If you’ve got a bunch of kids but you live in a congested city, you’re not going to want to run around in a giant Chevy Suburban. Instead, you’ll want something a little more compact like the Kia Sorento, Land Rover Discovery Sport, Acura MDX and the rest of the cars on this list of moderately-sized people-haulers.
Are you a bit of a family man or family woman? Do you have crayon marks on your walls and booby traps all over the place in the form of scattered toys? Then you should buy a minivan, because they’ll give you tons of space inside without being too big for your garage.
Hyundai Santa Fe: $30,400
For some reason, Hyundai is still the underdog despite having had a solid lineup for the past few years. Its business model is to provide the same quality as more well-established Japanese brands, but with a smaller price tag.
And that formula holds true for the Santa Fe, which, at more than 190 inches in length, is a true minivan-replacement—one that we think really comes into its own in the Limited trim with some options ticked. You can get things like vented leather seats, big alloy wheels, Blind Spot Detection with Lane Change Assist, hands-free liftgate, eight-inch touchscreen, Infinity seven-speaker audio system and a bunch more for a lot less than you’d expect.
Honda Pilot: $29,995
Let’s be honest, if you were looking for a no-fuss, moderately-sized family hauler, you probably didn’t even look at the Kia until someone told you to check it out.
That’s because the real household names in this segment are Pilot and Highlander. They’re the cars your parents bought, put 200,000 miles on, then traded in for Acuras or Lexuses. (Lexi?)
And there’s something to be said about cars with good reputations; it really makes the buying process a lot less nerve wracking when you know a car has a good track record.
We haven’t driven the new Pilot, but you should, especially if you’re looking for a crossover that’s on the bigger side, as the Pilot is more than 190 inches long.
Kia Sorento: $24,900
The Kia Sorento is related to the Santa Fe, though it is a bit smaller and a lot cheaper. Undercutting its brother by five grand, the Sorento is one of those vehicle that you’ll drive off the lot and say “Damn, I got leather seats for that price?”
Get the LX V6, for example, and you get a rear camera display, power leather seats, heated front seats, a backup warning system, Bluetooth, dual zone automatic climate control, projector beam headlights, fog lights, 18-inch alloy wheels, and of course, that coveted third row, for about $35,000. And that’s the MSRP price. You can probably score these cheaper off the lot, especially if they’re a year or two old.
Acura MDX: $42,865
The Acura MDX is a damn good SUV. When Patrick George reviewed it, he said:
It’s roomy, it’s comfortable, it’s extremely well built, and it’s got plenty of features that make it attractive for parents who need to shuffle their brood to and from schools, lacrosse practices, musical recitals, and religious services.
It may also very well be the best car Acura currently makes.
And that was before the new nine-speed, which came for the 2016 model year.
The beauty of the MDX is that it’s loaded with standard features like a power tailgate, power heated leather front seats, multi-view rear camera, three-zone automatic climate control, eight-speaker 253-watt audio system, eight-inch information screen, seven-inch infotainment display and 18-inch alloy wheels, and yet it only costs about 43 grand.
It’s hard to find a luxury crossover this good for this cheap.
Land Rover Discovery Sport: $37,455
The Range Rover Discovery Sport is tiny. It’s about the size of a Honda CR-V, and yet it offers a third row option for your child storage needs. It’s Land Rover’s entry-level offering, and presents not just heaps of luxury, but also decent handling and good off-road chops.
It’s luxurious and handsome, and a whole lot cooler than a minivan.
Nissan Rogue: $23,290
The Range Rover Discovery Sport is small, but the Nissan Rogue really isn’t much bigger. It competes with cars like the CR-V and CX-5, and yet somehow there are a couple of seats in the back for miniature humans.
The Rogue is also fuel efficient, comfortable and, like Andrew Collins said in his review “easy to operate as a pair of Velcro shoes.” Okay, so it’s may not be exciting, but who in this segment is looking for excitement?
It kind of makes you wonder what the point is of cramming an extra row into a tiny SUV, but hey, as Jason Torchinsky has made clear, toddlers and babies really don’t take up that much space.
Toyota 4Runner: $33,510
If you want something you can beat on off-road, that will hold its value better than gold, and that will probably be as reliable as the sunset, get the 4Runner.
