The prototypical family car of the 21st century
If you need a vehicle with a spacious interior but don’t want a big, thirsty full-size SUV, and you’re not ready to succumb to the utter domestication of a minivan, welcome to the three-row midsize SUV market.
If you don’t need so many seats, you also have plenty of two-row midsize SUVs from which to choose.
And there’s been no shortage of excitement, as the 2019 and 2020 model years have been big ones for both groups.
In the two-row class, the all-new Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport arrives later this year, with a massive cargo area and a wide array of advanced safety features that come standard.
Not to be outdone, the three-row segment gets two all-new models and a pair of important redesigns. The Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade are new all the way down to their nameplates, while the Ford Explorer and Toyota Highlander have each been completely redesigned.
With 20 solid options vying for your family dollar, this Buyer’s Guide is designed to point you in the right direction.
Two-Row Midsize SUVs
These models are shorter than three-row midsize SUVs, with a flat cargo floor and a large cargo area.
Three-Row Midsize SUVs
Longer than two-row midsize SUVs, three-row models can seat up to eight people when you need to, or provide a generous cargo area when the rear row is folded.
Starting Price: $30,995
The GMC Acadia is a slightly more upscale option, and one of the few vehicles available with 5-, 6- or 7-passenger seating. Read more
The Best Buy?
Crossover or SUV?
The first SUVs were built like trucks, with body-on-frame construction. But car-like unibody construction offers better fuel efficiency, ride and handling, so that’s how most of today’s SUV-looking vehicles are constructed. It’s all upside, since few buyers need the added off-road ruggedness or towing ability that a truck-like architecture can provide. And for those who do, full-size SUVs like the Chevy Tahoe and Suburban, Ford Expedition and Toyota Sequoia are still based on full-size trucks.
Most midsize SUVs start around $30,000 and top out well into the $40,000 range, with the average transaction price coming in around $37,000 at last check. Most offer a V6 engine — many exclusively — but the Durango also offers two V8s and the Explorer offers turbocharged options including an efficiency-focused turbocharged 4-cylinder and a power-focused turbo V6. All midsize SUVs are available with all-wheel drive.
Midsize or Minivan?
Midsize SUVs are compelling alternatives for parents still honoring their promise to never drive a minivan, but minivans are far more cavernous and those power sliding doors are really, really convenient. If your family regularly transports three rows of people and more than a small amount of cargo at the same time, we encourage you to check out our Minivan Buyer’s Guide.
If you’re interested in stepping up to something like a BMW X5 or Audi Q7, be prepared to cough up an additional $15,000 to $20,000. Still interested? Check out our Midsize Luxury SUV Buyer’s Guide to see all your options.
Video Spotlight: Two-Row Midsize SUV Comparison