Top 10 Crossovers With the Most Third-Row Legroom

Craig Cole
by Craig Cole

Welcome back to the all-you-can-eat Top-10 buffet! You know you want more, and AutoGuide’s happy to serve up another heaping helping of facts, neatly garnished with a sprig of fun. Grab a plate, load it up and tuck in to another generous portion of automotive infotainment.

Last week C-Segment sedans battled it out for back-seat supremacy, and the Volkswagen Jetta drove away with top honors. But that was then, this is now. Movin’ on up the vehicular scale, mass-market, three-row crossovers are today’s target.

SEE ALSO: Top 10 Compact Sedans with the Largest Back Seats

These SUV replacements generally offer fashion-forward families more style and capability than traditional minivans, though not necessarily more interior space. We’ve rounded up 10 popular models, each equipped with a six-cylinder engine and all-wheel-drive. Which one offers the most space to unfortunate passengers forced to ride in the back of the bus? You know what to do…

Taking home a participation trophy is the Dodge Journey. Chrysler’s crossover earns last-place dishonors because it delivers just 23.4 inches of third-row legroom, worst in this test by a wide margin.

The Journey’s feeble performance is a bit of a mystery because its wheelbase spans a fairly generous 113.8 inches. But it also comes in dead last when comparing overall cargo volume. There’s just 67.6 cubic feet of storage space available when the second- and third-row seats are folded. That’s about 5 cubic feet fewer than the next-smallest Kia Sorento, which rides on a wheelbase that’s a whopping 7.5 inches shorter! Figure that one out.

GALLERY: 2013 Dodge Journey

There can only be one, and it’s a Toyota. The Highlander delivers 29.9 inches of legroom in the rear-most seat. Not a bad showing considering this Scottish-themed crossover has the second-shortest wheelbase here. From hub to hub it spans 109.8 inches.

Interestingly its total cargo volume, the maximum amount of storage space with the second- and third-row seats folded flat, is 95.4 cubic feet, third-best in today’s Top 10.

This tartan-clad, kilt-wearing, bagpipe-playing crossover is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that’s smoother than satin bed sheets. It delivers 270 horsepower and can tow up to 5,000 pounds. Unfortunately the engine is matched to a five-speed automatic transmission, which is at least one gear short by today’s standards.

GALLERY: 2013 Toyota Highlander

With its latest redesign Nissan’s Pathfinder has forsaken its traditional truck roots, swapping a full-frame architecture for a car-based unibody. May the old-school pickup platform rest in peace, along with its numerous liabilities.

Undoubtedly one of the outgoing model’s biggest burdens was fuel economy, something the 2013 Pathfinder addresses. The new version delivers best-in-test efficiency, with scores from the EPA of 19 miles per gallon in city driving and 25 on the highway. That gives it a combined rating of 21 MPG. You can thank its relatively low-output engine (compared to some of the competition), which delivers 260 horsepower, as well as its super-efficient continuously variable transmission. CVTs are about as much fun as a night in jail, but giving credit where it’s due they are a boon for fuel economy.

As for third-row legroom, passengers are treated to 30.7 inches of space, a small step up from the Highlander.

GALLERY: 2013 Nissan Pathfinder

Subaru’s Tribeca topped the Nissan Pathfinder by the narrowest of margins, just two-tenths of an inch in third-row space. But a win is still a win, and the Subie earns itself a seventh-place finish.

When it comes to cargo volume the Tribeca comes up a little short. Behind that third-row it offers the least amount of space in this Top 10, just 8.3 cubic feet. When all the back seats are folded the story improves a little bit. The Subaru delivers 74.4 cubes, more than the Kia Sorento or last-place Dodge Journey.

Fuel economy is a sore spot for the Tribeca. Its horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine puts out 256 horsepower, but the trouble is it’s routed through a five-speed automatic transmission. Consequently this Subaru returns just 16 miles per gallon in urban driving and a decidedly truck-like 21 MPG on the interstate.

GALLERY: 2013 Subaru Tribeca

Next up is the Hyundai Santa Fe. Giving buyers more choice than some of the competition, this crossover is available with either two or three rows of seats. The longer version replaces the slow-selling Veracruz, which was dropped last year.

With all of those seats folded the Santa Fe has a remarkable 80 cubic feet of volume in its cargo hold. The amount of space behind just the third row is a less impressive 13.5 cubes.

Topping Subaru’s Tibeca in back-bench legroom, the Santa Fe delivers 31.5 inches, which is good enough for a sixth-place finish.

GALLERY: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe

Topping its corporate sibling by just one-fifth of an inch is the Kia Sorento. This cleanly styled three-row crossover offers 31.7 inches of third-row legroom. Curiously the Santa Fe and Sorento tie each other in third-row headroom.

