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Best 3-Row SUVs to Buy in 2021

Best 3 Row SUVs

Best 3 Row SUVs

Unlike minivans, these big, stylish brutes provide the practicality required by modern families with all the style and curb appeal of more emotive vehicles.

We’ve taken a deep dive into the many three-row crossovers on the market to find out who the top contenders are.

Are you looking for a vehicle to comfortably seat the whole family? Check out all our picks for the best family vehicles.

Check out all our picks for the best SUVs >>

Read about how we rank our vehicles >>

1. Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban

Chevrolet TahoeA perennial bestseller among full-size SUVs, the Tahoe (and extended-wheelbase Suburban) has long been the standard that other SUVs of this ilk aspire to.

Recently redesigned for 2021, the Tahoe has finally rectified what has been considered its most egregious fault: the old solid rear axle. That outdated technology has been ousted for a more modern independent rear suspension, which improves ride quality, cargo space, and third-row legroom.

Chevy now claims there’s 34.9 inches of legroom in the rearmost row - a huge 10-inch increase from the prior generation. The Suburban sports nearly 37 inches of legroom.

As for cargo space, buyers can expect 25 cubic feet behind the third row and up to 122 cubic feet with both rear rows folded. If you need still more room but don’t want a minivan, the Suburban will hold 145 cubic feet worth of cargo.

Chevrolet SuburbanThe Tahoe's standard equipment 355-horsepower V-8 isn’t new - far from it - but it remains a smooth-running, proven powerplant that is up to the task of hauling and towing up to 8,400 pounds. A larger 6.2-liter V-8 and a 3.0-liter turbodiesel l-6 are also available, the latter promising up to 24 mpg combined - a marked improvement over the combined 20 mpg of the 5.3-liter V-8.

Safety ratings are the only potential drawback, as the NHTSA gave the Tahoe four stars overall and three stars for rollover safety. This is a bit weak compared to some of the SUVs and crossovers on this list.

Pricing is a bit dear as well, with the cheapest models beginning right around $50,000 and stretching close to $70,000 for fully-loaded models.

Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban Pros

  • Traditional V-8 power
  • Roomy
  • Well-equipped
  • Standard active-safety features

Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban Cons

  • Pricey
  • Mediocre safety scores

Current Chevrolet Tahoe & Suburban Deals & Incentives

YearMakeModelCash Incentives (up to)Best Avail. APRLease OffersExpiration
2021ChevroletTahoe2.99%$579/month for 36 months, $7,159 due at signing9/30/2021
YearMakeModelCash Incentives (up to)Best Avail. APRLease OffersExpiration
2021ChevroletSuburban2.99%$599/month for 24 months, $9,289 due at signing9/30/2021

You may qualify for additional deals and incentives, check out this month's Chevy deals here.

2. Ford Expedition

Ford ExpeditionThe Ford Expedition is the Tahoe’s arch-nemesis, but there are numerous philosophical differences between the two, most notably its twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6. Don’t equate less cylinders with less power, though - this six makes 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque, figures that well outdo the Tahoe. All that extra grunt helps earn the Ford a massive 9,300-pound towing capacity. Our only concern is fuel economy, as the Expedition can only muster 19 mpg combined.

In standard-wheelbase form, the third row of the Expedition boasts 36 inches of Tahoe-beating legroom. Long-wheelbase Expedition Max models have an absolutely palatial 40 inches of legroom. To put that in perspective, many SUVs and crossovers don’t offer that much room in their second row.

Cargo space is equally impressive. Behind the third row, there’s room for up to 21 cubic feet of cargo; in total there's 104 cubic feet. Long-wheelbase versions up those figures to 36 and 121 cubic feet, respectively.

The NHTSA awarded the Expedition five stars out of five overall and three out of five for rollover safety. Standard active safety features include automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, and blind-spot monitors - the latter a lifesaver on something this big.

Ford Expedition Pros

  • Powerful V-6
  • Best-in-class towing
  • Third-row roominess
  • Standard active-safety features

Ford Expedition Cons

  • Pricey
  • Low estimated MPG
  • No available powertrains

Current Ford Expedition Deals & Incentives

YearMakeModelCash Incentives (up to)Best Avail. APRLease OffersExpiration
2021FordExpedition$1,000 1.90%$549/month for 36 months, $4,429 due at signing10/4/2021

You may qualify for additional deals and incentives, check out this month's Ford deals here.

