2014 Three-Row Crossover Comparison Test

2014 Three-Row Crossover Comparison Test

8th Place - Chevrolet Traverse 2LT AWD

The Chevrolet Traverse is by and far the largest vehicle here with 116.3 cubic feet of total cargo space behind the front seats. For some perspective, that is almost as much total interior space as Chevrolet’s other monster utility vehicle, the Suburban. It also means the Traverse has nearly 30 cubic feet more interior space than the next largest vehicle, the Honda Pilot, and almost as much space behind the second row of seats as the Kia Sorento does behind the front row.

This also leads to great passenger space. Aside from being one of three vehicles in the test to offer eight-passenger seating, the Chevy wound up in a four-way tie for best middle row comfort and only trailed the Dodge Durango in third row comfort. But after space and comfort, not much else impressed with the Traverse.

Space, But Not Much Else 2014-Chevrolet-Traverse-03.jpg

Power comes from GM’s ever-present 3.6-liter V6 making 288 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque in this application. Although both those numbers are near the high-end in this comparison, the 4,956-lb Traverse is the second-heaviest vehicle in the shootout and power never felt plentiful. As well, some staff members found the engine was overly loud under acceleration. A large engine and heavy weight also lead to poor fuel economy. Officially rated at 16 MPG in the city and 23 MPG on the highway, we were only able to average 17 MPG, which is within spitting distance of the V8-powered Durango.

SEE ALSO: 2013 Chevy Traverse Review

Inside, the Traverse took a lot of heat from our reviewers. Many did not like the fit and finish or the 2014-Chevrolet-Traverse-05.jpgoverall design of the interior and it finished dead last in both categories. The features list on this crossover is pretty sparse, rivaling the Highlander for least equipped vehicle despite costing over $5,000 more than the Toyota.

With an exterior and driving experience as equally blasé as the interior, the Traverse quickly earned the title as the “mom jeans” option in this comparison. If space and power are the two most important features in a three-row crossover, this vehicle is worth a look. Otherwise, there are more appealing options out there.

Fast Facts: 2014-Chevrolet-Traverse-02.jpg

  1. PRICE AS TESTED: $43,750
  2. ENGINE: 3.6-liter V6, 288 hp, 270 lb-ft
  3. TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic
  5. CARGO CAPACITY (behind second row): 70.3 cu. Ft.



  • Cargo room
  • Passenger space
  • Ride comfort



  • Poor NVH
  • Fuel economy
  • Interior quality
  • Interior design

7th place – Ford Explorer Limited 4WD

Ford Explorer

Our Ford Explorer tester arrived with nearly every option box ticked off, including the dual-pane moonroof, tow package, 20-inch polished wheels, adaptive cruise and the mysterious 302A option group.  That ran the price up over the $50,000 mark, making the Explorer the second most expensive vehicle in the test.

Besides being expensive, the big Ford was also thirsty, has one of the worst second rows of seats and left a bit to be desired with the fit and finish. The once leading-edge interior design is starting to show its age, despite being all-new in 2011. Of course, it almost goes without saying that MyFord Touch still


isn’t making any friends and the new QNX software can’t come soon enough.

Car-Like Dynamics with Adjustable AWD 

We did like the way the big Ford drives though. The 290 hp 3.5-liter V6 was liked by many and the Explorer was voted to be one of the most car-like competitors to drive, even if our observed fuel economy average of 18.7 MPG was, itself, not very car-like. Our testers were torn when it came to ride comfort as some like the Explorers ride while others found it to be noisy at certain speeds.

The Ford is also one of only two vehicles that are semi-serious about off-roading. With the terrain management system, the Explorer can adjust its all-wheel drive system to suit various conditions like sand, snow, gravel, rocks and ruts.

SEE ALSO: 2013 Ford Explorer Sport Review

Most of our staff members like the rugged, boxy looks and found the driving position to be comfortable, although outward visibility isn’t great. But in a vehicle designed to cater to passengers, the Explorer falls short. Along with having one of the worst second rows of seats, the third row was rated near the back of the pack as well.

The Explorer really isn’t that bad of a crossover, it is just old and out-classed. A smooth driver with a classic SUV look, the Explorer is ready for a refresh.

Fast Facts: 2014-Ford-Explorer-02.jpg

  1. PRICE AS TESTED: $50,140
  2. ENGINE: 3.5-liter V6, 290 hp, 255 lb-ft
  3. TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic
  5. CARGO CAPACITY (behind second row): 43.8 cu. Ft.



