What is the Difference Between a SUV and a CUV?

We have all heard the term "SUV", an abbreviation for the Sports Utility Vehicles that are so popular in the United States. However, you may not have heard the term "CUV" being thrown around a lot because it just doesn't sound that catchy and is almost a little nosey (pronounced See-You-Vee). Instead, you have probably heard the word "crossover" mentioned without really caring too much about what it actually means. So, it begs the question — "What is the difference between a crossover (CUV) and traditional Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV)?" There are a number of distinct differences across the board as well as between manufacturers. Let's look at some of the key differences between these two types of vehicles in greater detail below.

Answer: In brief, the SUV is built upon a truck platform and the CUV a car platform

Although the distinctions have become increasingly less distinctive over time, historically speaking, an SUV was based on a truck frame while a CUV used a unibody construction like a car. In this regard, you will find that mid- to full-sized SUV's have larger storage capacity, third-row seating, and are boxier than their CUV counterparts. In fact, the height of the vehicle may also be closer to a truck or car when you are considering the extremes of the SUV versus CUV terminology. In addition, the marketing perception between a crossover and SUV usually turns upon whether a vehicle handles more like a car or if it is beefed up and rugged like a truck.

The drivetrains and many other factors of a CUV are quite similar to the SUV market. You are likely to find torquier engines in vehicles that need them because they are mid- to full-sized SUV's with a larger mass. The key distinction between crossovers and traditional SUV models appears to be how progressive they are at bridging the gap or crossing over between a Suburban and a daily driver compact car. It is believed that a crossover is actually derived from an SUV and a hatchback, maintaining the high ground clearance of an SUV while also handling deftly like a lithe hatchback.

It really isn't important what you call your SUV or CUV vehicle if it works for your lifestyle. The only key feature worth mentioning is that uniframe construction vehicles are more susceptible to damage when they get into any kind of accident. Yet, the larger truck frame of an SUV doesn't have the crumple zone technology to absorb as much of the explosive shock waves that are inflicted when you are involved in an accident. As a result, a full-sized SUV has the mass and build to hold up better to fender-benders. A crossover will likely crumple like a tin can when it hits anything (even at 3-mph). While this protects you in the event of an accident with another car by sacrificing the life of your vehicle for your own, it can be expensive to repair.

Additional Resources

We know that it is difficult to define what makes a vehicle an SUV or a CUV. And, for this reason, we have provided some additional resources for your perusal.

  1. Auto Nation - Auto Nation is a popular online publication that offers access to their personal reviews of test-driven vehicles, news on all things automotive, and additional resources for people interested in automobiles. They also have answered the question of what separates SUV's from CUV's with clarity.
  2. U.S. News & World Report - U.S. News & World Report is a leading online publication for in-depth information on automobiles. They have gone into greater detail on the nuances of unibody construction versus truck frame SUV construction, among other things.
  3. CarBikeTech - CarBikeTech is an online publication that focuses on educating consumers on all things automotive. They provide you with some easy to read and clear articles on a variety of late-model trends. They review high-end vehicles and give you the in-depth info on the engineering behind various automotive components.