Ford Escape

The compact crossover has officially become the modern station wagon. For families that need a practical vehicle that combines reasonable fuel economy and utility, they have become a natural choice. A new study by IHS Automotive published by Polk confirms this, with the relatively young market segment taking up a rapidly increasing portion of US auto sales.

IHS examined sales of 18 mainstream compact CUVs in the US in February 2013 and looked at them again in February 2014. Sales increased by 26.7 percent among the models it studied, and their market share increased from 11.7 percent in Feb. 2013 to 14.8 percent in Feb. 2014. The study asserts that the segment is now the third largest in the country behind non-luxury midsize sedans and non-luxury compact cars.

Building a successful entrant in the compact CUV market can really boost an automaker's bottom line. For example, IHS found that the new Jeep Cherokee sold 11,795 units in February 2014, which is nearly seven-times higher than the Jeep Liberty in February 2013. Jeep brand sales were up 47.43 percent year-on-year for February.

The examiners believe that the segment's boost in popularity lies in compact crossovers giving buyers a good balance between cost, fuel economy, driving dynamics and cargo space. However, the study claims that this growth will have to slow in the coming years because every major automaker now has a vehicle in the segment, and upcoming subcompact CUVs like the Honda Vezel may eat into their bigger siblings' sales. While the market growth continues so strongly, though, don't expect carmakers to turn away from expanding their ranges of these lucrative models.