Seven, eight ... fine

Here’s the best of the bunch when you need a third-row seats to trans­port the tribe

Herald Sun - Motoring - - COVER STORY - CRAIG DUFF craig.duff@news.com.au

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.

WAGONS

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.

NIS­SAN X-TRAIL

FORD TER­RI­TORY

HYUNDAI i-MAX

HONDA ODYSSEY

TOY­OTA KLUGER

KIA RONDO

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