Whether you’re planning to carry seven people on a regular basis, or just need an occasional third row of seats, there’s an SUV to suit your needs
Gone are the days when anyone in the market for a seven-seater had to choose a boxy MPV. Now there are plenty of 4x4s and SUVs that give you the same sort of practicality but a lot more style. And they often have the added bonus of being able to tow a caravan or boat, or traverse a muddy field.
True, they’re big cars, so you need to choose the right engine to avoid frightening fuel bills. But third-row passengers won’t feel second class, and there’s certainly no need to put up with an uncomfortable ride, clattery engine or spartan interior.
The best seven-seat SUVs
10. Hyundai Santa Fe
You can specify the Santa Fe with either five or seven seats, and in seven-seat form it’s a genuine alternative to a traditional people carrier. Okay, third-row head room is tight for adults, but children will be fine. The second and third-row seats fold almost flat, too, and the Santa Fe offers a comfortable ride. The biggest downsides are its below-par refinement and fairly high price.
Our pick: 2.2 CRDi 200 Premium 7st
9. Nissan X-Trail
If you want a spacious and practical SUV and care more about a low price than an engaging driving experience, the Nissan X-Trail is worth a look. Even our favourite seven-seat version, the 1.6 dCi Acenta, is priced well below £30,000. Just bear in mind that it suffers from sloppy body control and poor over-the-shoulder visibility.
Our pick: 1.6 dCi Acenta 7st
8. BMW X5
The original X5 was one of the first road-focused 4x4s, and this third-generation model sticks to that formula, meaning it handles much better than many rivals. You can even specify it with two-wheel drive, although the extra traction of four-wheel-drive variants in wet conditions makes them preferable, whether or not you plan to venture off road. The interior is classy and features just about the best infotainment system around.
Our pick: xDrive25d SE 7st
7. Kia Sorento
The Sorento is closely related to Hyundai’s Santa Fe, but it’s a more practical option because its third row is spacious enough for adults, not just children. It also has a punchy engine, heavy towing capacity and comfortable ride, although the very best rivals are more refined.
Our pick: 2.2 CRDi KX-2 Auto
6. Range Rover Sport
The latest Sport is based on the regular Range Rover, so it’s no surprise that it’s a fantastic car for covering long distances, with smooth engines and a cosseting ride. The luxurious and generously equipped interior looks and feels classy and, crucially, unlike its bigger brother, it can be specified with seven seats.
Our pick: 3.0 SDV6 HSE 7st
5. Volvo XC90
The XC90 has always been a very practical family car, with a versatile interior and huge boot. However, the latest version is also enjoyable to drive and very classy inside. Only average refinement and a slightly unsettled ride stop it from finishing even higher on this list.
Our pick: 2.0 D5 Momentum
4. Land Rover Discovery Sport
A former Large SUV of the Year, the Discovery Sport sits below the full-size Discovery in the Land Rover range. However, it’s still available with seven seats, has a smart and user-friendly interior and holds its value well. It’s even well priced by class standards.
Our pick: 2.0D 180 HSE 4WD
3. Land Rover Discovery
Much like its predecessor, the all-new Discovery is a whopping great seven-seater. And yet at the same time it’s a big step forward: it’s more practical than any of its rivals, suitably posh inside and great to drive on or off road.
Our pick: V6 HSE
2. Skoda Kodiaq
This is the first seven-seater car in Skoda’s history, but you’d never guess it because it’s full of clever touches that make it perfect for growing families. The cheapest trim you can have with seven seats is the SE-L, which gets you satellite navigation as standard, too. Teamed with a punchy 2.0-litre diesel engine, it makes the Kodiaq the best large SUV you can buy for less than £30k.
Our pick: 2.0 TDI 150 4×4 SE-L 7st
1. Audi Q7
Like the rival Volvo XC90, the Q7 has four-wheel drive as standard but is geared towards surefooted on-road use, rather than traversing muddy fields. It’s also an extremely practical car, thanks to a generously proportioned interior and huge boot. But what really sets the Q7 apart is its stunning interior, sensational refinement and pillowy ride.
Our pick: 3.0 TDI quattro SE
The seven-seat SUVs to avoid
Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV has been a staggering success in the UK because its plug-in hybrid powertrain means it qualifies for low tax and the Government’s plug-in car grant. Unfortunately, if you want a seven-seat Outlander, you have to go for the 2.2-litre diesel model, which loses these advantages while keeping the PHEV’s numb steering and unsettled ride.
Ssangyong Rexton W
The Rexton W looks tempting on paper, because it undercuts everything of similar size by thousands of pounds. However, this is one instance where you get what you pay for. The interior feels cheap, the ride is bouncy and the handling defines ponderous.