It’s got a cult following because it’s awesome, even if it has a giant thirst for fuel.
BMW X5: $53,900
The BMW X5 isn’t cheap, but it’s also a well-engineered piece of machinery that somehow manages to defy its size.
Like Andre Collins said in his review, the X5 “feels like a car, and wants to go fast.” That’s pretty impressive for a vehicle that seats seven and weighs more than one of Donald Trump’s buildings.
Mitsubishi Outlander: $22,995
If you’re looking in the three-row crossover segment, and you just want pure content per dollar, visit your lonely local Mitsubishi dealer and check out the Outlander.
For less than $26,000 after destination, you can get leather seats, power driver’s seat, heated front seats, 6.1-inch touchscreen display with rearview camera, automatic dual-zone climate control, fog lights, heated mirrors, roof rails, 140W six-speaker audio system, automatic headlights and 18-inch alloy wheels.
That’s dirt cheap, and you might be able to get it even cheaper if Mitsubishi dealers decide to throw some cash on the hood to finally get one off their lot.
Nissan Pathfinder: $29,630
When we reviewed the Nissan Pathfinder, we found it quiet, spacious, efficient and actually decent to drive. Sure, its name “Pathfinder” promises an off-road ruggedness that the new car-based crossover can’t keep, but the SUV segment isn’t the same as it was in the 90s, and while people still want rugged looks, they don’t want to pay for it with a rugged ride.
It’s worthy of mention how good a value proposition the Pathfinder is, especially for a car this big (it’s 197 inches long) and especially when you tack on options. When we spec’d ours out in our Buyer’s Guide, we wound up with a four-wheel drive, seven-passenger 5,000 pound boat-hauling SUV for under $36,000.
Infiniti QX60: $42,400
If you like the Pathfinder, but you want a little more luxury like adaptive cruise control, Blind Spot Warning, Distance Control Assist, Front and Rear Sonar System, Intelligent Brake Assist with Forward Collision Warning, Backup Collision Intervention and Active Lane Control, then the QX60 is the ticket.
No, it’s not particularly exciting, but especially on the used market, the QX60 could offer quite a lot of value for someone looking for a luxury three-row crossover.
Ford Explorer: $31,050
The Ford Explorer is the largest vehicle on this list by a decent margin, but it’s smaller than a Chevy Traverse or a Cadillac Escalade, so you might be able to squeeze it between those two Priuses on 42nd Street.
The new Explorer is different from its rough-and-tumble predecessors, and is actually built on a version of the Ford Taurus platform. It’s low to the ground, front-wheel drive based and really can’t go off-road further than driving on a flat lawn.
Still, the Explorer is the quintessential American SUV, and it’s been selling faster than Deadpool tickets since its inception. Now that it’s got three rows, it opens the market for even more potential buyers, so you can expect the Explorer to stay on top of the sales charts.
Toyota Highlander: $29,765
The Toyota Highlander is built on a modified Toyota K platform, meaning it’s basically a big Toyota Camry.
That’s not a bad thing, because the Camry goes, stops and turns just fine, and it tends to do so without too many trips to the mechanic. We can’t comment on reliability of the new Highlander, but K Platform cars tend to avoid mechanics like politicians avoid answering questions.
And that’s the thing about the Highlander: sure, it’s not exciting ,but if you’re someone looking for something basic, drama-free, and maybe a bit appliance-esque that isn’t a minivan, the Highlander is probably already on your list along side the Honda Pilot.
Dodge Journey: $20,695
The Dodge Journey is the cheapest three-row SUV around, and for good reason. The thing has been around since 2009, and launched with Chrysler’s most maligned bones, the Mitsubishi GS platform, which also underpinned pathetic excuses for cars like the Jeep Compass and Dodge Caliber.
Though FCA has updated the once-unbelievably horrid interior, and given the upper trims a six-speed auto and a Pentastar V6, you’re probably only looking at this car because it’s cheap, meaning you’d be stuck with a 2.4-liter I4 and a four-speed (yes, four-speed) slushbox.
FCA should have killed this thing off years ago, but because the tooling is paid for, they can sell these cheap and still make lots of cash. With the three row box ticked, the Journey MSRPs for only $21,690, and you can probably get it for much cheaper after incentives. But would you really want to do that to yourself?