2012 BMW X1 (© BMW Group)


Go big or go home. It sounds macho, right? But with gas prices shooting into the mesosphere, herding a full-size SUV isn't as much fun as it used to be. So what's the alternative if you need a utility vehicle?

Try a smaller, thriftier crossover. Yes, you might give up some cargo space or towing capacity, but you'll also get a lighter, sportier everyday driver and take fewer trips to the gas pump. What's a crossover? In its classic form, it is the blending of a car-based chassis with a trucklike SUV body, and it's just the ticket for those wanting to insert some economy into the highly practical sport-utility format.

Bing: Crossover Vehicles

All very sensible, you say. But what about why you got an SUV in the first place — that jaunty style that separates you from the legions of little silver sedans? That's the best part. Crossovers are now urban-chic. The newest of the breed pack more fashion sense than any massive full-size SUV would dare. And from traditional outdoorsy types to the latest uptown cruisers, the hot crossover segment doesn't lack for variety.

We've gathered five of the most stylish, economical and capable crossovers as a way of highlighting this trend in urban mobility. As a bonus, remember that even these "look at me" crossovers often pay homage to their SUV roots with available all-wheel drive for exploring dirt roads and handling sloppy weather. Unless you've been mud-bogging on the weekends or tugging a cabin cruiser, we don't think you'll miss a giant SUV, because with these crossovers you can go big on the driving and still get home on a tank of gas.

Nissan JUKE

With the Rogue crossover already in the thick of it, Nissan can afford to go wild with its second crossover, the new JUKE. Priced between $19,570 and $25,000, the JUKE is fun, even a touch quirky. A turbocharged, direct-injected 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine gives perky power and delivers excellent 27 mpg city/32 mpg highway mileage ratings. The sophisticated all-wheel-drive system, with its computer-controlled wet clutches in the rear axle, livens up the handling and returns excellent steering feel. The JUKE's edgy styling is said to attract men, while the existing Rogue has proved popular with young moms.

Compare: Nissan JUKE vs. Hyundai Santa Fe vs. Kia Sportage

Range Rover Evoque

Click to enlarge picture2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque (© Land Rover)

Range Rover Evoque

Knocking the last clod of dirt from its tire treads, class-conscious Range Rover is releasing the all-new Evoque this fall, with prices starting at about $45,000. Strictly for the asphalt jungle, the trendy Evoque motivates from a turbocharged and direct-injected 240-horsepower 6-cylinder engine, which should yield real-world mileage in the high 20s. But looking sharp is the main attraction here, along with generous luxuries and electronics such as an optional power rear liftgate, a 17-speaker sound system and an 8-inch navigation computer screen.

Watch Video:  Torture Testing the Land Rover Evoque