Seven, eight ... fine
Here’s the best of the bunch when you need a third-row seats to transport the tribe
SCHOOL’S back and parents across the country are scrambling to find uniforms, bags and the best route to get to school. For larger families who have another child about to start their formal education, the issue compounds and many will be in the market for new transport for the tribe.
Modern people-movers have been moulded into three diverse groups: the occasional seven-seaters where the thirdrow pews are best left for emergencies, the high-riding SUV style and the practical but not as pretty van-based contenders.
Here are some of the classiest candidates in each division. All are capable of carrying an extended family with varying degrees of spaciousness and comfort. It comes down to how often you’ll need those third-row seats and how much you’re prepared to pay for extra room.
On-road costs add $3000 or more in this price bracket, so we’ve published drive-away prices.
OCCASIONAL SEVENSEATERS Kia Rondo From $35,400
The Rondo rules as the best handling of the entry level seven seaters. Because it’s not jacked up off the ground it corners with less body roll, which induces less nausea in your passengers and saves you unpleasant cleaning duties. A 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine is paired with a six-speed auto for claimed fuel use of 7.9L/100km.
Nissan X-Trail From $35,500
Anyone shopping for a midsized SUV with seven seats should look here. As with the Rondo, the X-Trail misses out on third-row airbags but the second row seats slide independently and have a raised base so smaller bodies can still enjoy a decent view. The 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission claim fuel use of 8.1L/100km.
Toyota Prius V From $40,100
Petrol-electric propulsion is the unique selling proposition for the Prius. The 1.8-litre engine and electric motor achieve an official fuel use of 4.4L/100km. Performance isn’t punchy but it doesn’t need to be in this type of car and the Prius is more than capable of keeping up with the traffic. Toyota’s attention to details shows in the storage spaces and adjustable rear seats.
SUVs Kia Sorento From $45,200
Practicality is the premise behind Kia’s big SUV. It isn’t as physically imposing as the Mazda but it packs a lot of space into that shape and the combination of a seven-year warranty and sharp pricing
make it hard to look past. The build quality and materials are also a benchmark for Kia and among the best of the mainstream brands. A 3.3-litre V6 is standard; a 2.2-litre diesel adds $3500. Mazda CX-9 From $46,800
Autonomous emergency braking in every model makes the Mazda a safe choice for big families. The biggest boot in the class is a welcome bonus and the third row seats are notably well bolstered but the CX-9 misses air vents in the third row, which won’t make a fully loaded summer trip a lot of fun. Mazda’s 2.5-litre turbo engine uses 8.4L/100km. Toyota Kluger From $47,295
You’d need to be besotted with the Toyota badge to buy the Kluger right now, even at its recently discounted price of $43,990 drive-away. A new model is just around the corner and until then the Kluger can’t match its opposition in the features-and-value equation. It is still one of the most versatile vehicles in this group and access to the third row seats is quick and easy. The 3.5-litre V6 and six-speed auto driveline is thirsty at 10.2L/100km even in front-drive form.
Honda Odyssey From $41,650 The Odyssey benefits from the most car-like drive of this group but is also the smallest, which limits cargo space. And if you’ve got backsides on the seats, that can be an issue. The build quality and cabin layout are great. Fuel use from the 2.4-litre four-cylinder and continuously variable transmission is impressive at a claimed 7.6L/100km. Hyundai i-Max From $45,200
Asking a 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol to shift 2.2 tonnes of metal with a four-speed automatic doesn’t make for good fuel use. The i-Max officially uses 10.6L/100km but that will rise with inner-city driving and when more seats are occupied. The van-based heritage is evident in the look inside and out but the high roofline means all eight seats can be easily accessed and there’s no shortage of space. The petrol is currently available for $38,990 drive-away ($6200 off ) and the diesel is $44,990 drive-away ($7000 off ). Kia Carnival From $45,700
The Carnival is the dominant car in this segment and the logical pick, providing you can look past the 3.3-litre V6’s thirst. Even with a six-speed auto it slurps 11.5L/100km. The diesel starts from $48,300 drive-away. You need to buy the top-line Platinum version to pick up active driving aids. The eightseat layout doesn’t limit boot space, but it can be cumbersome to drive fully loaded.