The demand for supersized vehicles is growing exponentially, but not everyone needs a gas-guzzling land barge that may or may not fit into the garage. A small 3-row SUV is a practical choice for families who need extra seating but still want a vehicle that's easy to navigate and park in tight spaces. We compiled the smallest family haulers with 3rd-row seating from the compact and midsize SUV segments. Among the options are affordable 3-row SUVs, and small 3-row luxury SUVs.
1. 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan
One of the only compact SUVs to offer 3 rows of seats is the 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan. This small, yet family-friendly SUV comes in a standard 5-seater configuration or as a 7-seater for those who need to shuttle more passengers around. The 2nd-row bench seats can recline, slide 7 inches, and split 40/20/50 making access to the 3rd row easier. While the first 2 rows are spacious enough for adults, the 3rd row is best left for smaller kids. Legroom in the 2nd row comes in at 36.5 inches while 3rd-row passengers get just 27.9 inches.
Powered by a 184-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, the Tiguan will accommodate most daily driving, but it can feel underpowered when accelerating. For large families on a tight budget, this small 3-row SUV provides an excellent value.
Starting MSRP: $25,245
2. 2021 Kia Sorento
Landing somewhere between the compact and midsize segments, the Kia Sorento offers growing families the perfect compromise. Completely redesigned for 2021, the Sorento gets a premium interior, enhanced driving experience, and a base price under $30,000. This small 3-row SUV seats either 6 or 7 passengers depending if you go with the standard second-row bench seats or opt for the captain's chairs. The standard configuration has a 60/40 split-folding 2nd-row bench seat and a reclining 3rd row with a 50/50 split. The Sorento beats the Volkswagen Tiguan when it comes to passenger space. 2nd-row passengers get 41.7 inches of legroom and 3rd-row passengers get 29.6 inches.
The 2021 Sorento lineup offers a choice of 4 new engine options. The base engine is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder which makes 191 horsepower and 182 lb.-ft. of torque and is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. Available is a 2.5-liter turbo mated to an 8-speed wet dual-clutch automatic transmission that increases the horsepower to 281 and torque to 311 lb.-ft. This powertrain gives the Sorento a more responsive driving experience.
Starting MSRP: $29,390
3. 2021 GMC Acadia
The 2021 GMC Acadia comes in a 2-row or 3-row configuration. This small SUV is versatile for families, providing comfortable and supportive seating for 5, 6, or 7 depending on the model. After a redesign last year, the Acadia sports bolder styling, user-friendly infotainment, and a new, off-road-ready AT4 model for adventurous families. The 2nd row comes with either a standard bench seat that seats 7 or optional captain's chairs that reduce passenger capacity to 6. 2nd-row captain's chairs come standard on all but the base model. The 2nd row offers 39.7 inches of legroom and has a Smart Slide feature that provides easier access to the 3rd row. The 3rd row has 31.1 inches of legroom and the 50/50 split seats fold flat to add cargo storage.
The 2021 Acadia is available with 3 engine options. The base engine is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that makes 193 horsepower, and while it's competent for everyday commuting, upgrading to one of the more potent engines provides better acceleration. The 3.6-liter V6 increases the horsepower to 310 horsepower, and a new turbo 2.0-liter engine with 230 horsepower is available on the top-tier SLT and Denali trims.
Starting MSRP: $30,995
4. 2021 Volvo XC90
What makes the Volvo XC90 one of our favorite luxury 3-row SUVs? It offers refined styling, high-quality cabin materials, a long list of safety features, and unmatched passenger comfort. The XC90 can seat 6 or 7 passengers inside the stylish cabin. Clad in premium materials like synthetic or genuine leather, the 2nd row offers an airy 37 inches of legroom and no shortage of headroom. The 3rd row is best left for kids or young adults with 31.9 inches of legroom. The beauty of the seating configuration is in its versatility. The 3rd row offers a 50/50 split to accommodate passengers and cargo.
If you're convinced the XC90 is the ideal fit for your family, the next step is deciding which powertrain to go with. You'll get your pick of 3 engines which include the base 2.0-liter 250-horsepower turbocharged T5 engine, the 316-horsepower T6, and the 400-horsepower plug-in hybrid which comes in the XC90 T8. For confident acceleration on the highway, and overall driving pleasure, we'd opt for the T6 or the T8.
Starting MSRP: $49,000
5. 2021 Hyundai Palisade
New to the midsize 3-row SUV circuit, the 2021 Hyundai Palisade will make you want to pack up the family and take an epic road trip. The interior is beautifully appointed with premium materials like leather and faux wood that rival the cabins of luxury SUVs. The standard bench seats or optional captain's chairs for the 2nd row offer seating for 7 or 8. Large, cushioned seats greet 2nd-row passengers who will enjoy 42.4 inches of legroom. While the 3rd-row seats don't match the 2nd row for comfort, they will accommodate youngsters or extra passengers in a pinch with 31.4 inches of legroom.
One engine is available for the 2021 Hyundai Palisade, and thankfully it's a capable one. The smooth and potent 3.5-liter V6 produces 291 horses and gets a faster 0-60 time than midsize competitors like the Dodge Durango and Volkswagen Atlas. Along with the peppy engine, the Palisade offers a comfortable ride and responsive steering.
Starting MSRP: $32,525
6. 2021 Subaru Ascent
Even though it's the largest Subie, the 3-row Subaru Ascent is small enough to satisfy the needs of urban-dwelling families. With up to 9 seating configurations, the Ascent's 2nd and 3rd rows offer a 60/40 split flat-folding feature to customize passenger and cargo space. With standard bench seats, the Ascent offers seating for 8 passengers and optional 2nd-row captain's chairs available on higher trims seat 7. 2nd-row passengers get 38.6 inches of legroom, while the 3rd row offers 31.7 inches.
Despite being the largest SUV in Subaru's lineup, the Ascent is surprisingly the best driving one. Under the hood is an eager 2.4-liter turbocharged engine that makes 260 horsepower. A comfortable, yet firm ride, precise steering, and responsive acceleration give the driver a feeling of confidence behind the wheel. Subaru is known for offering standard AWD in its SUVs, and the Ascent is no exception. Every trim level comes standard with Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive for taking on any driving conditions.
Starting MSRP: $32,295
7. 2021 Kia Telluride
The 2021 Kia Telluride balances premium styling, generous passenger space, and mild off-road prowess to give families everything they're looking for (and more). The Telluride can fit up to 8 passengers comfortably with the standard bench seats, or 7 with the optional captain's chairs. The standard one-touch sliding and folding 2nd-row seats make climbing into the spacious 3rd row a no-brainer. 2nd-row passengers will be able to stretch out with 42.4 inches of legroom, while 3rd-row passengers get 31.4 inches.
Just like its cabin, the Telluride's driving experience doesn't force families to make any sacrifices. Riding on the same platform as its sister vehicle, the Hyundai Palisade, the Telluride offers a smooth and composed ride. A potent 3.8-liter V6 engine produces 291 horsepower which is enough to bring the Telluride from 0-60 in a respectable time of just over 7 seconds.
Starting MSRP: $31,990