Having a big family means you need a vehicle with cavernous passenger space. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a huge budget.
We know how bills can pile up, so we understand that a good deal on a seven-seat SUV is absolutely essential for some buyers. So we’re here to help. There are plenty of three-row SUVs, even luxury ones, that come with a bargain price on the window sticker. We’ve taken the pain to sort out a list of 14 such SUVs so you don’t have to. Let’s dive right in.
Note: we’ve included destination charges for all of these models.
Mercedes-Benz GLB: Starts at $39,045
The Mercedes GLB is the smallest entry on this list, but it’s also the most expensive. Why? Because it’s the only one that’s a real luxury model. That third row is for occasional use only, and probably not by any adults of average height, but it’s there when you need it and for some, that’s the point.
The GLB offers a luxurious cabin typical of the brand. It includes features like the Hey Mercedes voice command system and the excellent infotainment interface that comes with it. The front seats offer impressive comfort. The GLB also boasts a plush ride, and is powered by a 221 hp turbo-four with optional AWD available.
Toyota Highlander: Starts $36,085
The latest Highlander is one of the newest models on this list, with the current fourth-gen model debuting for 2020. On top of being new, it’s one of the few to offer a hybrid model, helping you save some fuel along with some cash. Gas-only models are powered by a 295 hp 3.5-liter V6 and Hybrids get 243 hp from the electric motor and 2.5-liter four-cylinder.
Toyota makes the best driver assistance features standard across the range, including automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control for easier family road trips. With the new model comes more space, especially in the third row and for cargo behind those way-back seats.
Mazda CX-9: Starts at $35,335
Unquestionably, this is the best of these affordable three-row crossovers for anyone who still enjoys driving. That’s because Mazda does its suspension and steering differently, and while it’s still fine on gravel roads, there is much less of a concession made to trade ride for handling. Steering is as crisp as you could expect in this segment and the ride goes the same way.
SEE ALSO: 2019 Mazda CX-9 Review
So if the kids don’t mind you making up time on an on-ramp, this is the one for you. It’s powered by a 2.5-liter turbo-four that makes great whooshing noises and it has a six-speed automatic that’s one of the best around. The third row is tight for anyone approaching six feet, but the ride and handling, the styling, and Mazda’s excellent interiors might mean that’s not an issue for you.
Honda Pilot: Starts at $33,725
The latest Honda Pilot is a roomy place for seven people to sit, though if you’re planning on six-footers in the last row you’re going to want to do a test fit. The Pilot comes standard with a 3.5-liter V6 and nine-speed auto that delivers 280 hp, but more importantly, delivers that signature Honda VTEC scream at a little over 5,000 rpm for those drivers who have the family along but still want to have fun behind the wheel.
Honda Sensing comes standard, offering drivers collision mitigation braking, road departure mitigation, collision and lane departure warnings. If you want Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, though, you’ll need to spend a few thousand more for the EX trim.
Hyundai Palisade: Starts at $33,710
Hyundai went truly vast with its latest Palisade crossover, a model that’s much much bigger than the company’s previous three-row offerings. It offers an interior that’s more luxury car than you’d expect from Hyundai but it also comes with plenty of space for all of your occupants and cargo. The Palisade offers room in all three rows, and optional ventilated seats for second-row passengers if you’re willing to up the budget.
SEE ALSO: 2020 Hyundai Palisade Review
The 3.8-liter V6 offers 291 hp and comes with an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Hyundai offers some neat tech features on this one, too, like cameras mounted in the mirrors that show your blind spot in the digital instrument cluster when you signal for a lane change.
Kia Telluride: Starts at $33,415
The Telluride is Kia’s version of the Hyundai Palisade, but while the Hyundai looks like it’s ready for a night on the town, Telluride looks like it’s ready to start bashing down a rugged dirt trail. Not that that means it’s a brute inside, it just has the styling that suggests it might be. The Telluride gets a 3.8-liter V6 making 291 hp and it can tow up to 5,000 lb of your stuff, but this multiple award-winning crossover also has room for up to eight passengers.
There’s even a self-levelling air suspension available if you find you’re hauling lots of people or stuff in the back and want to avoid that high-in-front, low-in-back look that can afflict any heavily loaded vehicle with steel springs only. Going along with the styling and excellent build quality, the Telluride offers 8.0 inches of ground clearance so it really can manage those trails. Or at least the bumpy road to the cottage.
Subaru Ascent: Starts at $33,345
The Ascent is Subaru’s biggest model yet, but despite the size it still does an impressive job of feeling like a Subaru. That means a compliant suspension that’s great for keeping drinks unspilled on all but the roughest roads. It also means a flat-four engine that sounds a bit like a small aircraft; this one is a 2.4-liter turbo that puts out 260 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive is standard as is a CVT automatic.
