Your guide to navigating the SUV maze

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Once upon a time, sedans, station wagons, and minivans filled the roads of America, but they have now been largely supplanted by SUVs. The Nissan Armada, Pathfinder, and Rogue are just three examples of SUVs offered out of a total lineup of seven models by a single manufacturer, Nissan. If one automaker offers so many SUV derivatives, you can imagine how many models there are to choose from on the market in the USA. We summarise the most important selling points of the three major size classes to keep in mind when shopping for different models. In the end, it is up to you to read every review and go on a test drive with your shortlist choices.

Determining your requirements

There are many determining factors in choosing an SUV for you. Size is probably the most important one; that new 2021 Nissan Rogue mentioned previously is a compact SUV, the Pathfinder is mid-size, and the Armada is full-size. Let’s use these three broadly defined size classes as our guide to help you choose the best one for you.

Subcompact/Compact SUVs

The sub- and compact SUV segment offer the smallest types. Most of these are based on normal car platforms that have been raised to give an increased ride height for tackling bad roads, but they cannot necessarily fully manage tough trails. This type is called a crossover because it is halfway between a car and an SUV. Some of these offer three-row seating, with the back seat suitable for children and with very little cargo space left behind it. All the seats are used when carpooling or on the school run and not for longer trips. Most are 2WD, but AWD systems are offered. Some examples include:

  • Nissan Rogue
  • Toyota RAV4
  • Volkswagen Tiguan
  • Mercedes-Benz GLB
  • Tesla Model Y
  • Honda CR-V
  • Ford Bronco Sport
  • Chevrolet Equinox
Honda SUV car white

Mid-size SUVs

The mid-size SUV is one class up but brings with it not only a bigger footprint but also more features, ground clearance, and off-road ability. They are more rugged, many offer AWD and far more powerful engine options are offered. Five-seaters are the default, but many seven-seaters are available in this class, sometimes accommodating adults at a pinch in the third row. These don’t occupy too much space, are still easy to drive, but are also big enough for most needs. Their fuel economy is worse than the compact models, but they can still offer reasonable MPG figures. Examples include:

  • Kia Sorento
  • Mercedes-Benz GLE
  • Nissan Pathfinder
  • Chevrolet Blazer
  • Toyota Highlander
  • Lincoln Aviator
  • BMW X5
  • Tesla Model Y
  • Dodge Durango

Full-size SUV

This is the largest class of SUV. In this class, you can get the biggest models with seats for up to nine people, as well as plenty of horsepower and performance at the expense of poor miles per gallon. However, their poor gas mileage is often compensated for by their versatility and by making it possible to use one vehicle for a trip instead of two. Hardcore off-road models are offered and if you need more than 400 hp to tow a big rig, you’ll find something here. Usually, all the rows can accommodate adults. Examples include:

  • Cadillac Escalade
  • Mercedes-Benz GLS
  • Lincoln Navigator and Navigator L
  • BMW X7
  • Nissan Armada
  • Ford Expedition and Expedition Max
  • GMC Yukon and Yukon XL
  • Chevrolet Suburban
Full size SUV model back side

The final reckoning

The price difference between a compact SUV base model and a flagship full-size premium SUV can be hundreds of thousands of dollars. They really do have the entire market covered. These vehicles are so much more versatile than cars, because you can play around with seating configurations, go off the beaten track, tow heavier loads, and carry more people. It just depends on how much you need and whether you can stomach the MSRP when it comes to negotiating that deal.

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