  • Car-like drive
  • High tech
  • Some off-road ability



  • Price
  • Fuel economy
  • Fit and finish
  • Second row seating

  • Rickers

    This is total bullshit. No Hyundai deserves to win anything.

  • Honest Abe

    I’m seriously shocked. Not by the winner.. but by the Dodge Durango. I didn’t even know they still made it… and now I find out it’s actually good. Shocking.

  • Juan

    Where’s the Mazda CX-9? I demand a re-do.

  • Chris

    Then you haven’t been paying attention to Hyundai in the last few years. They’ve worked extremely hard to improve their offerings and it’s showing.

  • Todd

    I love weighted tests like this. Had Dodge chosen a cheaper durango with a V6 and less fancy features, it wouldn’t have been nearly as high on the list. Lets take a comparison of these same vehicles after 3 or 4 years of ownership (half the “lifetime” of todays cars). The Koreans will rattle like they are falling apart, the Japanese will still be trucking, and the Americans will have all of their fancy features failing.

  • Richard

    Actually, I owned a Hyundai Santa Fe Sport for almost a year. But the
    larger “regular” Santa Fe comes with the V6. The problem with the Santa
    Fe Sport is the underpowered engine as no V6 is offered in the five seat
    version. Unless I am badly mistaken, the same Kia version is offered with a
    V6 which makes an enormous difference. I’ve seen the 2014 Kia, and
    personally, I prefer it over the Hyundai. It is noteworthy that Kia
    assembled my Santa Fe. I don’t believe there are that many differences
    really. Check their dimensions, etc., on an Edmund’s comparison page
    and it is fairly obvious they are essentially the same vehicle.

  • Todd, today’s american vehicles are much better than they were just 10 years ago. I replaced my loaded 2005 Chevy Silverado 2500 HD CC Diesel last year with a new version of the same pickup, the 2005 having over 120,000 miles on it. I had no issues with any of the “fancy features”, everything in and on it still worked as new. That was easily the best vehicle I have ever owned, even less maintenance than our BMW 328 Xi.

  • Todd

    I have a “newer” GM, an 05 Avalanche Z71. It had a cushy life with little to no towing, hauling or 4WD usage. I put a transmission in it @105K…same 3-4 clutch problems that the 4L60E has had since it was the 700-R4 in my 85 Camaro. The sunroof doesn’t work and the leather seats were replaced because of cracking. The drivers side window switch has a life of its own and frequently turns on the seat heaters at will (adj pedals and seat heaters are run through the window switch). The quality is better, but still doesn’t match the japanese. Of course, not nearly as bad as my 2013 Jetta TDI where the sunroof has been fixed at the dealer twice already…

  • That’s rather interesting as my ’05 Silverado would have utilized many of the same parts as your Avalanche as far as the seats and window switches go and I had just the opposite experience with mine. No tranny issues whatsoever with regular towing of both a large four season travel trailer and also a 20′ enclosed snowmobile trailer however comparing the Allison tranny to the 4L60E is not at all apples to apples.

  • mike

    mom jeans ftw

  • mike

    We just bought our second Flex. Too bad you chose the Explorer…or is that all Ford would provide?

    Didn’t read the article since it didn’t include the D471. Not sure why I even received an email telling me about this since I never signed up for your site.

    EcoBoost V-6!

  • mike

    Hyundais and Kias should never be left out of the trailer parks in which their owners live…

  • Rickers

    Too bad the Chevy Traverse is 10 years old then.. lol.

  • J Mac

    But the Flex is so… well… UGLY!

  • Sargegxp

    Avalanche still the best

  • Sargegxp

    Right on!!

  • Sargegxp

    Maybe you need to see a doc Korean vehicles may look good from the specs but fail in every category

  • Sargegxp

    Best reply award.

  • MeetTerry

    Did you own the 2.4L? I drive the 2.0 Turbo model, and the 274 rated horsepower is extremely peppy.

  • MeetTerry

    How do they fail in every category?
    But alright. You can believe whatever you want. but CarMD has already rated Hyundai to be the most reliable manufacturer.

  • Shiratori1

    Calling BS on this comparison. During motortrend’s 2014 SUVOTY testing, they indicated that the Santa Fe was a complete rattlebox and had a back end that “sounded like it was made out of styrofoam”. Hyundai/Kia in my book are two companies that try to hook (sucker) customers into buying their vehicles by loading them with a bunch of standard features with questionable quality and constantly mentioning their 100,000 mile warranty, all of which, is intended to distract those customers away from the fact that the cars are unrefined, aren’t fun to drive, and have questionable build quality.


