Buying Guides

5 Most Affordable 3-Row SUVs

More passenger and cargo space, less sticker shock

Jane Ulitskaya, Digital Content Specialist

Whether you're chauffeuring the kids to soccer practice, taking a family road trip, or picking up friends from the airport, a 3-row SUV just makes life easier. 3-row SUVs are a stylish alternative to the traditional family hauler (otherwise known as a minivan) and many offer a car-like driving experience despite their size. While larger family vehicles typically come with equally hefty price tags, there are a handful of SUVs on the market that buck the trend. We compiled 5 of the cheapest 2021 SUVs that offer seating for 7 or 8 passengers, loads of family-friendly features, and a starting price under $35,000.

2021 Volkswagen Tiguan


for Urban drivers

  • PROS: Generous cargo space, flexible seating configurations, long list of standard features, one of the only compact SUVs to offer 3rd row seating.
  • CONS: Underpowered engine, below average fuel economy.

Unique to the compact SUV segment, the Volkswagen Tiguan is offered with 2 or 3 rows of seats so families can choose the most practical configuration for their needs. There's also good news for families on a budget since the 3-row configuration is standard on all front-wheel-drive models with no upcharge to seat more passengers. For easier access to the 3rd row, the 2nd-row bench seat can recline, slide 7 inches, and split 40/20/50. The 3rd row fits two passengers and offers a 50/50 split. The Volkswagen Tiguan is powered by a 184-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Although the Tiguan's engine is sufficient for most daily driving, it can feel underpowered when accelerating. Even the most affordable S trim ($25,245 MSRP) comes with standard Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a Wi-Fi hot spot.

2021 Kia Sorento

  • PROS: Segment leading fuel economy, athletic styling, capable engine options.
  • CONS: No 8-passenger option, tight 3rd row, ride isn't as smooth as the Kia Telluride

Redesigned for 2021, the Kia Sorento is not only more stylish but also more family-friendly thanks to improved passenger and cargo space. With a base MSRP of $29,390, the new Sorento slots in under the Kia Telluride as a smaller 3-row option. This family SUV can seat 6 or 7 passengers with either a 2nd-row bench seat or optional captain's chairs. The Sorento's base engine is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that produces 191-horsepower, with an option to upgrade to a 281-horsepower turbocharged version or a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder Turbo Hybrid for an impressive combined fuel economy of 37 MPG. Seating for the base LX trim fits 7 passengers in a 60/40 split-folding 2nd-row bench seat, and a reclining 3rd row with a 50/50 split. Standard tech includes an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and Kia's suite of advanced safety features.

2021 Chevrolet Traverse


for Big families

  • PROS: Ample passenger space, fuel efficient, class-leading cargo space.
  • CONS: Interior is less stylish than competitors, no AWD in base trim, some advanced safety features only offered in top trims.

At just $29,800 starting MSRP, the 2021 Chevy Traverse goes big when it comes to passenger and cargo space. The midsize SUV offers seating for 7 or 8 passengers with standard bench seats for the 2nd row or captain's chairs available in higher trims. While many 3-row SUVs shortchange the rear passengers, the Traverse provides generous legroom and headroom in all 3 rows. The Traverse also challenges some full-size SUVs with its cargo space, offering 23 cubic-feet behind the third row. Under the hood is a 310-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 engine that is powerful enough to haul the entire family with no compromises to acceleration. Although the base Traverse offers standard features like Chevy's Teen Driver safety system, a rearview camera, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto, shoppers looking for available AWD will have to move up a trim level.

2021 Kia Telluride


for Road-tripping on a budget

  • PROS: Premium interior, great space for large families, smooth and composed ride.
  • CONS: Only one engine option.

Buying the 2021 Kia Telluride means getting a near-premium SUV at a bargain price of $31,990 base MSRP. The Telluride can fit up to 8 passengers comfortably with the standard bench seats, or 7 with the optional captain's chairs. Passengers in all 3 rows will be able to stretch out and enjoy amenities that are typically reserved for luxury SUVs. Even the base model awards occupants with features like leatherette trim, One-Touch Sliding & Folding 2nd-Row Seats, Dual-Level Cargo Floor, standard Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay. While passengers enjoy the upscale cabin, the driver will appreciate the Telluride's smooth and composed ride and its potent 3.8-liter V6 engine the produces 291 horsepower.

2021 Honda Pilot

  • PROS: Smooth and comfortable ride, roomy seats, cavernous cargo space.
  • CONS: Boring exterior styling, lackluster infotainment.

One of the most popular family haulers on the market is also one of the least expensive with a starting price of $32,350. If you can get past the Honda Pilot's minivan resemblance, this midsize SUV offers a composed ride and no reason for passengers to complain thanks to generous space in all 3 rows. In its base configuration, the Pilot seats 8 passengers with 2nd-row bench seats and 7 with the available captain's chairs. In addition to accomodating passengers, the Pilot also leaves room for all their gear thanks to a massive 16.5 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row and 83.9 cubic feet with the seats folded. The Pilot won't set any speed records, but it is very easy to drive for a large SUV. Its 3.5-liter V6 engine makes 280 horsepower to shuttle the entire crew with minimal effort.

Must-have features in an affordable 3-row SUV

  • Under $35,000 starting MSRP
  • Flexible seating configuration
  • Space for the entire family and their gear
  • Potent engine options

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