If you’re looking for the ultimate family vehicle, it could be tough to decide between a three-row SUV or a minivan. Automakers are putting a lot of effort into three-row SUVs, with these vehicles offering more style, features, technology, space and capability than any minivan. Many of these vehicles come standard with all-wheel-drive, although a few offer front-wheel-drive to keep costs down. Since many families value safety, you’ll find plenty of safety equipment and driver assistance features in these SUVs. This is a huge and growing segment for Canadian car shoppers and this year saw a few new entries into the competition that really helped raise the bar.
Below are the five finalists for our 2020 autoTRADER.ca Awards, which were voted on by our jury of more than 20 automotive experts to advance to the final round of voting. Our experts considered every single new SUV that comes standard with three rows of seating that is available to Canadian shoppers. We evaluated each one according to 12 different criteria and voted on the ones we feel confident recommending to our friends, family, and you, the Canadian car shopper. When it comes to three-row SUVs, the judges heavily weighed factors like safety, technology, design, efficiency, family-friendly features, value and overall quality.
The winners will be announced on January 20, 2020. Here is more information on the finalists.
The Ford Explorer has always been a popular choice in this segment, and for 2020, it received a significant and stylish redesign that includes new powertrains and a ton of technology. Ford offers the Explorer with a 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, a 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinder, and a hybrid version of the vehicle, meaning there’s a version of the Explorer for any kind of buyer. Even those who like sportier rides will enjoy the performance-oriented ST model. Beyond the powertrains, Ford offers its Co-Pilot360 and Co-Pilot 360 Assist+ safety equipment that includes some impressive features like evasive steering assistance. The technology continues into the cabin where you can get a massive 10-inch infotainment screen with support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. And for those who need things just right, Ford offers the impressively adjustable multi-contour seats. The Explorer starts at $45,199 and scales to $64,599, which isn’t cheap.
The last finalist we have is the Honda Pilot, which is a familiar face in this segment. Best described as a larger CR-V, the Pilot has earned many fans for its practical approach to being a family vehicle. There are plenty of cubbies and storage areas within the cabin, and the Pilot is spacious for passengers as well. Under the hood is a 3.5-litre V6 that makes 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. All models come with all-wheel drive, but different trim levels have different transmissions. The Touring models use a nine-speed automatic, while other trim levels use a six-speed. Interestingly enough, this doesn’t make a huge impact on fuel economy, as nine-speed models earn 11 litres per 100 km, while six-speed models use 11.3 litres per 100 km. Like other vehicles in this segment, it comes with a lot of fancy technology including driver’s aids like adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance. An interesting aspect of the Pilot is that you can get an eight-passenger model with the higher trim levels, something that isn’t common, as most automakers opt to include captain’s chairs in the second row of high-end models instead of using a more practical bench setup. The Pilot starts at $41,290 and can be priced up to $55,190.
The Hyundai Palisade is almost identical to the Kia Telluride in terms of powertrain and platform, but it has a completely different aura to it, placing an even bigger focus on luxury and design. Rather than the boxy design of the Kia, the Palisade is rounded off with a few more eye-catching details like chrome accents. The cabin is full of high-end materials, as even the headliner is a soft suede-like material. You’ll find the same technology and equipment as the Telluride, except the Palisade offers a fully digital gauge cluster as well as power-adjustable third-row seats. Thanks to the headlight design, the IIHS has awarded the Palisade with a Top Safety Pick Plus rating, the highest rating available. Under the hood of the Palisade is a 3.8-litre V6 paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission. For buyers on a budget, Hyundai offers base Palisade with front-wheel-drive for $38,499. All other trim levels come with all-wheel-drive, and the most expensive model available rings in at $53,999.
The boxy Kia Telluride was a pleasant surprise this year and was celebrated for bringing luxury features and high-end appointments to a wider audience. The SUV is not only large and spacious but loaded with family-friendly technology including a PA system that broadcasts the driver’s voice to the rear of the vehicle, and a mode that plays media just to the front speakers, so that kids in the back can nap. Under the hood of the Kia Telluride is a 3.8-litre V6 engine that makes 291 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. It’s adequate at bringing the Telluride up to speed and helping it tow up to 5,000 lbs when needed, but other vehicles on this shortlist are more powerful or more fuel efficient than this Kia. The Kia has multiple drive modes including off-road settings to help those who need extra confidence when the conditions are less than ideal. The Telluride has several available safety features including rear-seat reminders, safe exit warnings, lane-keeping assistance, many blind-spot monitors and forward-collision warning. The Kia, however, doesn’t earn the highest safety rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, instead getting a Top Safety Pick rating, which is second best. Finally, the Telluride interior can rival luxury cars for premium feel and accommodations. However, all those frills come with a hefty price tag. The Telluride starts at $44,995 and tops out at $53,995.
The Subaru Ascent is the Japanese automaker’s latest attempt to stand out in the three-row SUV segment. Fortunately for Subaru, our experts have plenty of good things to say about the Ascent and many have praised the SUV for being roomy yet driving like a much smaller vehicle, meaning it’s easy to maneuver and park. Under the hood of this SUV is a turbocharged 2.4-litre flat four-cylinder engine that makes 260 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque. That motor is paired to a fuel-efficient CVT and the brand’s symmetrical AWD. That’s good for 10.4 litres per 100 km, some of the best fuel economy out of the finalists. As impressive as the powertrain is, some buyers may miss the different drive modes that are found on the other vehicles or may prefer the feeling of a more traditional automatic transmission over the CVT. The Ascent is plenty spacious for passengers, but it’s also very safe too, earning an IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus rating. Thanks to the EyeSight suite of safety equipment, this Subaru comes with adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance and forward collision warning. Base Ascent models are also fairly affordable at $36,695, and fully loaded models won’t break the bank either, ringing in at $50,995. The Subaru Ascent is very family friendly and boasts a huge amount of cupholders.