We test drove these popular brand SUVs. This is what you need to know.
You’ve heard the enigmatic glee of the carpool: two days a week you can put the shuttling of your kids in the hands of another trusted mom whose kids are on the same schedule. Then, you can linger a bit longer over your afternoon latte or spend a few more hours in the law library to finally get that degree.
But two afternoons a week you are that trusted mom. Accommodating other children and a tight schedule is a mastery of planning. Do carpooling moms really need 7 seater SUVs? Consider this:
- How many seats will you need?
- Will you be driving long distances for travel teams or tournaments?
- How quickly and safely can your gaggle of gabbing, excited kiddos hop into your car in the school pick up line?
- If they need child passenger car seats, how easy is it for them to get in and out of those seats, and for you to assist them in getting buckled up?
- Is there enough cargo space for them to toss their backpacks, dance bags and lunchboxes?
- How will you accommodate after school snacks without leaving perma-smear across the carpets and upholstery in your car?
- Is there someplace to put your handbag so it’s not trampled in the process?
Yes, a minivan sounds ideal, but it’s a no-go. You need an SUV.
The Best 7 Seater SUVs for Back to School Carpools
These people-haulers come in three types: Small, mid and full size, and are available from both luxury and popular car brands. Full-size SUVs typically seat 8 and often are built on a truck frame, meaning they are bigger, higher off the ground and take up more space in parking lots and driveways.
The 7 seater SUV (often classified as a crossover for being a cross between a car and an SUV) has become popular for its smaller size, car-like drive experience, and better fuel economy. Most are available in both front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, and increasingly, AWD means they are almost as capable as true 4WD.
SUVs have become so popular that there are more brands and options than ever. Luckily for you, we already did a lot of the research. We have taken extensive test drives of each of these popular brand 7 seater SUVs (look for our list of 7 seater luxury brands and 8-seater SUVs soon!). This is why we like them and what you need to know.
Why You’ll Love It: Buick might be the best-kept secret in the land of luxury; we include it in the “Popular” category because Buick dealers love to discount these to keep pace with sales goals. The Enclave comes with a standard 6 cylinder engine and inside, it’s loaded with luxe features like heated leather seats, premium Bose sound, and top safety features. And it comes equipped with OnStar and a rear-seat reminder to protect children from being left in a locked car.
Why the Kids Will Love It: They’ll appreciate the luxury appointments like the leather seats and the double-pane sunroof, and third-row passengers will be happy, especially if the second row has two captains chairs instead of a bench, making access and stretching out a bit easier.
What It Costs: $40,000-$50,000
Why You’ll Love It: Dodge fans know the brand for its Hellcat and SRT muscle car labels, but don’t let the Durango fool you: this solid, capable SUV has seating for 6 or 7, and if you want a bit more buzz under the bonnet, there’s an SRT track-worthy model in the lineup too.
Why the Kids Will Love It: This is cool SUV has plenty of places to plug in a phone or game station, including seat-back HDMI ports and AUX ports, plus a household plug for laptops or tablets.
What It Costs: $30,000-$73,000
Why You’ll Love It: We classify this classic 7-seat SUV as mid-sized but it’s got tons of space and with its new redesign, it has more style and more great features, including Ford’s CoPilot 360 suite of standard safety systems. And with an enhanced all-wheel drive system that also has eco mode, you can choose your power or efficiency, allowing you to save a bit of fuel, too.
Why the Kids Will Love It: The third row, which seats two, is even easier to access with a one-hand flip of the seat, and there are USB ports for every seat.
What It Costs: $32,700-$58,200
Why You’ll Love It: We think of this as the car person’s go-to SUV: we know many, many people in the business who choose this SUV for their families. Nicely sized, nicely outfitted and elegantly designed, it comes equipped with OnStar, a rear-seat reminder (so no kid is inadvertently left behind) and all-wheel drive. The Acadia hits many of the marks that the pros look for in a 6 or 7 seater SUV.
Why the Kids Will Love It: Comfortable, nicely outfitted with tech (wifi and USB ports to start), it’s not so large that it’s a challenge to get in and out of, and they’ll be comfy in the third row.
What It Costs: $29,000-$45,000; Denali trim $48,000-$52,600
Why You’ll Love It: If you love design, you need to take a look at Kia; this brand has transitioned from the budget-focused brand of the past to a design-focused brand filled with premium features and advanced technology. Kia is typically among the first to add tech features like phone connectivity, UVO connected service (which calls 911 if the airbags deploy) active safety features and more, much of which comes standard in the Sorento.
Why the Kids Will Love It: The second row is a roomy bench with a fold-down cupholder in the center seat. The third-row seats two and passengers are on the small side will be the most comfortable there; the panoramic sunroof will help them not feel too closed in.
What It Costs: $25,900-$48,000
Why You’ll Love It: A few years ago, Mazda made the pivot from a budget-focused to a premium brand, outfitting its entire line with top tier features like head-up display, full leather trim and a zippy engine that, despite being a 4 cylinder, has a lot of pep to it. Drivers love this car and all you get for the price.
Why the Kids Will Love It: The second row is roomy and the third row means you can accommodate two more friends, but it’s not a huge space, so better for short hauls. The space behind the third row is enough for everyone’s stuff.
What It Costs: $32,000-$45,000
Why You’ll Love It: Finally, VW brought a full-size 7 seater SUV to the US and we couldn’t be happier. Drivers who love the brand’s reputation for engineering and details from its pricier sibling, Audi, are happily driving around in this stylish, roomy but fun to drive SUV. You’ll find great technology, great space and plenty of amenities in the Atlas. And, the second row has slide-and-tilt seats that mean you can access the third row even if a child passenger car seat is installed in the second row. We love this detail.
Why the Kids Will Love It: The space, the comfort and the plug-ability of the Atlas is great. And, the third row is roomy and easy to get in and out of.
What It Costs: $31,000-$48,000
Why You’ll Love It: This is the smallest of 7 seater SUVs. When VW first introduced the Tiguan with a third row it was limited to the base model, but it proved so popular with urban families that it’s an available option in all models. And the size means it’s easy to drive, park and manage in traffic (and great MPG!). The third row is a “convenience row,” however: it’s great for those times you’re in pinch—and yes, carpools count— and need to add two more people to the car. With the second-row bench seat, you’ll be able to accommodate 5 passengers in the back.
Why the Kids Will Love It: The Tiguan is kid-sized and easy to get in and out of; there is a motion-activated lift gate option that they’ll get a “kick” out of.
What It Costs: $24,300-$38,000
Now that you’ve got the right car for shuttling the kids this year, don’t forget to take care of yourself. (Be sure to check out our tips for reducing stress in the car, too.) Happy carpooling!