  • alexmcyd

    I would like to see a test where minivans are mentioned without the reference to the inane “soccer mom’s hate it” meme. The Honda Odyssey blows these overweight, overly expensive dinosaurs into the weeds in every element you tested. Better driving, handling, better use of space, better sightlines, hugely better mileage, quieter, faster – no contest. Put away your pre-conceived bias and minivans totally own crossovers.

  • Materialman

    The Explorer was highly touted but is a bust.

  • ColumWood

    @alexmcyd:disqus You’re going to love our upcoming 2014 Odyssey review!

  • catinpa

    I don’t understand why on most of the leave it lists are the second and third row. That is the main reason my mother is looking for a vehicle like this. Is that recommendation based on the fact there is no leg room and it is a waste of space? The one she is looking at didn’t even make your list.

  • Shannon Hummell

    If the Hyundai sante fe XL is on the list then the 2014 Outlander should be on there as well….

  • DqsPoster


    We live in CA and have a Sienna and a HiHy and they serve different needs.

    Can the Odyssey or the Sienna or the Quest handle say the 30-mile Titus Canyon drive to Death Valley National park? Can they make it to the Racetrack? Green Water Valley Road? West Side Drive? How about mountain dirt roads with nasty pot holes and ruts in the Sierras? We have seen vans slowing to a snail’s crawl trying to negotiate deep holes and ruts. Both on BLM, NPS and NFS land? These are roads we often must navigate to reach trail heads.

    In the mountains, how about plowing through 6- to 8-inches of snow blocking our driveway on snowy wintery days?

    The van is wonderful on dry paved surface or rain or a little ice and snow. A van simply cannot handle any High-Clearance roads for active families who venture off the beaten paths. None of these crossover are 4x4s, so they are not rock crawlers or mud-plowers but they can go places where only High-Clearance car is needed.

    Hope that helps.

  • Belinda Richards

    Why was a V8 Citadel tested instead of a V6 Limited? You know, to give more credibility and accuracy to your comparison by having all vehicles be as similar as possible? Gotta love grossly weighted reviews like this.

  • ColumWood

    @belindarichards:disqus You make an excellent point and the real answer is simple: that’s the only one Dodge would give us. In many ways the factors even themselves out. The V8 Citadel gets extra marks for features, looks and performance, but loses marks for efficiency and price. We actually thought about dropping it entirely from the comparison, however, the as-tested price is barely more than the Ford Explorer’s.

  • ColumWood

    All of the vehicles listed have sufficient 2nd row legroom for adults, however, some aren’t OVERLY spacious – like the Traverse or Pilot are. We only listed the Pathfinder and Explorer as having less than ideal space for adults in the 2nd row. However, if we listed 3rd row space as a LEAVE IT then in that case, the area is really too small for adults. (I’m glad you brought this up, a clarification of our methodology would be a help for future comparisons like this).

  • ColumWood

    @shannonhummell:disqus We actually included the Outlander in our compact crossover comparison. While it is a 3-row crossover, the 3rd row is mostly useless. Check our the comparo here: http://www.autoguide.com/auto-news/2013/10/2013-2014-compact-crossover-shootout-toyota-rav4-vs-honda-crv-vs-chevy-equinox-vs-subaru-forester-vs-hyundai-santa-fe-sport-vs-mazda-cx5-vs-jeep-compass-vs-mitsubishi-outlander.html

  • alexmcyd

    That goes to show how much an SUV is needed for SUV type duties. I’m guessing that a true SUV with do even better than these at that purpose.
    For this test none of those functions were tested or evaluated.

  • TractorDriver

    So the winner of the 3-Row Crossover Test scored near the bottom in: Rear Seat; Third Seat and Cargo Usability!?
    You as the tester need to work harder to acquire more comparable vehicles, and if you can’t then you need to adjust your scoring accordingly.

  • autoguide

    You make a great point! This is why we include our rankings for each vehicle in each category. It allows the reader to examine the data and come to their own conclusions. Someone who values 3rd row space over fuel economy could definitely come to a different conclusion than we did.

  • ImNotTheWalrus

    The Hyundai rides like a garbage truck

  • ImNotTheWalrus

    I agree might be the best drivers SUV out there

  • bd

    Give me a break – like the new Highlander hasn’t gotten some middling reviews?

    And the Santa Fe also won Automobile Magazine’s Family Crossover Comparison


    and the Santa Fe Sport came in 2nd (to the Grand Cherokee) in Cars.com/Motorweek’s $38k Midsize SUV Challenge.
    And what’s of questionable quality (not to mention cheap, nasty interiors) and unrefined rides are Toyotas (in a lame attempt to be “sportier” – the Camry, Avalona and ES have all been dinged for their unrefined ride) and of all brands, Toyota (“King of Beige”) is the one known for being the least fun to drive.

