As your family grows, finding suitable cars becomes a priority. And while there are plenty of five seat SUVs (clearly it’s the most common seating configuration), the field narrows somewhat when you have to find seating for more than five people.
You’ll find plenty of seven seat SUVs, and sometimes even eight seat SUVs, but what’s the best seating setup for a family of six people?
There are plenty of people who will give you their opinions and the internet is full of forums recommending all sorts of vehicles. One person will mention a particular brand of vehicle, and then someone else will contradict that saying they’ve had a bad experience.
Others will swear by a certain size of vehicle, and will argue black and blue that it’s the only thing you should get.
It can be a little confusing, right? Well, here at SUV Authority, we’ve been doing plenty of research to find out the answers to many of your questions.
SUV vs MPV
Seeing as you’re on a website that deals exclusively with SUVs, you’d imagine we’re quite biased. And you’d be right. But we’re biased because of the advantages an SUV offers over an MPV.
Now, that’s not to say there aren’t some good MPVs out there. In fact the Kia Carnival is one of our favourites.
And if you’re not familiar with the Fiat Multipla, do yourself a favour and check it out. While it was panned for its grotesque design (regularly mentioned among the ugliest cars of all time), the Multipla was actually lauded for its seating. It was flexible and with two rows of three, it seated a family of six with ease.
However, it being an MPV it fell short on overall usability. Not for its interior, but because if you wanted to head somewhere snowy, or onto the beach, then an MPV isn’t going to do the job. Very rarely – if at all – do MPVs offer all wheel drive. And that safety factor alone is why SUVs are the logical choice.
Things to consider when choosing an SUV
Buying a car is never easy, and whittling down the choices becomes a matter of head and not heart. And when it comes to transporting your loved ones, that’s not always easy. Wants and needs become easily confused, so we’ve outlined below some of the things you may or may not have thought of when it comes time to buying for your growing (or already large) family.
Cost of ownership
When you have a large family, you have to make your dollars go as far as they can, which is why it helps to be open minded when it comes to brands.
While it may be nice to have a three pointed star on the bonnet, a Mercedes-Benz GL-Class is probably out of most people’s price range, despite being a robust vehicle.
There are plenty of cheaper, reliable choices out there, so without sounding condescending, try to leave brand loyalty out of it and, instead, do a pros and cons list to determine your best choice. It’s also worth thinking about some second hand options, because they’re a lot cheaper than buying new. Often they’ll still have plenty of warranty and are just as good as buying something new.
Servicing is also a major factor when it comes to budgeting. There’s no getting around it, cars must be serviced according to the schedule outlined in the owners manual. The last thing you need is to be stranded on the roadside when something has gone wrong, so you need to keep your SUV serviced on time. Don’t leave things to chance – follow the manufacturers guidelines because they’re there for a reason.
But the good thing is you often won’t have to visit a dealer to get this done, even if your vehicle is under warranty.
Accoding to the Federal Trade Commission’s website, a dealership cannot force you to service your car with them.
An independent mechanic, a retail chain shop, or even you yourself can do routine maintenance and repairs on your vehicle. In fact, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, which is enforced by the FTC, makes it illegal for manufacturers or dealers to claim that your warranty is void or to deny coverage under your warranty simply because someone other than the dealer did the work.
Fuel costs are also something else. Having a brawny V8 sounds great, and it is smooth and powerful, but with so many smaller engine choices available that have similar amounts of power and torque (sometimes even more), it’s worth looking at some of the V6 engines produced.
Gasoline and diesel are two very different fuels and vehicles will drive differently, so if a diesel is available in your area, it may be worth looking at. Diesels offer better fuel economy, more torque and generally last longer than petrol engines. Not everyone likes diesel, but don’t just dismiss it out of hand.
Also, the recommendations below are based on new models, and budget will be the big determining factor in whether new or second hand is what you’re after.
Let’s look at some of the other considerations for an SUV suitable for a family of six people.
Age of the family
If you have a set of quadruplets which have just been born, then you’ll need an entirely different vehicle to someone who has two kids and two older parents to cart around. And if your family is four teenagers, you’ll need something different again.
For this reason, it’s difficult to say that one particular vehicle is going to cover all bases. Do you have a dog, or two? Bringing them along will also influence which SUV you’re after. Looking at some of the other considerations below will help you to think about what SUV will be best.
Having flexible seating is definitely a benefit, especially when it comes to loading and unloading luggage or prams. It also helps when you don’t have to carry around all six people at once.
Really, the more flexible, the better. And being able to fold up the seats to transport Ikea boxes or similar is a bonus. But here’s the deal.
When looking for seating for a family of six, you don’t want to limit yourself. What we mean is you need to find a vehicle that doesn’t limit your seating options. So having a third row that’s not split-fold will create problems.
For example, have a look at the Mitsubishi Pajero’s third row. It can’t be split into two separate seats – it’s one bench. This is going to make it either a five seater or a seven seater. There’s no middle ground because the entire third row folds away.
Imagine trying to carry six people and then some luggage with that setup.
This is why split-fold rear seats are the best. And some vehicles do it better than others. Nissan’s Pathfinder, for example, has an excellent folding arrangement, and the second row folds up easily, too.
Then there’s the Land Rover Discovery which has the roomiest back row we’ve come across in a long time. But when you’re not luxuriating in all that space, you can simply drop one seat and place bags, shopping, a pram or any number of items both behind and next to the sixth seat.
Ease of entry
This is where the age of the family has a bearing. If you’re carrying oldies, you don’t want something that’s too difficult to get into. Usually, you’d put the youngest in the back row, but sometimes the law stipulates that kids can’t travel in the rear row because there are no Isofix anchor points to fit a child seat to.
So, that means someone a bit older needs to go back there, and when you’re of the age of having a hip operation, you don’t want to be getting in and out of a third row. Or if you do have to, you’ll want it to be easy.
This is where the folding up of the second row becomes crucial. If the backrest simply folds down, like in a Kia Sorento, then entry and egress is going to be difficult for anyone under 18 years of age.
However, if the backrest folds and then the seat tumbles and sits against the front seat, then so much easier for everyone.
Parking is another consideration. Do you want to be driving around in a full size SUV only to not be able to parallel park it, or not being able to squeeze into that tighter space at the shopping mall.
And do you have room at home to be able to park your SUV and still be able to get out and around it in the garage? One of the tests that everyone forgets to do when they test drive a new car is to actually take it to their house and park it inside.
The last thing you want to be doing is buying another house, or having to remodel your garage just because your SUV is too big.
So, finding a tradeoff between interior room, flexibility and overall size is worth thinking about seriously.
The best SUVs for six person families
We’ve gone through all the vehicles we’ve driven and researched here at SUV Authority and here are our top five recommendations.
- Nissan Pathfinder
- Lincoln Navigator
- Toyota LandCruiser
- Nissan Armada
- Land Rover Discovery
Each of these will serve you well, but for the price, we think you can’t go past the Nissan Pathfinder. It drives well, has enough tech, looks great and is extremely flexible with its seating. It also has enough room behind the third row when you use the rear seats, but when they’re folded flat, its luggage space is excellent.
With all wheel drive and decent safety (a big consideration), it’s our pick for families of six.