Choosing a seven-seat family SUV is seriously tough.
There are mid-sized options like the Honda CR-V with small seats in the boot for part-time use, larger options such as the Hyundai Santa Fe with more space in the third row, and extra-large family haulers with American inspiration such as the Hyundai Palisade competing for your attention – and they all have something to offer.
Luxury brands Mercedes-Benz and Land Rover have smaller offerings in the GLB and Discovery Sport respectively, while the Ford Everest, Toyota Fortuner, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, and Isuzu MU-X are popular among adventurous owners who want to head off-road.
Is your head spinning yet?
For the purposes of this article, we’ve set a budget cap of $90,000 before on-road costs. We’ll wade through bigger cars such as the Nissan Patrol and Toyota LandCruiser at a later date.
A few cars from the fringe of that $90,000 marker – think Jeep Grand Cherokee L – have also been excluded, as they’re more aligned with the vehicles in the segment above.
The options available to our team are below:
- Ford Everest
- Honda CR-V
- Hyundai Palisade
- Hyundai Santa Fe
- Isuzu MU-X
- Kia Sorento
- Land Rover Discovery Sport
- LDV D90
- Mazda CX-8
- Mazda CX-9
- Mercedes-Benz GLB
- Mitsubishi Outlander
- Mitsubishi Pajero Sport
- Nissan Pathfinder
- Nissan X-Trail
- Peugeot 5008
- Skoda Kodiaq
- SsangYong Rexton
- Toyota Fortuner
- Toyota Prado
- Toyota Kluger
- Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace
Kia has evolved the Sorento from a utilitarian family hauler into a luxurious flagship, but it hasn’t forgotten about its practical roots.
The GT-Line features quilted Nappa leather seat trim, flashy big screens, and a thumping stereo – but it also has acres of space for passengers in both the second and third rows, and packs a boot big enough to comfortably handle all the kit that comes with a family weekend away.
Although it’s more expensive than the petrol, the diesel brings two key improvements. The first is all-wheel drive, which is a must in any family SUV of mine because I like heading to the snow. in Australia, the V6 petrol is front-wheel drive only.
The second is the efficiency. The diesel is scary efficient on the open road, sipping like a much smaller car.
Yes, there’s a PHEV but no, I don’t want one. There’s no point lugging around a big battery and electric motor in a car that’s going to do long stints on the open road – and paying road tax in Victoria for the privilege.
A lot of seven-seat or eight-seat SUVs aren’t particularly good seven seaters. That is, until the Hyundai Palisade came along.
The Korean SUV cousin to the Kia Carnival, which looks something of a mini Cadillac Escalade, is a proper three-row crossover with space for up to eight – though an eighth person in the third row will be a bit squished.
Hyundai’s product planners have also allowed me to specify the quintessential JWo combination too – Robust Green metallic paint over Black/Dark Khaki Nappa leather. Yes, you can actually do that.
That means I’m limited to the top-spec Highlander trim, though. I would opt for the 2.2-litre diesel with AWD (from $78,370) and choose the seven-seat interior with second-row captain’s chairs for maximum baller vibes. Who needs a premium badge with that kind of choice?
Tied for second place if I have to pick goes to the Kia Sorento GT-Line HEV (limited colour/trim options – looking at you Kia) and the fully-optioned Skoda Kodiaq Style, both offering premium presentation, features and refinement for attainable money.
If I was in the market for a seven-seat family SUV I think I’d have to pick something that oozes just a little bit of fun, which brings me to the Skoda Kodiaq RS.
I’m a big fan of its 2.0-litre ‘EA888’ four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that features in the likes of the VW Golf GTI, among others, and produces 180kW and 370Nm.
Out of the list provided the Kodiaq RS looks, feels and drives like the sportiest seven-seat SUV offering. Sure the third row is a little compromised but you’ll get to your destination in record time.
Another thing to consider is the current-generation Kodiaq is nearing the end of its life as a new model is set to be revealed soon. At this stage it’s unclear if there will be an RS version of the new model.
I’ll add that beyond the Kodiaq RS I’m very much looking forward to the new-generation Hyundai Santa Fe, which I understand will most likely be in no way sporty, but looks absolutely bananas in the best way possible.
This is such a tough one because there are so many factors when purchasing a seven-seat family SUV that buyers need to consider…
The top five things I always consider for people who ask me what my top seven-seat SUVs is, are:
- Height from the ground: can the kids get easily in and out of the car?
- Remaining boot space when the third row is in use: can I fit my day-to-day cargo?
- Technology including safety and infotainment
- Fuel efficiency: cost to run week-to-week?
- Budget including resale value, purchase price, servicing costs
If I had all day I could talk about all the things a buyer should consider before dropping between $60,000 and $90,000 on a car which they would more than likely own for up to eight years.
Based on the five parameters above the Hyundai Palisade Highlander scored the highest. If I had to pick a more affordable option I would say buyers can’t go past the Ssangyong Rexton.
If we were talking about the far more handsome 2024 Honda CR-V, I’d be buying that hands down and putting the change into my account, but I’m not a fan of the current styling so I’m going with the Mercedes-Benz GLB instead.
It’s closer to the GLC in size than the GLA and although I’m pretty much obsessed with the GLB 35 AMG thanks to its extra all-round performance, I’d be quite happy with a GLB 250 4Matic.
It’s that more rugged, boxy, utilitarian design that I like – but the tech and bling also resonate with me.
I’m torn between two Hyundais.
The Santa Fe is on the verge of being replaced, but the recently introduced (to Australia) hybrid powertrain offers a blend of refinement, performance and fuel efficiency I find pleasing.
It’s not exactly a looker, but the availability here of non-black interiors is a relief. The next-gen Santa Fe looks promising and could be worth the wait, but that exterior styling is going to take me a while to get used to.
The boxy Palisade is easily one of the best-packaged vehicles in its segment, with a third row that can fit adults and an attractively presented cabin. It’s a pity, though, you have to get the diesel to get all-wheel drive, while the petrol engine is a thirsty V6. Now, if the Palisade could be had with a hybrid…