  • bd

    Must not have much experience with the newer Japanese models.

  • bd

    Hardly the 1st time a Hyundai (much less the Santa Fe) has won a comparison test.

  • bd

    Except, Toyotas tend to have a lower ATP across the board.
    The Camry, for instance, has a lower ATP than the Chrysler 200 whereas the Kia Optima has one of the highest ATPs in the segment.
    So sorry, it’s Toyotas that are filling the trailer parks (as well as rental fleet lots).

  • bd

    Apart from the not being true thing.

  • Mike

    I’d take the Toyota hands down. First, Toyota has the world’s best resale on their vehicles(for a reason-QUALITY) , and second they are the most dependable, long lasting vehicles. Consumer Reports just did a 12 yr quality comparison of ALL makes, and of course Toyota led the pack. They always do. The Subarus and Hondas did not even come close. Educated buyers always go with a Toyota or a Lexus. And almost all Toyota models are made in America with largely American made parts. Forget Government Motors and Ford, who both have been backsliding in quality the past year and a half. Kia and Hyundai will give anyone a vehicle, regardless of their credit. What does that tell you about their vehicles? Their quality is also mixed.

  • TJ

    I wont debate Toyota, as they have proven them selves as a manufacture, but I love it how people always put Kia and Hyundai’s quality into question. Have you ever owned one? I have two and one of them is ten years old with 120,000 miles, my local mechanic does a “wish list” when he looks at cars, basically a list of things that are going bad or need to be replaced. My car has a cracked headlight assembly on that list and nothing else. Sure when Kia and Hyundia first came to the US their cars werent that good and had issues, they have since fixed that. Thus the 10 year 100k warranty, that you can even extend past that. They learned from Deawoo, maybe own before you judge. I will never own a Toyota because of the people that drive them in my town.

  • TJ

    I’d say if you see someone at a gas station with one you have been looking at ask them, or go test drive them for yourself. A test drive does not commit you to anything. Though this test wasn’t very good, it is what they decided they liked, neither of those gentlemen looked like soccer moms and probably would never use the 3rd row.

  • Mike

    Actually TJ my other half owns a new Kia Sportage and loves it. I see all the cost cutting inside. Built nothing like my Toyota. And while I agree they have increased their quality by a wide margin, they are VERY behind Toyota in regards to quality. Pick up this month’s copy of Consumer Reports and see how they are fairing. Not much better than GM or Ford. Their quality has been slipping. Not a hater, but I buy the things that are going to last me the longest. You and my partner both live their Kia/Hyundai automobiles, and that’s all that matters. I’m not making the payments. We should all drive what we want to. Stay well!

  • Fred2202350

    Although one poster does talk about how these vehicles handle rougher roads in parks and back in the hills (NOT off-road) in a way minivans can’t, for the huge majority of buyers, I’d hark back to one major car mag’s comparison test, which ended one paragraph in which it described some characteristic lacks that only a few SUV’s avoided, with something like “I think its time we admit this (3-row SUV’s) is a bogus category for 95% of buyers. They need a minivan but their vanity won’t let them buy one”. I’ve got a 10 year-old Mazda MPV and I really don’t know what will replace it some day. There’s nothing that size that will do everything it does as reasonably anymore.

  • bd

    Toyota has done more cost-cutting inside (compare the interior of the Optima to the Camry).
    And reliability differs (good that for Toyota that these reliability studies don’t take into account recalls) – for AutoBild, which not only looks at service records, but even disassembles vehicles, Hyundai has been no. 1 for the past 2 years).
    Furthermore, when was the last time Toyota has launched a new powertrain? Same goes for Lexus where the IS, GS and LS are soldiering on with outdated powertrains (easy to be reliable mechanically when you don’t make any major changes).
    Toyotas today are being sold on price (deep discounting).

  • bd

    Not the 1st time the Santa Fe has come 1st in a comparison test – the Santa Fe/ SF Sport have usually finished near if not at the top in a no. of comparison tests – so not out of the ordinary.

  • Mike

    Whatever makes you feel better. Consumer Reports goes back 12 yrs and a Hyundai or a Kia is nowhere near a Toyota in long term reliability. Keep your Hyundai/Kia in your trailer park. They’ll give a surprime loan to anybody dumb enough to buy their vehicles. ANYBODY. And good luck on that resale value which is beyond HORRID.

  • Shiratori1

    Yeah, it’s official: you are nothing but an astroturfer and a shill for Kia/Hyundai. What a loser……..

