Lately, there’s been quite a bit of hype about crossover utility vehicles (CUVs). Are you wondering what the difference between a CUV and an SUV is? Crossovers like the Ford Flex, Mazda CX-7, Jeep Compass and the soon-to-be-released Toyota Venza offer utility in a five-door body style, with handling dynamics that feel very much like a car. Shared machinery includes the chassis, power train and key components. Front-wheel-drive is usually standard, with all-wheel-drive available. Some CUVs, like the Toyota Venza, offer additional SUV-like ground clearance, sans the bulky look.
Soon to attack the market is the all-new Toyota Venza, with a bold, aggressive style. The 2.7-litre four-cylinder model has visually stunning standard 19-inch wheels, while the 3.5-litre V-6 comes with a set of really cool-looking 20-inchers. Lots of luxury amenities come standard, including power driver’s seat, dual auto climate controls and windshield wiper de-icer. Special packages include items like the Panorama Roof, Smart Key entry, and high-end JBL audio and navigation systems. On the utility side, the Venza offers lots of rear seat and cargo room, and can also tow up to 3,500 pounds on the V-6 model. Another nice feature is the all-wheel-drive for bad weather conditions.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Ford Flex is the square styling that mimics a Mini Cooper Clubman, especially if you go with the white roof option. Horizontal strakes along the sides also adds some visual distinction. Having spent some time improving the Flex, Ford has done a great job with its design and quality, which was unseen in previous models. On the performance and handling side, the Flex drives very well with good power and refinement. The 3.5-litre V-6 offers smooth performance with the six-speed automatic transmission and an optional all-wheel-drive system. With seating for up to seven and different utility configurations available, the Flex is appropriately named.
Another sporty ride is the swooping Mazda CX-7, looking fast even when it’s not moving. Powering the CX-7 is a turbocharged 2.3-litre, four-cylinder, incorporating direct injection with an output of 244-horsepower. A six-speed automatic is the sole transmission. Like the Infiniti EX35, the CX-7 is geared towards the car enthusiast, delivering lively handling when the road gets twisty!
On the entry-level side, we have the Jeep Compass that offers a practical, affordable and compact package, suiting most folks’ needs. Considering the very low base price, one need not expect too much in terms of standard equipment. The Compass does offer options like a larger 2.4-litre engine over the base 2.0-litre. There’s also all-wheel-drive, but don’t try to do any serious off-roading despite the Jeep’s nameplate – this is more of an all-weather vehicle.