the Crossover is more practical to the everyday driver than a 4x4. What they lack in luxury and prestige, they make up for in fuel economy, running costs and more traditional driving and handling.

Whilst there’s plenty of stunningly stylish Crossovers on offer right now, you probably won’t match the wow factor of the latest 4x4’s. However, for a much lower cost, you can get the feel of luxury and comfort that you simply can’t match with other smaller car types.

Some of the best Crossovers on the market right now include the Nissan Qashqai, Nissan X-Trail & Porsche Cayenne

Which one is right for me?

Learning about the history of 4x4’s, SUVs and Crossovers is a great way to understand the pros and cons of each. Whilst the popularity of all these models is driving more variety than ever and blurring the lines between each of them, there are still key characteristics that differ from each other. Whether you’re looking for a practical, affordable motor or a luxurious, prestige vehicle to make an impression, Saxton 4x4 is the UK’s Number 1 4x4 Dealership offering an unrivalled selection of cars.

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