Back when I was a kid – does anything good ever start with that phrase? But seriously, back in the day, mom and dad toted us around in the back of a station wagon. Yes, it was cramped and we didn’t wear our seatbelts, but we made it work. Nowadays there are numerous manufacturers that offer spacious, roomy and extravagant cabins inside the best 7 seater SUVs. But how did we get here?
The Evolution of 7 Seater SUVs
Back in the 60s and 70s, station wagons were the thing to own. We even had some that had rear-facing folding seats in the tailgate for a little extra room. Do you remember those?
That’s the first recollection I have of third-row seating. It’s a wonder any of us lived to be the age we are today.
As time went on, car companies realized there was a large demand for third-row seating. Not that we are all going to be the Duggars and have a million children, but sometimes it’s nice just to spread out. So, they created third-row seating.
This started out as a minivan feature, but many people (including me), aren’t quite fond of driving a minivan. That’s where the 7 seater SUV comes in. This vehicle can still be manly and offer enough room for the fam.
In fact, the vehicles with three rows can sometimes accommodate 8 passengers as well! Some of them even manage to have decent luggage space when the seats are fully occupied, too, which is something they didn’t have a few years ago.
With the immense amount of features in these best 7 seater SUVs, it’s hard not to want one. Some come will chilled storage bins, sliding doors, and rear entertainment centers. In fact, it’s hard not to get excited about a road trip when you have a 7 seater SUV to drive.
Yes, there are a few downsides to these giant people-movers. First, they aren’t always fun to drive as some feel clunky. Second, they can be difficult to park and maneuver. That’s why we’ve put together a list for you of the top 10 best 7 seater SUVs. Now you’ll know which ones are worth spreading out in; whether you are traveling alone or with 6 other passengers.
Ranking The Best 7 Seater SUV Cars
The Toyota Highlander hits high on our list of the best 7 seater SUV models for a good reason. It is insanely comfortable and holds quite a bit of cargo. In addition, the fuel economy is above average for a midsize SUV. The best part is that this 7 seater can actually accommodate 8 in the lower trims; so technically, it’s also an 8 seater SUV.
You have a choice between a four-cylinder or V6 engine, both with a smooth automatic transmission. On top of that, the Highlander has some incredibly upscale interior. Keep in mind that the upper trims are going to replace the second-row bench with captain’s chairs, taking this back to a seven seater SUV.
There are also numerous safety features packed in Toyota’s Safety Sense bundle. Some of these include pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, and lane departure warning. You’ll also find an infotainment system with a 6.1-inch touchscreen as standard with the Highlander.
What we really like: Check out the Toyota Highlander Hybrid! This fuel-efficient SUV offers 28 mph in the city! That’s something that even smaller economy cars have trouble competing with.
The first Suburban was produced in 1935, but times have definitely changed since then. The eleventh generation (2015 – present) has ushered in many improvements with this 7 seater SUV. In earlier versions, you had little thigh support in the third row if you were an adult. Now, they’ve created a raised seat bottom that makes your time stuck in the back more enjoyable.
In addition, if you want more room in the Suburban, all you need to do is slide the second-row seat forward slightly. That’s something many other 7 seater SUVs don’t have. The Suburban also has a powerful V8 engine so it’s easy to tow with. The downside to this SUV is due to the addition of the high load floor, you are going to put a little more effort into loading cargo when the seats are folded down.
What we really like: The Suburban offers seating for up to nine passengers, so you can add in a few extra of your kid’s friends when heading to the pool.
The Atlas is Volkswagen’s first 7 seater SUV and they hit the nail on the head. This top-rated SUV has an abundance of features available, a spacious cabin, and plenty of cargo space. The third row is also quite comfortable for full-grown adults. Even though it looks like a big vehicle, it handles like a compact SUV.
While you can use this as a daily cruiser with the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, we recommend going with the optional 3.6-liter V6 engine instead. It will give more power which is especially useful for when you have a full cabin and cargo.
While the cabin itself isn’t upscale or overly stylish, it is created from high-quality materials. In addition, standard features include Bluetooth, an infotainment screen with a 6.5-inch touchscreen, and a rearview camera.
What we really like: The Atlas features a 4Motion all-wheel-drive system. This comes complete with four driving modes that aid in poor conditions (Rainy, Snowy, Dry and Rough).
In 2018, the Buick Enclave got a complete redesign for the better. It now features an excellent cabin and refined performance. The 3.6-liter V6 is standard and it helps to balance out the handling for a smoother ride.
What most people have found is that the openings are large plus the footpath to the rear is wide. This allows passengers to find their way inside with ease. Standard features include an infotainment screen with 8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a hands-free power liftgate and a Wi-Fi hotspot. The downside is that a good portion of the advanced safety features only come with the top trim level.
What we really like: There is a generous amount of space for seven passengers across the three-row seating, plus it offers tons of cargo space.
Those who are in the market to get into a midsize 7 seater SUV might find that the completely redesigned Chevrolet Traverse is a top contender.
All models come powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine. Standard features include an infotainment system with a seven-inch touchscreen, six USB ports, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, rear-seat reminder, and a Teen Driver system. If you want more advanced safety features, you have to upgrade to a higher trim.
The Traverse also has the most cargo capacity in its class, plus you can configure yours to be one of the best 7 seater cars or make it an 8-passenger instead. That means, even with the entry-level Chevy, you can fit eight and still have plenty of cargo space. The second row is spacious and can be outfitted with captain’s chairs, which offer superior lateral support to encourage good posture. This second row can also be slid forward slightly to create more leg room in the third row.
