The three-row SUV has supplanted the minivan as the family vehicle of choice.
Regardless of your feelings towards the declining minivan (I, for one, love them!), most automakers are giving the people what they want: seven seats housed within a SUV. They tend to be sportier, provide a livelier drive experience, and exude a level of style that the humble minivan simply can’t match (but you can still read our minivan reviews here).
Here we look at five three-row SUVs to consider as your next family hauler—all of which start below $45,000. All in no particular order:
Editor’s Note: 2020 Explorer is an all-new model; including a first-ever 400-hp Explorer ST (reviewed here).
Don’t sleep on the Ford Explorer. While it’s the elder statesman on this list, and easily overlooked with the number of new models hitting the market, the Explorer continues to be a rock solid SUV.
Up front, the Explorer has a super clean design. The rotary gear shift dial creates a wealth of room in the centre console, while the infotainment setup minimizes button overload. Opt for the twin-panel moonroof to really feel the cabin open up.
Seating is wide and comfortably firm across the board, which is great for longer hauls with the family. And, of course, the distinctive Ford look gives it an aggressive, truck-like appearance to help you command the highway trek.
What we like:
Rotary gear shift that provides more space
Comfortable seating for everyone
Latest Explorer News & Reviews:
- 2020 Ford Explorer XLT Review
- Closer Look at the New Explorer’s Towing Capacity
- Pair of Badass Aftermarket 2020 Explorers Head to SEMA with Ford Performance
- First Drive: 2020 Ford Explorer ST Review
- 2019 Ford Explorer Platinum Review
Editor’s Note: The Atlas first arrived for 2018; the 2020 model is in the current generation.
When Volkswagen released the Atlas, it gave the automaker its first true family vehicle that it could boast about in decades. (While I am a fan of minivans, the Routon was not a vehicle that elicited much excitement.)
Three rows can be difficult to design, but VW got it right with the Atlas. There’s enough room in the way back for the kids to be comfortable. Adults and babyseats fit incredibly well in the second row; the latter of which does not need to be removed to access the third row, thanks to VW’s clever design.
VW’s 4Motion is always a great addition, giving you more peace of mind that you can handle a variety road and weather conditions with ease.
From the outside, the Atlas mixes sleek with stoic. The front-end is striking and attractive; while, from the side, its distinct lines give it a strong, silent stance.
What we like:
Smart entry to third row
Smooth eight-speed transmission with Tiptronic
Available 4MOTION AWD
Latest Atlas News & Reviews:
- Inside the VW Atlas Cross Sport: A Closer Look
- First Drive: 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport Review
- 2020 VW Atlas Cross Sport Sheds A Couple Seats & Adds More Style
- VW Atlas SUV Gets Some Serious Overland Cred
- 2018 Volkswagen Atlas Review: VW’s All-New 7-Seater SUV Built for North Americans
Editor’s Note: Ascent first arrived for 2018; the 2020 model is the current generation.
The Subaru Ascent is a fairly recent entrant in the three-row SUV class.
Staying true to all things Subaru, the Ascent balances space for the entire family with driving capability to help you conquer the great outdoors.
Of course, Subaru’s Symmetrical Full-Time AWD system comes standard, and there’s enough ground clearance that you won’t second-guess taking the unbeaten path to the secluded campsite. Roof rails, tie downs and cargo hooks are also standard, giving you greater cargo flexibility.
The lower-end trims offer enough more than enough—infotainment that connects to your smartphone, Subaru’s Eyesight, and all the aforementioned standards. This is one of the non-Hyundai or Kia vehicles that doesn’t need too much extra to meet your wants and needs, which is quite refreshing.
What we like:
Rugged design and drive quality
Good value for the entry-level model
Standard Symmetrical Full-Time AWD
Latest Ascent News & Reviews:
- Closer Look at the Subaru Ascent’s Towing Capacity
- 2020 Subaru Ascent Arrives this Summer with Pricing Unchanged
- 2019 Subaru Ascent Review
- Subaru’s All-New 2019 Ascent 3-Row SUV Arrives Early Summer 2018
- Subaru’s Biggest Vehicle to Debut in LA: 2019 Ascent 7-Passenger SUV
Editor’s Note: Telluride first arrived for 2019; 2020 Telluride isn’t much different.
Whether you choose the seven- or eight-seat model, the Kia Telluride is chock full of features to handle every inch of family life.
It doesn’t hurt that it’s a looker, as well. The Telluride has a Range Rover-esque design, and one could easily argue the Telluride beats the Range in terms of appearance. The rectangular LED headlights are, in a word, sexy.
Inside, the cabin is serene and calming. From the controls to the seats, everything the Telluride is perfectly placed and spaced. Find USB ports near each seat and even a 110 volt household outlet.
What we like:
Choose from seven or eight seats
Rectangular LED headlights
Suite of safety tech comes standard
Latest Telluride News & Reviews:
- Hyundai Palisade vs Kia Telluride: 3-Row SUV Differences
- What’s the Difference between the Kia Telluride & Kia Sorento SUVs?
- 2020 Kia Telluride Review
- New 2020 Kia Telluride Pays Homage to the Rugged, Boxy SUVs We Grew Up With
- Kia’s New Large SUV Makes Bold Debut: Full-Size Telluride Arrives Early 2019
Editor’s Note: The 2020 CX-9 is still in its second-generation since 2016 (first arrived in 2006). So, a redesigned model may be in the works.
The Mazda CX-9 is arguably the most gorgeous model on this list. While all have distinct, attractive designs, the CX-9’s curves and long front-end make it an absolute standout.
The driving experience matches its look. Sporty meets slick, it handles incredibly well thanks to Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control Plus, and feels much smaller than it actually is.
Mazda keeps the front seats clean and clear of clutter. The screen perched on top of the dashboard provides all the info you need, while a small stack of buttons below handles all your HVAC needs. It’s simple and perfectly uses empty spaces to its advantage.
What we like:
Gorgeous exterior design
Sporty drive experience
Clean interior layout