For a long time, the popular go-to vehicle for large families was the minivan. While some parents still prefer the low-riding, sliding-door family hauler, the minivan has found some stiff competition. Midsize SUVs have given families of 5 (or more) an alternative to the minivan with no shortage of excellent models to choose from. The features we evaluated when selecting our list of top 5 SUVs for families of 5 include a comfortable 3-row seating configuration, plentiful cargo space to fit everyone's gear, and top safety ratings and tech to ensure everyone stays protected on the road.
1. 2020 Hyundai Palisade
If you're in the market for a new family hauler, you couldn't have picked a better time to upgrade. The 2020 Hyundai Palisade is an all-new model and offers virtually all the features a family of 5 could want. It provides a premium package without the premium price tag with a balance of comfort, style, and tech. Not only does the Palisade turn heads on the road with its attractive and bold exterior, but it also offers a luxurious interior with ample legroom in all 3 rows. The front seats provide well-cushioned and supportive comfort, the 2nd row can come as a bench seat or captain's chairs to fit the needs of your family, and the 2nd-row seats slide and recline to make access to the third row easier. You won't have to go with the highest trim level to get the luxurious interior. Even the mid-level trim comes with premium materials like genuine leather.
When you set out for a family adventure, the Hyundai Palisade will easily fit everyone's gear with 18 cubic feet of space behind the third row and 45 cubic feet with the third row folded flat. The power-folding rear seats offer additional convenience, and underfloor storage compartments can keep valuables out of sight on your trips. Not only is the 2020 Hyundai Palisade spacious and comfortable for a family of 5, it also scored the Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS and comes with safety tech like the Safe Exit Assist which warns passengers and prevents the rear doors from opening if an approaching vehicle is detected.
2. 2019 Mazda CX-9
You won't even miss your old minivan when you choose the 2019 Mazda CX-9 as your family's new ride. Parents will enjoy the excellent driving experience and the comfort of the front seats thanks to the optimal balance of cushioning and bolstering. Go with the top Signature trim and you'll get a cabin that's outfitted with luxurious materials like genuine leather and open-pore matte rosewood. The kids will fit comfortably fit in the second and third rows (though the third-row is not as spacious for adults). All five of you will enjoy the quiet cabin - at least when the kids finally fall asleep.
The Mazda CX-9 lags behind some competitors when it comes to interior cargo space but you'll still find enough room for gear like sports equipment, camping supplies or luggage. The CX-9 gives you 14 cubic-feet of cargo room behind the third row or 38 cubic feet with the third row folded flat. The CX-9 is a frontrunner in the 3-row SUV segment when it comes to safety. IIHS rated it a Top Safety Pick and it earned a five-star score with the NHTSA. Going with the Signature trim gets you standard safety features like rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, a 360 camera, Smart Brake Support, Smart City Brake Support, and lane-keep assist.
3. 2019 Ford Expedition
The 2019 Ford Expedition is large enough to fit your family of 5 plus a few friends or cousins. By going with the bench seats for the second row, the Expedition can seat up to 8 comfortably. If your kids have reached the teenage years and now require the space of full-grown adults, the Ford Expedition will be an ideal SUV for your family. While many midsize SUVs shortchange the 3rd-row occupants in legroom and comfort, the 2019 Ford Expedition offers comfort in all 3 rows, even on long road trips.
It's hard to beat the Ford Expedition when it comes to storage options throughout the cabin and in the cargo area. Even with all 3 rows occupied and upright, you'll still get a generous 20.9 cubic feet in the back. If you can fit all your passengers in the first and second rows and fold down the third row, you'll get a huge 63.6 cubic feet for all your road trip essentials. Loading the gear will be a no-brainer with the standard power-folding third row. In addition to passenger and cargo space, the Expedition will also give you peace of mind thanks to a five stars safety rating from the NHTSA and safety features like Blind Spot Information System, Class Trailer Tow Package, Hill Start Assist, rearview camera, and Reverse Sensing System.
4. 2019 Volkswagen Atlas
The 2019 Volkswagen Atlas is the new kid on the block of 3-row SUVs that debuted last year. This massive SUV will please your party of 5 thanks to a comfortable and practical interior, class-leading cargo space, and excellent tech. From the exterior, the Atlas makes a statement with its commanding stance. Inside the cabin, you and the family will get attractive materials like quilted cloth seats and faux wood that looks better than some competitors' natural wood. Families with several young kids will appreciate the roomy second row which can fit 3 child seats, and the third row can fit adult-sized passengers comfortably. A whopping 17 cupholders throughout the vehicle means everyone can bring a drink (or three) on board.
Just like no family members get left behind thanks to the Atlas' roomy interior, there will also be no toys, sports gear or luggage left behind thanks to the class-leading cargo space. The 56 cubic feet behind the 2nd row and 96 cubic feet with all seats folded down beat out competitors like the Honda Pilot, Dodge Durango, and the Toyota Highlander. The Atlas gets the Top Saftey Pick ratings from the IIHS and a 5-star crash safety rating from the NHTSA. Safety tech features like adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning & autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring, and lane departure warning give you extra confidence on the road.
5. 2019 Honda Pilot
A longtime favorite minivan alternative, the 2019 Honda Pilot is designed around the needs of a large family. The Pilot offers the flexibility of choosing between captain's chairs and bench seating for the second row, a spacious cabin and loads of storage space throughout the cabin and cargo area. Choosing the captain's chairs over the bench seats offers easier access to the third row and more space in the 3rd row to accommodate older kids or adults. An unobtrusive, family-friendly cabin and comfortable seats make the Pilot a great choice for driving the kids to school or taking a family road trip on the weekends.
Although it offers slightly less cargo space than the VW Atlas and the Hyundai Palisade, there is no shortage of space for your family's belongings in the 2019 Honda Pilot. The back of the Pilot has 16.5 cubic feet behind the third row and 83.9 cubic feet with the seats folded flat. The cargo area is wide and the seats fold completely flat to make loading and unloading less of a hassle. The Honda Pilot scored well in both safety tests earning an IIHS Top Safety Pick and NHTSA 5-star rating. It also gets the Honda Sensing suite of safety tech including Adaptive Cruise Control, Collision Mitigation Braking System, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist, and Road Departure Mitigation.