Around the time enormous SUVs began to inspire more than a twinge of guilt in many of their owners and gas prices caused a steady ache in gas-hog drivers' wallets, auto manufacturers devised a new marketing niche to alleviate those pains: the crossover.
A crossover means to take the best of the large SUV -- all-wheel drive and copious cargo space -- and merge it with the best of the passenger car -- a lower road profile and far better gas mileage. It is the Goldilocks solution to the SUV problem, neither too big nor too small, too profligate nor too parsimonious.
Suzuki SX4 Crossover
Which brings us to the case of the Suzuki SX4 Crossover.
Suzuki has made headway in the U.S. market as of late with some snappily designed, easily affordable and energy efficient cars and SUVs. The SX4 line -- the Crossover is one of two models, alongside the Sport -- is a compact urban driver well suited to densely traveled commuter paths.
The SX4 Crossover provides a solid-feeling all-wheel drive system in its compact frame, granting a greater sense of control and safety in foul weather situations -- and for less than $17,000, which is certainly no bad deal.
Adding to the SX4's plus column is a sharp exterior that manages to rise above the bland without succumbing to the faux-bling effect that some other brands use to gussy up their lower cost models. The interior feels a bit austere, but not cheap -- and it comes with front and side airbags, plus a decent sound system.
But while the rear cargo area is adequate for a five-door compact -- once the back seats fold-and-tumble out of the way -- it's not exactly the Goldilocks solution for storage.
That doesn't detract from the fact that the SX4 is a solid little car with plenty of desirable features for a good price. It just isn't exactly the ''crossover'' it wants to be.