Home Editors' Picks Trendspotting in 2022: Crossovers (and electrification)

Trendspotting in 2022: Crossovers (and electrification)

Split 2nd

Bring on the segment breakers, and make sure they’re charged

THE “VELOCITY” section of BusinessWorld turns three today.

That’s a very young age in the overall scheme of things. Or is it?

A three-year-old smartphone is now ancient (at least as far as my children are concerned). A three-year-old car model is just about a year away from being replaced by an all-new model.

So, what has changed in the last three years, automotively speaking? And what can we expect in the coming three years?

The first and most glaring observation I would note is the car-buying public’s ever-growing appetite for crossovers. Filipinos can’t seem to get enough of this relatively new genre of automobile.

Just last week, I got to take a close look and quick drive of yet another new crossover, the MG HS. It’s the third crossover — in less than four years since the brand’s Philippine debut — from the now-Chinese-owned British automaker that used to make only sports cars. Now that is ancient history.

That MG HS will compete against crossovers from another Chinese brand, Geely (which now owns a British sports car brand, Lotus, as well Swedish luxury car brand, Volvo). Size-wise, the HS competes against the Geely Coolray; although price-wise, it actually faces off against the Geely Azkarra.

Both marques also market sedans, with Geely very recently bringing in its new Emgrand that’s priced like a subcompact but is actually sized more like a compact sedan. MG has been enjoying reasonable success with its good-looking MG 5 subcompact while the even better-looking MG 6 compact fastback sedan is seemingly overlooked in the mad rush for crossovers in the P1-million to P1.3-million price range.

Then there’s Chery, yet another Chinese brand that offers no less than four crossovers — five, if you consider that the phenomenally affordable entry-level model comes as two sub-models: the pre-face-lift Tiggo 2 and the face-lifted Tiggo 2 Pro. The Chery on top is the stunningly well-equipped Tiggo 7 Pro and Tiggo 8, which look and feel like bona fide European SUVs — minus the price tag.

Like its compatriots, Chery also has a sedan, the big difference being that the P1.9-million Chery Arrizo 5e is a pure electric vehicle, like a Tesla or a Porsche Taycan — but much cheaper. (More on electric cars in a bit.) But wait there’s more! GAC and Changan, together, add another six crossovers to the mix.

Of course, the Japanese, Korean, American, and European brands are unleashing their own crossovers like there’s no tomorrow.

In the space of the last three years, Toyota has crossed over its Corolla sedan into the car-based SUV world with the aptly named Corolla Cross. Toyota being Toyota, they also brought in the latest RAV4, which now comes as a hybrid, as well as the sensationally low-priced Raize.

Mitsubishi has its own Cross-surnamed model in the new Xpander Cross, while Mazda continues to turn heads and move ever-upmarket with its supremely refined CX series of crossovers in the CX-3, CX-30, CX-5, CX-8, and CX-9. Honda, meanwhile, is sticking to its guns with the now-venerable CR-V, HR-V, and BR-V.

The Koreans also have fresh entries in the affordable crossover genre, with Hyundai rolling out the Kona and Venue, and Kia unveiling the Seltos and Stonic to backstop its more established Sportage and Sorento siblings. Even Ssangyong is in the small crossover game with the Tivoli.

The Americans? Chevrolet just unveiled back-to-back crossovers in the Trailblazer and the Tracker while Ford has the fast-selling Territory and the pioneering Ecosport.

Europe? Peugeot has morphed the previous-generation hatchback-like 3008 and MPV-like 5008 into true-blue crossover-SUVs in the premium segment. Volkswagen, on the other hand, has opened the doors to its China operations to acquire more affordable models; hence the appearance of the T-Cross in lieu of the more expensive Europe-sourced Tiguan.

But it’s not just sedans crossing over into SUV body styles. You’ve got coupes, hatchbacks and even minivans morphing into the genre as well. Take a look at the fastback, coupe-like silhouettes of the Porsche Cayenne Coupe, the Audi e-tron and Q series Sportbacks, the Mercedes-Benz GLC and GLE Coupes, the BMW X4 and X6, and the Range Rover Evoque and Velar.

A hatchback that turns into an SUV? The Mini Cooper Countryman. Minivan to SUV? The all-new Kia Carnival. Regardless of size or price, it’s really safe to say that the car industry has got all your crossover/SUV needs covered.

What’s the next big trend? Electrification.

The local car industry seems to have gotten tired of waiting for the government to start developing infrastructure to support electric vehicle charging and are taking on the formidable job of educating the car-buying public and, of course, bringing in their own hybrid and pure-electric vehicles.

The leader here — no surprise — is Toyota. The Japanese giant and its luxury car brand Lexus have been bringing in self-charging hybrid models for roughly a decade now. And they currently have the most number of electrified models on offer with hybrid versions of the Corolla Altis, Corolla Cross, RAV 4, Camry, and of course, the exclusively hybrid Prius.

Amazingly, Lexus has an even higher number of self-charging hybrid models in the IS, ES, GS, and LS sedans as well as the NX and RX SUVs. Hyundai, too, has a self-charging hybrid in the Prius-like Ioniq.

For those who want to be able to plug in their hybrids to recharge at home or at the office, Mitsubishi last year launched the Outlander PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) while luxury PHEV models have been introduced here by Volvo and Range Rover. Mild hybrids, meanwhile, are on offer from Mazda, Geely, and Range Rover.

Fully electric models are now locally available and are as varied in size and price as the P2.798-million Nissan Leaf, the aforementioned Chery Arrizo 5e, and the full BYD line on one hand, and the sensational Porsche Taycan, Audi e-tron, and Jaguar I-Pace on the other.

With driving ranges (on a full charge) reaching over 300 kilometers, it is conceivable to be able to use a purely electric vehicle every day going to and from work within Metro Manila for a week and recharging it every weekend. Or going straight up to Baguio and charging it once you arrive at the City of Pines. No need for roadside charging stations. And, more importantly, no cringing at the gas station every time you load up on P70 (or more) per liter of petrol.

But it’s not just the rising world oil prices that should force us to take a closer look at the inevitable future of automobiles. We need to catch up or be left behind. Whether we like them or not, electric cars are tomorrow’s cars. And that tomorrow could well be within the next three years. We should just be thankful that a lot of these electric cars come in our favorite flavor — as a crossover.