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Top five seven-seat SUVs

You want an SUV with seven seats, but which one is the best?
Richard Berry
Senior Journalist
CarsGuide

10 Oct 2018 • 23 min read

If there's one thing you know it's that you don't want a people mover. Those are for other people, right? I mean, they're really a mini-bus. No, you're cooler than that, so it's an SUV with seven seats, then? But which one is the best?

Well, best can mean different things to different people, so in this case we've picked five which are standouts among their rivals. There's the higher-end offerings, which have been measured for their quality and refinement. Then there's the budget beauties, gauged by their value-for-money, and the middle-of-the-road options, which need to offer a special feel at a good price. Above all else the Top 5 here must seat seven comfortably.

So here they are – in no particular order – the Top five best seven seat SUVs.

More: Check out our SUV buyers guide here
Plus:  Check out our guide to the best family SUVs here
Extra:  Check out our guide to the most fuel efficient SUVs here

Audi Q7

When we road tested the Audi Q7 we called it a five-star hotel on wheels. When we road tested the Audi Q7 we called it a five-star hotel on wheels.

When we road tested the Audi Q7 we called it a five-star hotel on wheels and we wanted to hang the Do Not Disturb sign on the door handle and stay inside forever. So gobsmackingly good is the Q7 in almost every way that we had to include the big German in our list.

Actually, it's not as big as it once was. This generation, which arrived in 2015, is smaller than the previous model. Still, its cabin is cavernous with excellent head and legroom in the second row and good space in the third – although, like just about every seven seat SUV, space in the third is limited.

Fold those rear seats flat and the boot has a cargo capacity of 770 litres, storage through the cabin is great as well. There are two cup holders in each row and large bottle holders in all doors.

The Q7 comes with a choice of two 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel engines (one has a higher output) and then there’s also a hybrid powertrain which adds an electric motor to that V6.

There’s also the SQ7, which is the high-performance version and packs a 4.0-litre turbo-diesel V8.

Even the standard coils and dampers give the Q7 a Bentley-smooth ride.

The Q7 and SQ7 both have a 3500kg braked towing capacity.

The SQ7 comes standard with air suspension, but even the standard coils and dampers give the Q7 a Bentley-smooth ride. Actually, it really should, because the Q7's underpinnings are shared with the Bentley Bentayga SUV.

A maximum five-star ANCAP rated car, the Q7 comes with AEB, lane departure and blind spot warning, and rear cross traffic warning.

For child seats you’ll find three top tether anchor points and two ISOFIX mounts in the second row, while the two third-row seats also come with ISOFIX and top tether points.

More: See all Audi Q7 price and spec info

Toyota Kluger

The Kluger's success comes down to price, practicality and a badge people trust for its reliability. The Kluger's success comes down to price, practicality and a badge people trust for its reliability.

The Kluger may not be as fancy as a big Audi, but a thousand more of them are typically sold each month than Q7s. So, what's so good about the family-size Japanese SUV?

The Kluger's success comes down to price, practicality and a badge people trust for its reliability. Oh, and it's been around since the dawn of the 'soft-road' SUV and cemented itself into hearts, minds and driveways all over Australia.

It's not half bad-looking either. Okay, it doesn't have the drama of the CX-9's design, but that big broad face with its sleek headlights and imposing grille, and the 'very Toyota' angular tail-lights have a more refined look following the 2017 update. 

And sure, the tall, flat roofline makes it look boxy, but do you know what boxes are good for? Putting things in.

Those big, wide-opening doors make getting little kids in and out of their car seats friendly in the back, while the boxy shape means headroom is outstanding in the second and third rows. Legroom in the second row is also great, and while the third row isn't super spacious it's about par for the seven seat SUV course.

A smooth, 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine powers the Kluger.

Boot space isn't as big as some others in the class at 529 litres, but storage throughout the cabin is outstanding with a 24-litre centre console bin big enough for a handbag or small backpack, and there's a cleverly designed split dash, the bottom half of which acts as a long shelf.

You'll find four cupholders in the back row alone, two more in the second and another two up front.

A smooth, 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine powers the Kluger. It's not the most frugal unit, but there's something 'right' about a brute of an engine in a big SUV like this. The Kluger's ride and handling is impressive, too.

The Kluger scored the maximum five ANCAP stars, when it was tested in 2014, but an update in 2018 added advanced safety equipment which only used to be available on higher grades. All Klugers now come standard with AEB, lane departure alert, adaptive cruise control and auto high beam.

For child seats you’ll find three top tether anchor points and two ISOFIX mounts in the second row.

More: See all Toyota Kluger price and spec info

Kia Sorento

The Kia Sorento's features, practicality and price make it a star in the more budget end of the SUV spectrum. The Kia Sorento's features, practicality and price make it a star in the more budget end of the SUV spectrum.

Why is the Sorento on this list? Okay, sure it may not have a posh badge, but the features, practicality and price make it a star in the more budget end of the SUV spectrum.

A 605-litre boot isn't outrageously big but there are great storage areas under the floor for wet towels and muddy shoes; there's a deep centre console storage bin; another covered well in front of the shifter, an open area behind it and a tray in the second row. You'll also find two cupholders in each row and bottle holders in the doors.

