Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution: Even the untrained eye will recognise that the Pajero Evolution is no crossover. It has huge tack-on wheel arches and an enormous bonnet scoop and a funny metal plate at the front. Whereas the average crossover is designed primarily to transport young mothers across town, the Pajero Evolution was built to win the Dakar Rally. Which it did, on 12 occasions. It’s powered by a 3.5-litre V6 that’s good for 276bhp and a lumpy 257lb ft of torque – and as if there were any lingering doubts as to the Pajero Evolution’s intended purpose, its seats are stamped ‘Recaro’.
One we found: 1997 Pajero Evolution, 61,000 miles, £12,990
Why are crossovers so popular?
Crossovers and SUVs have become as popular as they have for a number of very good reasons that are difficult to refute, but also one or two that are not so logical. Perhaps the best reason of all for choosing a taller car over a comparable hatchback is the loftier seating position, which gives a far better view of the road ahead and really can make you feel safer. These cars are easier to get into and out of, they’re less of a strain to load heavy bags into and, as anybody who has ever worn a skirt and tried to elegantly extract themselves from a very low car will tell you, better for personal modesty as well.
It must be acknowledged, however, that a good number of crossover and SUV buyers choose such cars because they have a status attached to them. They look more like prestigious 4x4s than a city car ever will, even if they’re actually not much bigger or any more expensive.
These cars do have their drawbacks, though. In fact, in engineering terms, they’re fundamentally compromised. Their frontal areas are greater, which has a very real impact on fuel efficiency. They are heavier than conventional hatchbacks but offer little more, if any, space inside, and they have higher centres of gravity as well. What’s more, studies have shown that tall cars pose more of a risk to pedestrians. But buyers are voting with their chequebooks and it’s clear that for a great number of people, those compromises are easily overlooked.
But if you must have a new SUV…
Categorising all of the new crossovers and SUVs that seem to appear at a rate of one a week is no small task, not least because these cars are actually designed to fill niches within niches. We split the affordable end of the crossover and SUV market into four segments: compact crossovers, compact SUVs, crossover hatchbacks and family SUVs.
As has already been mentioned, our pick of the compact crossovers right now is the Seat Arona, despite its bland interior and unremarkable handling. But it scores highly for refinement and interior space. The Renault Captur and Mazda CX-3 are highly commendable.