The Identity Crisis of Early 2000s Compact Cars and Crossovers

Surfing the used car market for obscure finds is a pastime that, more often than not, leads to models that are at least a decade old. A refreshing reminder of how well some cars age, the designs capable of convincing they weren’t unveiled alongside the new millennium. Having said that, the early 2000s were arguably one of the most experimental eras for most industries, vibrant, outlandish designs with colors of all shades. Naturally, given how quirky most things were back then, it is safe to say that categorization was a mere suggestion.

This was a case for cars of the early 2000s; with the expansion of ideas and little restrictions, vehicle sizes and types were much more basic. After all, crossovers weren’t as defined and were up to the manufacturers’ interpretation. As a result of modernization, some cars felt oddly disconnected when their next generations came out. Take the Toyota Ist for example, a car that, by its exterior, should be classified as a hatchback or a compact car, but is regarded to have visual cues of an SUV. The second generation did a better job in defining its crossover character, being somewhat bulkier. Still, it wasn’t enough to convince most of its owners that it is more than a compact. Unsurprisingly, Toyota wasn’t the only one.

Suzuki’s SX4 (Fiat Sedici in select parts of Europe) shared the same dilemma, though it wasn’t as ambiguous as the Ist. Marketed both as a sporty hatchback and a capable crossover, Suzuki was at least aware of the dual nature of the first generation. The sedan did not gain the same treatment (for obvious reasons). The second generation came along, and was clearer on its intended design, an ironic statement for crossovers, funnily enough. The latest generation finally ditched its hatchback-like roots in favor of a more SUV-like exterior. Contrary to the Vitara, which started off as a proper mini SUV, then a midsized one, to the same class as the second generation of the SX4. It is, by all means, a letdown for those anticipating consistency.

Regardless of the complication of car classes, hatchbacks of the new millennium was an interesting dynamic that is often overlooked, which is sound considering how many other iconic models came out before the next decade. Car classifications have since gained more categories to fit the ever expanding variety, yet also overcomplicates it. Ironic? Perhaps. Nonetheless, the identity crisis of compact cars of the early 2000s is something to behold, a testament of how unbound everything was two decades back. If you feel old by now, all you need to do is glance over your driveway and convince yourself that whatever’s in there can only be aged by how time changes everyone’s perceptions.

(Images sourced from Wikipedia and Suzuki’s promotional materials)

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