Automakers create sporty sedans to compete with popular SUVs

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In recent years auto sales have been up, but sales of four-door sedans are down. (KABC)

In recent years auto sales have been up, but sales of four-door sedans are down, way down in some cases. Why? Everybody seems to want some kind of SUV. So what can keep sedans on buyers' shopping lists? One way is to add the appeal of sportiness.

For example, the Nissan Sentra has been a sensible choice for many years, but how about a sensible and fun choice? You can get a NISMO edition Sentra, with a big dose of extra performance for a $25,790 base sticker price.

The NISMO name comes from Nissan Motorsports, and while the high performance treatment doesn't exactly turn the little sedan into a racer, it does give it an edgier persona on the road. And almost as importantly, an edgier look.

Just adding the name "sport" to a sedan can add allure, like with Hyundai's Elantra Sport. Crisper handling and more aggressive looks, plus a nice 201 horsepower turbo engine, with a 6-speed manual transmission if you like. For a base price of $21,800 the Elantra Sport is like a baby sport sedan.

And the sport treatment goes right up the price scale. Right alongside Audi's new A4 sedan, the S4 model is also new. It's the same basic car, but with 100 more horsepower (thanks to a turbocharged V6 versus a turbo 4-cylinder in the A4), improved handling, and a sport treatment to the interior.

You do pay more for the sportier model, with the S4 having a base price of $51,400. The base price for a 2018 Audi A4 is $36,000 before option packages and trim upgrades.

Over at Infiniti, they've even got an interesting name for the sportiest version of the Q50 sedan, "Red Sport." Yes, you can get it in colors besides red, but no matter the color, the Red Sport edition gets the hot 400 horsepower twin turbo V6 engine. Additional enhancements to the chassis and suspension are also part of the package, for a base price of $51,000.

And Hyundai's upscale Genesis brand is slowly getting off the ground, with a version of the G80 sedan called the G80 Sport. It's more of an appearance package, but since other luxury brands tout their sporty side, Genesis doing a sport model was a natural. Base price for the G80 Sport is $55,250.

Do most buyers of these cars drive them in a sporty or aggressive fashion? Probably not. Many just like the look that a sportier model provides. And for manufacturers, having a sport model of a sedan provides a halo effect to the non-sport models.

The G80 Sport shows potential buyers that there's some pizzazz at Genesis, as it tries to make a name for itself in the luxury world. And if someone doesn't quite need or want an S4 Audi, that sporty vibe trickles down to the A4.

And so on, all the way down through the compacts. A sport theme to make the whole line seem a little snappier. And possibly, a way to help the sedan segment hold onto market share.

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