  • Shiratori1

    Keep on trolling, astroturfer…….

  • Shiratori1

    How many people who own suvs/crossovers have to deal with these conditions on a consistent basis? Hint: very few

  • Phil

    Point is, kia and hyundai are still nowhere near as reliable as the leading japonese brands. Fact!

  • bd

    Good thing for Toyota that recalls aren’t included in reliability studies and when was the last time Toyota updated their power/drive-trains?
    At one time, Buicks were at the top of reliability surveys since GM didn’t make any changes to them.
    And AutoBild, which looks at actual service records, as well as disassembling vehicles themselves, has had Hyundai ranked no.1 for reliability the past 2 years.

  • bd

    Yeah, like all the auto-publications haven’t noted the cost-cutting that Toyota has done.
    Compare Toyota to Honda (or Mazda these days) – it’s not even close.
    And ooh – the ad hominem attacks (talk about being a loser…)

  • Shiratori1

    Keep on trolling buddy. You are still a shill and an astroturfer nonetheless.

  • Santiago Vo

    Two of my neighbors replaced their new Hyundais within first two years of ownership and swore not to buy them again, ever.

  • ColumWood
  • Adam Chandley

    Perhaps, I dunno, you might consider a 3-row SUV? The MPV was on the micro side of the van segment, so changing over to the mid-size SUV isn’t much of a leap. Every one of these entrants are available with FWD to minimize cost, maximize MPG, and keep you a safe distance from any rough terrain habits. We bought the 14 highlander the day it landed. I believe this comparison is quite unfair as they’ve compared a the mid-option highlander to fully optioned everything else – yet it still came in 3rd. If it had the 4 missing points it was deducted for features, it’d have won this test hands down.

    Real world hwy MPG – 26, legendary toyota 2GR-FE is competent even when towing a 2-axle trailer, the seats (1st and 2nd) are the most comfortable and offer the most leg room, and the ride quality is simply unmatched. If i were you, I’d look into a 14 Highlander XLE 2WD in the future. Also note – it gets TSP from the IIHS where you stand a good chance of being safe in a small overlap collision. VERY FEW SUVs pass muster.

  • Adam Chandley

    If you compare a Camry LE to an Optima SXL, you’re going to have a bad time. Comparing a Camry XLE to an Optima SXL is a different story. The Camry V6 is a 2GR-FS rocket, still gets great MPG, and the interior will be top notch for the price. The Optima 2.0T has loads of torque, but a failure to deliver. Check out what happened for 2015 – they’ve detuned (or simply de-rated) ALL of the Korean brand engines. The 2.0T is now a 240hp limp noodle, the 3.3L V6 is 260. Whereas Toyota’s been using the 2GR since 2006 and hasn’t changed a thing – probably wont for the foreseeable future.

    Likewise, Compare a Camry LE to a base Optima. They both enjoy frequent rotation at the Enterprise rental counter – and both are pretty dreadfully plain.

  • Adam Chandley

    In the same way that Honda just had to fork out an unprecedented fine for not reporting faults. Just because Hyundai is on top doesn’t mean they got there honestly. The 2.4L I4 that comes in nearly everything they sell eats bearings for breakfast. Have a rod knock in your 11-14 2.4L Hyundai? Not a problem – they keep short blocks in stock just for this reason and can have a whole new bottom end installed by the end of the day. They do it that often…

  • Adam Chandley

    Resale value has so much to do with how cheap you can actually buy one with the right connections. That silly mouse car? Easily get 6K off MSRP. Thus why it’s got a horribly low trade in value after 1 year.

  • Adam Chandley

    orr….. the ratings are for sale. You seriously couldn’t get your hands on a Highlander Limited AWD w/ adv tech like every other reviewer on the planet got for their comparison test? Pfft. All of the things you dinged Toyota on – you could have gleaned from their website alone. That’s ok – if Dodge and Hyundai bought your review, just say it. We understand.

  • Adam Chandley

    It’s been at the bottom of every comparison since it came out.

  • Elancore

    No it doesn’t, I have the Grand limited Santa Fe and it’s perfect. If you don’t believe it go check reviews everywhere.

  • Jeff

    You are full of crap! You are not a car guy Mike!

  • Mike


  • House Martell

    Dodge Durango: He’s the top of the west, always cool, he’s the best. He keeps alive with its Hemi V8.

  • muddie1

    Why wasn’t the Mazda CX-9 in this review? It also has a 3rd row seat and is a midsize CUV.

  • Curious_G

    The reviews “everywhere” say it is undersprung and bottoms out easily. Most also cite ponderous /wallowy handling. A real shame as everything else seems pretty good.