Leg and headroom in the second row are excellent, while the third isn't just for kids, and will fit smaller adults comfortably.

There are some great practical touches. The third row seats fold with a tug of the 'rip cord' from the boot, and the chunky dashboard controls make adjusting the music volume or climate control easy.

Handling is ship-like but this isn't a track-day car, besides, the ride is comfortable.

There are two USB ports on board and all grades come with an automatic tailgate.

Buyers have a choice of a four-cylinder diesel and V6 petrol engine. Handling is ship-like but this isn't a track-day car, besides, the ride is comfortable.

The big change in the 2017 update to the Sorento was not to its styling, nope it was far more important than that: advanced safety equipment only reserved for the upper grades was made standard across the range. This includes AEB, lane keeping assistance and blind spot warning.

For child seats you’ll find three top tether anchor points and two ISOFIX mounts in the second row.

More: See all Kia Sorento price and spec info

Volvo XC90

Volvo is still at the pointy end of pioneering safety equipment and the XC90 is the flagship of the brand – the most Volvo of Volvos. Volvo is still at the pointy end of pioneering safety equipment and the XC90 is the flagship of the brand – the most Volvo of Volvos.

Volvo was right all along. While some may have ridiculed the Swedish brand's boxy looks and safety-first focus in the 1980s we now live in a time where practicality and advanced protective technology in cars defines the age we live in. 

Volvo is still at the pointy end of pioneering safety equipment and the XC90 is the flagship of the brand – the most Volvo of Volvos.

This new generation XC90 gate-crashed 2015 with its stunning looks and stylish cabin. There's the 'Thor's hammer' headlights, the crisp grille and that hulk-like wide stance and beefy body.

The cockpit feels like a minimalist artwork with next-to no buttons on the dash – just a 9.0-inch display and 12.3-inch virtual instrument cluster. It's a luxurious place to be, but also practical and spacious with good leg and headroom in the second row – there's pop-up booster seats for kids, too. The third row is impressively roomy.

Folding the third row flat gives the boot a 775-litre cargo capacity. Coming standard on all grades is a cargo net, a tray and drink bottle strap, and under the boot floor is a divided stowaway area. Storage in the cabin is good with a cupholder and lidded container on each side of the third row, two cupholders for the second and two more up front, plus a centre console storage bin.

There's also four zone climate control – and directional air vents in all three rows.

Volvo is still at the pointy end of pioneering safety equipment and the XC90 is the flagship of the brand.

Air suspension is optional, but even on the standard double wishbone and multi-link set-up the ride is supremely comfortable with good handling.

A diesel, a petrol and a hybrid power the line-up. All are small and extremely fuel efficient but have amazingly high outputs.

And finally, safety – lots of safety. A five-star ANCAP rating is just the start, the advanced safety equipment which is standard across the entire range is outstanding.

There’s AEB, which Volvo says is active from four km/h and can brake effectively to avoid a collision with a pedestrian at up to 45km/h. According to Volvo the system will also detect cyclists.

The XC90 is also equipped with adaptive cruise control with stop and go function, lane keeping assistance, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert with AEB that works while reversing.

For child and baby seats you'll find two ISOFIX mounts and three top tether points across the second row – there aren't any in the third row.

More: See all Volvo XC90 price and spec info

Mazda CX-9

The CX-9 is beautiful with its giant grille, coupe profile and sharp creases. The CX-9 is beautiful with its giant grille, coupe profile and sharp creases.

That big rumble you heard mid-way through 2016 was the new generation Mazda CX-9 arriving in Australia and bulldozing the previous benchmark for everyday SUVs. Then in 2018 it received another update which brought more technology to the cabin and driving refinement.

The CX-9 is beautiful with its giant grille, coupe profile and sharp creases. Those premium looks are carried through into the stylish cabin – the GT and top-of-the-range Azami and Azami LE have cabins which are particularly plush and well crafted.

Legroom in the second row is excellent, while space in the third is impressive – tall adults will fit and stay there without complaining if the journey isn't too long.

Fold those rear seats flat and you've got a gargantuan 810-litre boot. Storage elsewhere is excellent with a tray in the second row's fold-down armrest, a large centre console storage bin up front, a deep hidey hole in front of the shifter and small buckets in the third row.

Each row has two cupholders and there are bottle holders in the doors.

The CX-9 is big, but it's an easy SUV to pilot and enjoyable to drive.

The update saw the windscreen-projected head-up display made standard across the range, along with the introduction of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

A 2.5-litre four cylinder doesn't sound like it would have the grunt to move two tonnes of Mazda but there's plenty of oomph. Sure, it's not Q7 oomph but it's enough. The same engine powers front- and all-wheel drive variants with both getting excellent, almost identical fuel economy.

The CX-9 is big, but it's an easy SUV to pilot and enjoyable to drive. The ride is comfortable and composed while handling is impressive.

A five-star ANCAP car, all CX-9 grades come with AEB which works at highway and city speeds, there’s rear cross traffic alert with reverse AEB, and also lane keeping assistance and adaptive cruise control.

For child and baby seats you'll find two ISOFIX mounts and three top tether points across the second row – there aren't any in the third row.

More: See all Mazda CX-9 price and spec info

Reckon we've left off any of the best SUVs from this list? Let us know what you think in the comments section below?

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