3-Row Midsize SUV Comparison Test: Kia Telluride vs. Toyota Highlander vs. Ford Explorer vs. Honda Pilot and Five Other SUVs
The 3-row midsize SUV takes its place as the modern-era family-hauler.
Mar 23, 2020
The 21st Century has seen Americans ditching minivans for midsized three-row SUVs. In the last decade and a half, about a dozen minivans have been discontinued as the family-hauler of choice. And in the past three years, new names like Atlas, Ascent, Telluride, and Palisade have joined the hyper-competitive three-row SUV segment.
I grew up surrounded by minivans because our family of six required a family hauler that was spacious and comfortable. And we made good use of them. A big family like ours needed a vehicle with plenty of space for six and their gear; a minivan was the only option. Space, safety, and reliability were at the top of my parents' list of must-have transportation features. SUVs were for off-roading, not the road trip or morning school run.
But now, SUVs have evolved and taken over the carpooling and road-trip game. And there are so many to SUVs choose from. So MotorTrend will answer for you: Who makes the best midsize three-row SUV for a big family?
It's worth a full read, but I'll spoil the results for the non-clickers...
3-Row SUVs: Best and Worst
9th Place Volkswagen Atlas
It's plenty spacious but has a ride that will make kids carsick. VW needs to improve its family SUV's suspension.
8th Place Ford Explorer
It's new to market, but the Ford seems like it was built ages ago. Its price ladder doesn't speak well to value.
7th Place Mazda CX-9
Great power, ride, and handling, but that's not why folks buy people haulers. It's short of the traits that make a true family vehicle.
6th Place Chevrolet Traverse
A strong SUV just three years ago, the Traverse has suffered at the hands of the newer players in the segment. A rental car feel at a high price.
5th Place Toyota Highlander
The segment sales leader arrived with a cool new design, but a cramped third row and a thrashy powertrain hurt.
4th Place Hyundai Palisade
A smart value, the Palisade raises eyebrows at school plays and soccer practice. Ride is stiff for kids, though.
3rd Place Honda Pilot
The smartly packaged Pilot scores highly with its responsive suspension and direct steering feel.
2nd Place Subaru Ascent
It's oddly styled, but once you see how spacious and capable it is, the Ascent checks many boxes. Plus: value.
1st Place Kia Telluride
Eye-catching design, an elegant interior, and excellent value. The Telluride doesn't disappoint. A class above.