EXPERT REVIEW

Mother Proof's view


During my two-week test drive of the 2010 Nissan Armada, I liked almost everything about the full-size SUV. However, I’ll never buy one – not until its gas mileage improves. The Armada’s whoop-de-don’t fuel economy numbers are 12/18 mpg city/highway; they’re underwhelming, to say the least.

With those mileage numbers, I had to fill the Armada’s gas tank a lot, and I ended up paying more than $60 each time I filled it up. Like many large family-haulers, the Armada is a gas-guzzler, and I simply cannot own a car that likes gas as much as the Armada does. With that said, I’ll step off my soapbox long enough to tell you that if gas-guzzling doesn’t keep you up at night, this car is great.

The Armada’s V-8 engine makes for an easy drive. It handled Colorado’s hills without hesitation, and I had no problem passing other cars on the road, even while going up the steepest mountain passes.

After picking up the Armada, I got myself a Costco membership and began my living-large experience. As I pulled the Armada into a parking spot at Costco between a Chevy Tahoe and a Toyota Sequoia, I was certain no one even suspected I was both a big-car and Costco novice. When I came out of Costco with more food than my family could eat in a month, the Armada swallowed it all up with pride. This car holds a lot of stuff! I began to see why big is beautiful to so many people.

Overall, I give the Armada a thumbs-up; just don’t ask me to buy one.

Exterior

The Armada is also an attractive SUV. It’s not fancy, but it manages to look handsomer than my test car’s $45,900 price tag might suggest for an SUV of this size and power. My test car had the midlevel Titanium trim, which comes standard with 20-inch wheels, a tow package (the Armada has a rep for being a good hauler), fog lights, keyless entry and ignition, and a sexy-looking chrome finish on the side mirrors, tailpipe, grille and roof rack.

It also comes standard with dark-tinted privacy glass on all the windows except the windshield and front-row windows. This was great because my kids usually do a car-seat tango to try to dodge the sunlight. My toddler son’s usual refrain of “the sunshine wants in my eyes” magically disappeared in the Armada.

The Armada’s standard running boards are great and necessary. Without them, my son wouldn’t have been able to get in the SUV on his own, but with them he climbed up and down without issue.

SENSE AND STYLE

Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Great

Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Good Times

Interior

The Armada’s handsomeness extends to its interior. The simulated chrome and faux wood trim accent the dashboard nicely. The center stack’s controls are all within comfortable reach.

My children, however, weren’t within comfortable reach. Besides the gas-guzzling, this is my only other complaint about an SUV this size: Every time you need to reach into the second row, which is often when you have a 2-year-old and an 11-month-old, I had to put the car in Park, unbuckle my seat belt and practically do a backbend to get there. Don’t worry; I practice yoga. There’s one upside to all this room: It’s easy to fit a rear-facing infant seat in the second row.

There’s standard seating for eight in the Armada. It has 40/20/40-split folding second row, which you have to fold manually. The 60/40-split folding third row is easy to fold with the push of a button; the power-folding third row is standard on the Titanium and Platinum trim levels. It’s easy to access the third row; a simple pull of a lever on the second-row seat moves it forward. While you have to take a big step to get back there, any adult could do it easily. The legroom in the third row was comfortable for both me and my husband.

Storage is a dream in the Armada. This is the first time I can ever remember having too many storage areas in a car; I didn’t have enough stuff to fill all the cubbies, eight cupholders and cargo area. It’s a miracle. Even my voyage to Costco couldn’t push this baby past capacity.

In addition to the enormous cargo area, there are not one, not two, but six storage compartments in the ceiling. If you opt for the DVD entertainment system, one of these ceiling cubbies would be taken away. I stored books for my kids in one of the ceiling cubbies, which was a novel and useful storage solution. My oversized sunglasses fit in another one.

The center console between the front seats is huge. I swear I could fit my infant daughter in there (not that I’m advocating storing a child in a cubby; I’m simply offering a point of reference).

IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT

Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore

Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore

Safety

The Armada comes with standard antilock brakes, traction control and an electronic stability system. It also has front- and side-impact airbags, as well as side curtain airbags for all three rows of seats.

It also has rear backup sensors and a rearview camera on the Platinum trim. Visibility isn’t great in an SUV of this size, and I relied on the backup camera a lot. I’m not sure I would have felt comfortable driving the Armada without it.

The Armada has three sets of Latch connectors. The second-row anchors were tough to find at first, but once I dug a little deeper into the seats I was able to connect my car seats without any problems.

FAMILY LIFESTAGE

In Diapers: There’s lots of room for a rear-facing infant-safety seat and for all of baby’s gear.

In School: All the cubby spaces in this SUV mean there’s plenty of room for all your kids’ stuff.

Teens: Teens will find plenty of legroom in the second row for gangly legs, and the privacy glass will ensure they don’t have to be seen with their parents (how embarrassing).

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