Given that some of their dimensions are identical, it’s interesting why the Kia has so much less cargo space than its Hyundai doppelganger. The Sorento’s maximum volume is just 72.5 cubic feet while the Santa Fe’s is 80. It probably has to do with wheelbase; the Hyundai’s is about 4 inches longer.

Other than the cargo discrepancy these two crossovers share a lot in common. Engine size and output, transmission gear count and fuel-economy ratings are identical. However, the Santa Fe can tow up to 5,000 pounds; the Sorento can only drag 3,500.

GALLERY: 2013 Kia Sorento

On the downward slope of this Top 10 list is the blocky Pilot. Honda’s take on a three-row crossover has 32.1 inches of legroom in its aft-most bench seat. That figure is married with 38.2 inches of headroom. Shaquille O’Neal could probably wear a sombrero back there and still not graze the headliner.

The Pilot rides on the third-smallest wheelbase here at a petite 109.2 inches. Despite this “shortcoming” it offers a maximum of 87 cubic feet of cargo volume. Amazingly there are 18 cubic feet of space available behind the third row, third-best in this test. Chrysler, are you paying attention? This is how you efficiently engineer a crossover.

Under the hood is a 250 horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine. It’s matched to a five-speed automatic transmission, just like the Subaru Tribeca and Toyota Highlander. See a pattern here? Why are these Japanese automakers cutting corners in the transmission department?

GALLERY: 2012 Honda Pilot

Today’s third-place finisher is the Mazda CX-9, and 32.4 is the magic number. That’s how much space engineers budgeted to the extremities of third-row passengers. Curiously, the headroom back there is worst in this comparison at just 35.4 inches.

Despite this deficiency the Mazda excels in other areas. Total cargo space is 100.7 cubic feet, the second best here. Space behind the third row is also impressive at 17.2 cubes.

GALLERY: 2013 Mazda CX-9

Edging out the Mazda and tying today’s first-place finisher is the Ford Explorer. Just like Nissan’s Pathfinder this former-SUV kicked its truck habit. The modern version of this venerable vehicle rides atop an efficient car-based architecture.

Examining the third row, passengers are treated to 33.2 inches of legroom. Headroom is 37.8 inches. This Ford offers plenty or space for people but it comes up short in cargo space. Maximum volume is 80.7 cubic feet, which puts it about in the middle of this field. Part of the problem is likely due to the Explorer’s relatively short wheelbase, which spans 112.6-inches. That’s more than an inch shorter than the Dodge Journey!

GALLERY: 2013 Ford Explorer

And the winner of this comparison is the Chevrolet Traverse. GM’s lambda-based crossover delivers 33.2 inches of legroom; identical to the Explorer. But what’s even more interesting is that these two vehicles share another key dimension. Third-row headroom is equal at 37.8 inches, a figure perfectly matched by the Nissan Pathfinder. Talk about synchronicity, either that or competitive benchmarking.

The Traverse and Explorer may have tied in the legroom department but we gave the nod to Chevy for a few reasons. First, “C” comes before “F” in the alphabet, simple enough. Second, it has the longest wheelbase in this Top 10, stretching 118.9 inches, which is almost 5 inches greater than the next-longest vehicle, the Pathfinder. Third, this husky crossover has the most overall cargo space at 116.3 cubic feet. That’s more than a Chevy Tahoe!

The Traverse also tows the most in this comparison at 5,200 pounds (when properly equipped, of course). It also delivers the most torque at 270 lb-ft (tied with the Mazda) and nearly the most horsepower. Curiously these output figures are delivered with an optional dual exhaust system. On top of its capacious interior these reasons seal the deal and make the Chevy Traverse this week’s Top 10 victor.

GALLERY: 2013 Chevrolet Traverse

Craig Cole
Craig Cole

Born and raised in metro Detroit, Craig was steeped in mechanics from childhood. He feels as much at home with a wrench or welding gun in his hand as he does behind the wheel or in front of a camera. Putting his Bachelor's Degree in Journalism to good use, he's always pumping out videos, reviews, and features for When the workday is over, he can be found out driving his fully restored 1936 Ford V8 sedan. Craig has covered the automotive industry full time for more than 10 years and is a member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).

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3 of 6 comments
  • Bigmike Bigmike on Oct 30, 2013

    Crossovers not suvS, like how the explorer and old range rover sports are now the same design, since ford bought them to take the design, sneaky fyi never buy a land rover product unless you like to fork out the money, biggest pos out there.

  • Murad Iqbal Murad Iqbal on Jun 18, 2015

    Toyota Sequoia has the highest 3rd row leg room. Why wasn't it mentioned here?