SUV segment still growing strong in US market

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ByDave Kunz via KABC logo
Sunday, August 28, 2016
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While sedan sales are down, the sport-utility-vehicle market is growing and several models are getting redesigns for 2017.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- If you bought a new vehicle this year, or still plan to, chances are good you chose some sort of an SUV.

While sales of sedans are down in the auto market, the sport-utility-vehicle segment continues to grow like crazy.

Nissan is one brand that timed this trend pretty well, intentionally or not, by solidifying its SUV lineup, including a return of the full-size Armada.

For 2017, it gets its first-ever redesign after being on hiatus for a bit.

Make no mistake, the Armada is big. But it also holds up to eight regular-size adults in its three rows of seats. A 5.6-liter V8 engine is standard, and it can tow up to 8,000 pounds. Prices for a two-wheel drive version start at $44,400.

The new Armada looks a whole lot like the Infiniti QX80, which has been out for a while in its current design. If you can live with the more downscale Nissan name, you can save a ton of money over the Infiniti.

A Platinum-trim Armada with lots of luxury features has a base sticker price of $57,090. By contrast, the Infiniti QX80 has a base price of $63,250, and when loaded with options can top out at around $80,000.

One thing's for sure: The Nissan Armada is what you'd call an "old school" SUV, with a truck frame and chassis, and EPA fuel-economy estimates that range from 13 to 19 mpg. The ride can also feel firm and stiff.

Many buyers today who don't need something quite so big are gravitating to mid-size models that can still carry lots of people.

Nissan is playing there as well with a revised Pathfinder for 2017. The Pathfinder name goes back to a smaller, full-frame vehicle, but was completely redesigned a couple years back into a seven-passenger mid-size model with car-like road manners.

For families, a three-row sport utility like this makes sense for its combination of space efficiency and reasonable fuel economy. The 2017 Pathfinder carries a base sticker price of $29,990.

Other strong contenders in the mid-size segment include the Honda Pilot, which was new last year, the Toyota Highlander, which was redesigned a couple of years ago, and the Ford Explorer, which got some updates for 2016.

But the real volume in SUVs is in the compact segment, with the Honda CR-V leading the charge. It tops the sales charts in small SUVs, crossover SUVs and SUVs overall, with Honda selling more than 300,000 every year in the United States.

Some industry analysts have said that sales of SUVs are especially strong right now partly because of low gas prices.