Incredible Shrinking Crossovers

Small is bigger than ever in the world of crossovers. Thanks to design and engineering innovations, manufacturers are able to squeeze more space and versatility — along with sexy styling and technology — into incredible shrinking packages.

Say hello to the subcompact sport utility, a recently bred animal that combines the fun of an SUV with the sensibilities of a small car, adding a fresh injection of style to the often stodgy segment for an edgier, younger vibe with all the perks of a crossover.

Let’s start with the Mini Cooper Countryman, a sweet five-passenger ride that’s unmistakably a Mini but stands a bit taller than a regular Cooper, rocking a more aggressive profile with four conventional side doors, enough cargo space for a pair of bikes and a 35-mile-per-gallon highway rating. The Countryman has a 1.6-liter 120-horsepower four-cylinder engine, and the turbocharged Cooper S Countryman raises the stakes to 181 horses with all-wheel drive and a rear roof spoiler.

“The Countryman is the most striking addition to our vehicle lineup so far,” said Jim McDowell, vice president of Mini USA.

BMW’s X1 has everything you’d expect from a Bimmer in a small “sports activity” package, outfitted with a pair of peppy turbocharged engines: a 3-liter, 300-horsepower inline-6 and a 2-liter I-4 that gets up to 34 mpg highway. Feel free to opt for the cool sport seats, Harman Kardon audio and panoramic moonroof.

Another luxury star, the Volvo XC60 TR is a sleek little crossover with a turbocharged 3-liter 325-horsepower I-6 and a stellar lineup of advanced safety features — cyclist and pedestrian detection and blind-spot and collision warning systems, to list just two.

Looking to stand out in a crowd? Behold the distinctively angular Scion xB, a crossover wagon like no other, offering a BeSpoke Premium stereo with HD radio and iPhone connectivity. Inside is all metallic bronze and chrome trim; under the hood is a 2.4-liter 158-horsepower I-4 that gets up to 28 mpg. And the bold Nissan Juke has aggressive sports-car lines and a wide stance — a flashy, tough ride powered by a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 188 horsepower. High-performance all-wheel drive and push-button start are available. So is navigation with real-time traffic updates.

“It was our intention to challenge the conventions,” said Shiro Nakamura, Nissan’s senior vice president for design and chief creative officer. “I really think Juke will bring something different for customers — something more emotional, energetic, more masculine.”

Bob Young, Brand Publishing Writer

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
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