SEE ALSO: 2020 Subaru Ascent Review
The Ascent can seat up to eight, but if all of your passengers have luggage, you might need to reduce that number, and the rear seat is average in class. Forward collision warnings, adaptive cruise, and lane departure warnings are all standard on this big crossover.
Nissan Pathfinder: Starts at $33,075
While the original Pathfinders were old-style SUVs, the model found a new trail to follow and became a large three-row crossover. That’s the path buyers have taken too, so a hat tip to Nissan for the change. The Pathfinder uses a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 284 hp and a CVT to maximize fuel economy.
The third row is on the smaller side, though, which may limit the number of people you can fit back there. The second row slides fore and aft to let to trade off middle and rear space depending on what your needs on that particular day. The passenger-side second seat will fold forward with a child seat in place, a feature that a few on this list have, and something that could be very handy for anyone with little ones. Cargo space is below average, but the ability to tow 6,000 lb is at the top.
Volkswagen Atlas: Starts at $32,575
The ninth-most affordable three-row crossover is the first showing on this list from Volkswagen. The made-in-Tennessee, made-for-America Atlas comes with a load more space than the Tiguan, but a price that’s not far off. Like the Traverse (next on this list), the Atlas offers up space for tall adults in the third row. Those who just want five seats should look at the (slightly) smaller Atlas Cross Sport.
The base engine is a 2.0-liter turbo-four that makes 235 hp on premium unleaded, or there’s a V6 that pushes power to 276 hp. Both ways you get an eight-speed automatic and the option of 4Motion all-wheel drive. Like the Tiguan, the Atlas offers a uniquely VW cabin and lets you add cool kit like the virtual cockpit display. Forward collision warning with pedestrian detection comes standard, along with blind-spot warnings and rear cross-traffic alert to help out if one of the seven other passengers is a little too distracting.
Chevrolet Traverse / GMC Acadia: Starts at $30,995
The GMC Acadia and Chevrolet Traverse share many components, but do have two big differences. The Acadia offers more luxury trims on the top end, and the Traverse is bigger. In fact, when it comes to dollars per cubic foot, the Traverse is near the top of the heap in any segment. It offers room for grown adults even in the third row, and seating for eight, with the Acadia offering just slightly less.
A powerful 3.6-liter V6 and a nine-speed automatic makes these haulers brisk, and the Acadia can be had with a 2.0-liter turbo four for buyers who need a bit less power, more torque, and some fuel savings. Traverse can tow 5,000 lb if needed, and the secret compartment behind the radio should keep your good snacks safe from grabby hands on long road trips.
Kia Sorento: Starts at $30,565
Kia launched a whole new Sorento this year, and it’s a good one. With chunky styling outside, it draws inspiration from the little Seltos as well as the larger Telluride. At this price, you’ll find the naturally-aspirated 2.5-liter inline-four, putting out 191 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque—a turbo version is available higher up the trim walk. A hybrid is also part of the lineup, which will soon include a plug-in variant as well.
SEE ALSO: 2021 Kia Sorento Review: First Drive
The Sorento’s one-touch slide and fold middle row makes rear access a snap. On the tech side, even the $30,565 base model comes with six USB ports, plus wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Higher trims offer leather seating, more driver aids, and a near-luxury experience.
Mitsubishi Outlander: Starts at $26,990
How’s that for a deal? The Mitsubishi Outlander is brand new for the 2022 model year, yet thanks to the demise of the ancient Dodge Journey, it’s now the cheapest way into a three-row people mover, starting at $26,990. For that price, you do get the standard third row and a 10-year powertrain warranty that should set aside some long-term ownership stresses. Front-drive is standard, with a 2.5-liter, 181-horsepower four-cylinder and a CVT, both shared with the new-for-2021 Nissan Rouge. AWD is optional, for an additional $1,800. An 8.0-inch touchscreen is standard, with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities. Standard active safety features include automated emergency braking (front and rear) and blind-spot warnings.
Volkswagen Tiguan: Starts at $26,440
Volkswagen has shuffled the Tiguan lineup around for 2021, making three-row living standard on the base, front-drive S model. That, plus the demise of the ancient Dodge Journey, helps it undercut the new Outlander and become the most affordable three-row ride on the market. If you want AWD and three rows, you’ll have to throw an extra $4,000 VW’s way for a seven-seat SE 4Motion model. Even on the base S however, the Tiguan offers blind-spot monitoring and a 184 hp 2.0-liter turbo as well as the brand’s trademark ride and handling balance and interior fit and finish, and if your budget stretches higher up into the Tiguan’s trims you can get leather, a big glass roof, and VW’s spiffy virtual cockpit digital dash that’s borrowed from Audi.
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