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Cars, SUVs, Crossovers: Which Do You Choose?

I’m going to try to sell you on one of three great cars. You probably won’t buy one, but read on.

CAR 1: Toyota let us take the Camry from Logan to Saint George. It has 300 horsepower; about double an average car, and still claims 33 miles per gallon highway. Get one with the smaller engine and the estimated mpg jumps to 41.

The ride is somewhere between sports and luxury. The trunk holds 15 cubic feet of stuff, or fold the rear seats down for more. It’s a solid, all-around sedan.

CAR 2: On the sportier side, we tore up a Mazda6. It uses a smaller turbo engine, and we could list off all the cool stuff like independent suspension that makes cars fun to drive. The trunk is just a little smaller than a Camry’s. We hauled a String Bass home in it, sticking out a window just a little (remember when Fred Flintstone took a Brontosaurus steak home? We didn’t tip over). It looks good and is far rarer than a Camry.

CAR 3: Somewhere between the Toyota and Mazda, you’ll find the Honda Accord. These came out of their boring phase years ago. It has an even smaller turbo engine than the Mazda, but it makes the same power. Our loaner had a ten-speed transmission, letting it get 32 highway. The trunk is bigger than the other two, but it weighs 200 pounds less.

All three have the latest radar safety equipment. All three will just go for miles. And anyone with a variable heart rate would enjoy driving any of the three. Pick whichever fits your personality best, you can’t lose.

But you probably won’t.

The third quarter sales results are out, and cars are down again. Camry sales are down 9 percent, Mazda6 down 11 percent, and Accord 14 percent. Remember, all three of these are great, modern cars. It’s the cars that’s the problem. For all three manufacturers, car sales are down.

What’s up… are crossovers and trucks.

Jack Holllis, vice president of Toyota Division said his company had another record-setting month and quarter for light truck sales, which include SUVs, and crossovers like their best-selling model, the RAV4 (it used to be a car).

“Yeah, I like best-evers,” he added.

Honda Car Sales down nine percent trucks up five. Mazda cars down 11 percent, trucks up 23 percent.


Credit Brian Champagne
Richard Ratliff and his newly purchased Nissan Rogue. His old Camry sits in the background.

The Richard and Virginia Ratliff were happy with their years in Camrys and said they thought they’d spend their final years in one. When their daughter and her family moved to the top of a steep hill they say is tough to drive up when roads are icy, they cut the Camry and bought a used Nissan Rogue Crossover.

Richard said he liked the gas mileage, which is good for the class.

Stand and Joan Norton, in their early 60s, are looking to get out of their Camry, too. They recently bought mountain bikes and a kayak and said they need a crossover to haul them.

FINAL TAKE: Crossovers now have almost all the features cars do, though physics won’t allow them to handle as well. They do much better than SUVs in gas mileage, but our three loaner sedans all get two to five more miles per gallon than their respective crossover counterparts.

Brian Champagne grew up in the less-famous Central California but left after starting his television news career there. He worked 22 years in news for NBC, ABC, Fox, and CBS affiliates in four markets. He served as chief photographer for KTXL-TV in Sacramento, but worked in front of the camera, too.