Until the mid-1980s, those with large families usually bought station wagons with a who-cares-about-safety rearward facing third row of seats. But then the minivan was introduced and everything changed. For the next fifteen years, troops of kids were transported here and there in these pragmatic boxes on wheels. As is often the case though, consumer taste’s changed.
Today the three-row station wagons rival the mountain gorilla on the critically endangered species list while the minivan has become more passé than bridge clubs. Now there is a new king of big family transport – the three-row crossover utility vehicle (CUV).
And the Crossover Takes Over
After a brief foray with three-row body-on-frame SUVs in the early 2000s, the vast majority of auto manufacturers have settled on unibody crossovers to handle passenger duties of six or more. Last year, more than 1.7 million of these CUVs were sold in the U.S. compared to less than 525,000 minivans.
With nearly two million annual sales up for grabs, manufacturers are constantly tweaking their products to entice customers. Over the last year alone, all-new versions of the Hyundai Santa Fe, Nissan Pathfinder and Toyota Highlander hit the market while the Kia Sorento and Dodge Durango received significant updates. To see which CUV is the best value for the money, we gathered these five crossovers along with three older models; the large Chevrolet Traverse, the best-selling Ford Explorer and the eight-passenger Honda Pilot. Which one emerged as the victor in this stacked field? Read on to find out.