3. Kia Telluride

Kia TellurideThe Tahoe and Expedition are the kings of power, space, and size, but they’re a little too dearly priced and oversized for the average consumer. We’ll now turn to the more practical choices, starting with the Kia Telluride.

If you aren’t aware, the Telluride has been a hit since day one. The main reason it has been so popular is that it seamlessly combines so many attributes typically not available in one package at this price point. Just consider the specs: 291-horse V-6. Refined and quiet ride. Handsome styling. A base price of $32,190. For about $10,000 more you get a loaded version that feels like a luxury car in every way but the badge.

The Telluride doesn’t have the biggest third row - it only offers 31 inches of legroom - but cargo space is a strong point. This is particularly true behind the third row, which has room for 21 cubic feet of cargo - the same as the Expedition. The 87 cubic feet of total cargo space should be plenty for most families.

Safety is a particular high point thanks to a Top Safety Pick designation from the IIHS and a five-star NHTSA rating. The similar Hyundai Palisade - which is mechanically identical to the Telluride but a bit more luxury-leaning - earns the coveted Top Safety Pick Plus title when equipped with its exclusive, optional headlights.

Quibbles are few, but we do wish the third row had more than 31 inches of legroom. The gas mileage could also be better - 21 mpg combined with the available all-wheel drive is certainly nothing to boast about in 2021. Our verdict? If fuel efficiency or third-row space is the deciding factor in your purchase, there are better options. Holistically, however, the Telluride towers above the competition.

Kia Telluride Pros

  • Great value
  • Ample cargo space
  • Surprisingly stylish and refined
  • Standard active-safety features

Kia Telluride Cons

  • Tight third row
  • Not the best gas mileage

Current Kia Telluride Deals & Incentives

YearMakeModelCash Incentives (up to)Best Avail. APRLease OffersExpiration
2022KiaTelluride1.90%$339/month for 36 months, $3,499 due at signing10/4/2021

You may qualify for additional deals and incentives, check out this month's Kia deals here.

4. Volkswagen Atlas

Volkswagen AtlasWe noted that the Telluride isn’t exactly a leader in third-row accommodations, but the Volkswagen Atlas certainly is. With over 33 inches of legroom in its most rearward row, the Atlas is one of the roomiest crossovers that isn’t a traditional, expensive SUV.

Interestingly, the third row only has seating for two, which is down a seat compared to many of the other crossovers discussed here. But the lack of a three-across bench may actually be a good thing, as it provides more shoulder, head, and legroom per occupant. It’s partly why the Atlas can actually seat adults in its third row - something we can’t say about most eight-passenger crossovers.

With its ample third-row area comes excellent cargo space. Behind the third row you’ll find 21 cubic feet of cargo space - the same as the Telluride. However, fold down the back two rows and cargo area expands to 97 cubic feet - 10 additional cubes over the Kia, and class-leading among all three-row crossovers. If you need more space you’ll have to step into the Tahoe or Expedition.

Other aspects of the Atlas aren’t quite as commendable, such as the bad gas mileage. The base 2.0-liter turbo-four has 235 horsepower and returns 22 mpg combined with front-wheel drive; the V-6 makes 276 horsepower and can only deliver 19 mpg combined. You know these are dismal figures when even the Tahoe and Expedition can return better gas mileage. We’re also doubtful that a 235-horsepower turbo-four is adequately powerful for an Atlas fully loaded with passengers and cargo.

VW Atlas Pros

  • Spacious third row
  • Leading cargo space
  • Excellent safety scores

VW Atlas Cons

  • Woefully inefficient
  • Underpowered four-cylinder
  • Plain

Current Volkswagen Atlas Deals & Incentives

YearMakeModelCash Incentives (up to)Best Avail. APRLease OffersExpiration
2021VolkswagenAtlas0.00%$399/month for 39 months, $3,499 due at signing10/4/2021
2021VolkswagenAtlas Cross Sport0.00%$329/month for 39 months, $3,499 due at signing10/4/2021

You may qualify for additional deals and incentives, check out this month's Volkswagen deals here.

5. Subaru Ascent

Subaru AscentSubaru, known best for its Outback wagon and the two-row Forester crossover, also dabbles in the three-row space with its largest vehicle ever, the Ascent. The Ascent intends to keep Subaru fans in the fold by offering the best attributes of its smaller vehicles in something suitable for the whole family.

With 32 inches of legroom, the Ascent’s third row strikes at the heart of a crowded class; it trumps the Kia Telluride, Honda Pilot, and Toyota Highlander, but doesn’t measure up to the VW Atlas or Chevrolet Traverse. Unlike the Atlas, the Ascent comes standard with eight-passenger seating, but most models feature second-row captain’s chairs, reducing total occupancy to seven.