What we really like: The infotainment system is feature-rich and comes standard with the Traverse.
Most people agree that the Mazda CX-9 is a fun midsize SUV to drive, thanks to the superb handling. It has a 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which isn’t the most powerful around, but the agile nature of this 7 seater SUV makes up for it.
The interior design of the CX-9 is upscale, so it feels richer than what it costs. It is also impressively quiet and well-mannered while heading down the highway. All models come standard with 7 passenger seating. They also include push-button start, a rearview camera, blind spot monitoring, an infotainment system plus a seven-inch touchscreen, rear cross traffic alert, and automatic emergency braking.
What we really like: Signature, which is the highest trim level, combines metal accents and genuine wood to offer a high-class luxury feel.
The Kia Sorento has been a favorite among families looking to get a value. While this doesn’t come as a standard 7 seater SUV, you can upgrade to a third-row as an option or when you go with the LX trim level. This does add a good chunk of change to the base price which is the downside.
Aside from that, the Sorento has a lot going for it. It offers decent fuel economy, a quiet interior, spacious room and an infotainment system that is user-friendly. It also has a class-leading warranty with the five-year/60,000-mile basic warranty and the 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
What is important to note with the Sorento is that the third row is not overly spacious. In fact, most adults won’t want to ride back there, but it has everything the kiddos need to be comfortable. The Sorento also doesn’t have as much cargo room as some of the competition. With that said, it does offer some clever storage inside plus it has an optional smart lift gate you can open with a proximity key.
There are two engine options with the Sorento; either the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder or the 3.3-liter 6-cylinder. The V6 does provide a good amount of power and is our choice if you decide to go with this Kia.
What we really like: The extra-long warranty is a big bonus when in the market for one of the best 7 seater SUV cars.
Recently redesigned, the Ford Expedition is one of the best large 7 seater SUVs. The brawny exterior is paired with a twin-turbo V6 engine that has no trouble keeping up with the V8 competitors. It’s also family-friendly inside and ready for everyday use.
Seat configurations come in seven or eight-passenger setups and the third row is adult-friendly. Not just that, the Expedition also has ample cargo space, especially if you opt for the Expedition Max long-wheelbase. All models come standard with four USB ports, a rearview camera, plus an infotainment system that features voice recognition and Bluetooth wireless integration.
There’s only one glaring complaint about this 7 seater SUV. Considering the Expedition with the Platinum trim can set you back $80,000, it would’ve been nice for Ford to ditch some of the cheap materials used inside.
What we really like: It’s powerful and exceptionally roomy, and offers lots of cargo room. It’s a great vehicle for big family vacations.
It’s true that you aren’t going to get the Audi Q7 for a low price. This is one of the more expensive 7 seater SUVs around, but it’s worth every penny. The spacious interior is filled with high-quality materials and luxurious equipment. Some of the standard features include dual-zone automatic climate control, leather, a power tailgate, and heated seats.
The Q7 does lack slightly on cargo space most likely thanks to its AWD design, but seating is roomy and can easily accommodate adult passengers. In addition, several driver aids are not available on the base trim.
What we really like: The older diesel V6 engine is a favorite and produces 240 horsepower and offers 19 mpg city and 28 mpg on the highway, but you won’t be able to get this model new in the U.S.
This midsize SUV has seating for eight or you can opt for the second-row captain’s chairs for additional personal space and comfort. The cargo space is generous and the interior is made from premium materials. On top of that, all Pilot SUVs come equipped with the 3.5-liter V6 engine. This gives it an average fuel economy for its class.
Standard features inside the Honda Pilot include a seven-speaker audio system, push-button start, Bluetooth, and a multi-angle rearview camera. Unfortunately, the base trim does not come with an infotainment system.
What we really like: The Honda Pilot has earned superior safety scores and was also named as a Top Safety Pick+ by IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety).
Avoid These 7-Seater SUVs (They Aren’t the Best)
Now that I’ve run down the list of the best 7-seater SUVs, it seems only fitting to give you warning of a few others. These three models seem to have the worst accommodations as far as a third row is concerned.
The Mitsubishi Outlander
The Mitsubishi Outlander is a compact SUV with a tight third-row seat. It isn’t geared toward adults, but there is also a power issue with this model. With its four-cylinder engine, acceleration is slow and highway performance is lacking.
The Hyundai Santa Fe
Fitting seven passengers in the Hyundai Santa Fe requires a few acrobatic skills. The cabin is tight and cargo capacity also falls short. In addition to that, there is limited availability of some advanced driver safety aids and fuel economy is worse than many of the competitors. Few car reviews really rate this vehicle.
The Dodge Journey
The Dodge Journey is one of the cheapest 7 seater SUVs which is probably why it’s also popular. New for 2018, third row seats are standard, but it just can’t compare to competitors when it comes to performance, cargo space or safety scores. As far as new car deals go, you’ll get a great deal, but it won’t compare to one the best cars listed above by a mile.
7 Seater SUVs vs. the Minivans
There is still no question in my mind that the 7 seater SUVs have beaten minivans by a long shot. When you look at this list, you see just a touch of the amazing new cars that are available to carry your family to soccer practice, that come with an epic towing capacity too! The hardest part will be deciding which is best for you! Leave us a comment and let us know which seven seat SUVs you are most excited about.