Like other Subarus, all models feature standard all-wheel drive, a full host of active-safety equipment, and a boxer-style turbocharged four-cylinder engine. You can expect 260 horsepower and 22 mpg combined, though neither figure is particularly impressive.

Starting at about $33,000, the Ascent is a strong value on account of its standard all-wheel drive. Most front-drive competitors start at the same price point - almost to the dollar - but only with front-wheel drive. Adding the extra traction typically costs about $2,000 or so extra.

Subaru Ascent Pros

  • Strong value
  • Standard all-wheel drive
  • Plenty of room

Subaru Ascent Cons

  • More power would be nice
  • Not particularly exciting

Current Subaru Ascent Deals & Incentives

YearMakeModelCash Incentives (up to)Best Avail. APRLease OffersExpiration
2021SubaruAscent0.90%$279/month for 36 months, $3,179 due at signing9/30/2021

You may qualify for additional deals and incentives, check out this month's Subaru deals here.

6. Toyota Highlander

Toyota HighlanderThe Highlander is a favorite of the three-row crossover segment, and why shouldn’t it be? For decades now Toyota has been synonymous with quality, reliability, and dependability, and the Highlander does a fine job at upholding those tenets at an attractive price.

What’s more, the Highlander has a trick up its sleeve not shared with any of the other vehicles on this list: a hybrid variant. The Highlander Hybrid can return 36 mpg combined, a stellar figure any way you slice it. You’ll be very hard-pressed to find that sort of economy in any affordable family crossover, and certainly not in one that can seat up to eight passengers.

Even if you don’t opt for the hybrid, the standard 3.5-liter V-6 returns a very acceptable 24 mpg combined - at least 2 mpg better than the next-most efficient crossover on this list. The V-6 also puts out a respectable 295 horsepower and can tow up to 5,000 pounds.

Our main complaints? Well, the third row. At just 28 inches of legroom, it’s easily the most cramped of anything we’ve profiled here. Simply put, these are not seats that can accommodate the average adult, not even for local runs. The Highlander’s rearmost seats will be fine for the pick-up line at school but certainly won’t suffice for carpooling with coworkers.

Other issues concern the price and the styling. Compared to the rest of the crossovers profiled, the Highlander begins about $3,000 more than the next-priciest crossover (we’re not talking Tahoe and Expedition here, mind you). We further question the price when we consider the styling, which lacks the elegance of the Telluride or the subtlety of the Ascent and Atlas.

Toyota Highlander Pros

  • Toyota reputation
  • Hybrid powertrain
  • Fuel economy
  • 5,000-pound towing capacity

Toyota Highlander Cons

  • Pint-sized third row
  • Pricey for the class
  • Polarizing styling

Current Toyota Highlander Deals & Incentives

YearMakeModelCash Incentives (up to)Best Avail. APRLease OffersExpiration
2021ToyotaHighlander$5002.49%$299/month for 36 months, $3,999 due at signing10/4/2021
2021ToyotaHighlander Hybrid$5002.49%$309/month for 36 months, $3,999 due at signing10/4/2021

You may qualify for additional deals and incentives, check out this month's Toyota deals here.

Frequently Asked Questions

What SUV has the most seating?

The Tahoe and Suburban. They’re the only SUVs to offer nine-passenger seating thanks to an optional front bench seat on base trims. Don’t expect to find one of these models on dealer lots, however - this trim is typically relegated to fleet purchases, and even then the bench seat is a rare sight.

What is the most affordable third-row SUV?

The Volkswagen Tiguan. No, really - this compact SUV that starts at around $25,000 actually comes with a third row of seats. You’ll find far more usable space in the SUVs and crossovers profiled above, but if you want the cheapest new vehicle you can buy with three rows of seats, the Tiguan is your answer.

What is the most efficient three-row SUV?

The Toyota Highlander Hybrid by a country mile. At 36 mpg, it beats everything else in the segment. The Ford Explorer also has a hybrid variant, but it can only muster 27 mpg combined - hardly better than the base Highlander’s equally impressive 24 mpg combined.

What is the roomiest third-row SUV?

In terms of passenger room, the Ford Expedition boasts 42 inches of second-row legroom and 36 inches of third-row legroom. The award for most cargo space goes to the Chevrolet Suburban and its 145 cubic feet of total cargo space.