Bored of mumsy MPVs? It’s okay, we understand. Sometimes you want the practicality of a people mover but a little more style. You need the space, but without the “overactive loins” image.
That’s where large seven-seat SUVs like the cars below come in. You may not win the hearts of environmentalists (although many of our choices are actually impressively frugal), but you’ll always get where you’re going come rain or shine. As is the way these days, there are toys, options and space aplenty, too.
10 – Toyota Land Cruiser
Head out to the deserts of the Middle East and you’ll see more Toyota Land Cruisers than virtually any other car – and for good reason. It’s tough and reliable and while it lacks the sophistication of European rivals, few vehicles are better suited to the job of getting you to your destination without a hitch. Literally, if you’re in the desert.
Deserts are harder to come by in the British Isles and here the Land Cruiser’s unimpressive 35 mpg combined rating counts against it. With prices starting from just over £35,000, it also looks rather pricey beside the latest Korean offerings. They’re nicer inside too, faster and cheaper to run. The third row seats are also a bit cramped, but they do fold away to reveal a large boot.
9 – BMW X5
BMW decided to prioritise their typical values over rear-seat space with the X5 – that is to say, it goes and handles much better than it accommodates the sixth and seventh occupants. But as occasional child seats they do the job, and the rest of the time you’ll be enjoying one of the best-driving SUVs on sale.
It’s frugal too, with the entry level, rear-wheel-drive sDrive25d able to achieve 50.4mpg, and all of the remaining diesels able to top at least 42.2mpg. The turbocharged V8 squeezed under the bonnet of the X5 M enables a slightly barmy 0-62mph time of 4.2 seconds. Interior design and quality are up to typical BMW levels, so as long as the rear seats will only be needed once in a while, the X5 is certainly a worthy choice.
8 – Mercedes-Benz GL
Some might argue that the Mercedes GL is more like a block of flats than a car. Realistically, reviewers say it’s too big for UK roads, and although it drives well and always feels planted to the road, negotiating it around tight city streets or supermarket car parks can be a nightmare.
The size also puts paid to any thoughts of low running costs. If a £60,000 entry tag doesn’t concern you, then maximum economy of 35 mpg (with a 285 yearly VED tax bill) isn’t likely to help. What it does do well is accommodation – access to those rearmost seats isn’t great, but once ensconced they offer a lot more space than most other 4x4s on this list.
7 – Land Rover Discovery
It’s no surprise to see the Land Rover Discovery making it onto our list of the best 7-seater SUVs – it may be a little long in the tooth now, but it still achieves a remarkable wowscore of 9.2, granted for its excellent build quality, typically Land Rover off-road abilities and high levels of comfort.
Not only that, but adults can actually use the rearmost seats – a rarity in the off-road class, as you’ll see from the vehicles above. Getting to them is a little more tricky, but the utility is there – and the cabin is huge whether the seats are up or down. It’s not cheap, and it’s thirstier than many of its contemporaries, but it really is the best car out there for the job.
6 – Audi Q7
With the all-new Q7, it appears Audi has built on the strengths of the old model while improving one or two of its less desirable qualities. A car the size of this behemoth ought to have a decent rear seat row, and thankfully they are indeed fairly generous in size – even adults will find them okay for shorter journeys. The boot, meanwhile, is massive. Even with all seven seats in place there’s still 295 litres on offer – that’s more than a Volkswagen Polo – and it expands to a whopping 890 litres in five-seat mode.
The rest of the interior is excellent too. It oozes the sort of high quality and crisp, modern design that we’ve come to expect from an Audi. Thanks to an enormous weight saving of 325 kilos, the new model is set to be quicker, more efficient and nicer to drive than before, too.
5 – Hyundai Santa Fe
Hyundai’s Santa Fe receives an excellent wowscore of 7.9 out of 10. Its a handsome car, has a comfortable ride and all the reviews are impressed with the standard 2.2-litre diesel engine. It’s capable of up to 47 mpg in the right spec – i.e. with a manual transmission – but even the automatic manages 41 mpg and testers say it’s a relaxing drive.
The rear seats aren’t too roomy, in common with its Kia Sorento cousin. But as with most other 7-seaters here, younger children – those of primary school age, really – should be fine. Pricing starts at £27,995 which makes it the cheapest car on this list. Hyundai also grants you a useful five-year warranty.
4 – Range Rover Sport
A sixty-grand starting price means our fourth-place finisher is over the twice the price of the Hyundai above – but most Range Rover Sport drivers will tell you that it’s worth the outlay. Kids sitting in that third row may not agree because the seats are more afterthought than permanent fixture, but their presence endows the Sport with extra practicality if and when required.
The rest of the car is fabulous. It’s almost half a tonne lighter than the old Range Rover Sport, which has transformed the way it drives, the way it performs and the amount of fuel it uses. Amazingly, the thriftiest diesels manage mid-40s economy, yet all models are powerful and perform with verve. An SDV6 diesel gets close to becoming all the car you’ll ever need.
3 – Kia Sorento
You’d be forgiven for choosing the Kia Sorento for one reason and one reason alone: the Korean firm’s outstanding seven-year warranty. That’s hard to beat for peace-of-mind, but the Sorento has other talents too. It’s a big, understated SUV with plenty of interior space. It’s all-new for 2015, too, offering more style quality and room for all seven passengers than ever before.
carwow has driven the Sorento in previous guises on two occasions, each time taking people and their camping gear to the Le Mans 24 Hour race. It’s excelled on both occasions, helped us negotiate depressingly muddy campsites, and returned just under 40mpg despite carrying plenty of people and luggage, all while sitting at 80 mph on French autoroutes. And above all else, it’s still one of the cheapest seven-seat SUVs available.
2 – Land Rover Discovery Sport
Unless seven full adult-sized seats is an absolute must for your SUV, then our runner up makes a very good case for being a more desirable choice than our winner. The Discovery Sport’s rearmost seats might feel a little cramped for longer journeys, and the boot totals a rather modest 194 litres with a full load of passengers on board. However, it has many other talents to recommend it.
The driving experience is surprisingly engaging for a car of this type, with all of the major controls feeling responsive and solid, and the chassis’ overall balance agile yet sure-footed. If you feel so inclined, it’ll venture into the muddy stuff with as much aplomb as any other Land Rover, and although the cabin isn’t the most thrilling to look at, it’s as well built and as practical as they come.
The high-end models are quite expensive, but with prices starting around the £33,000 mark, it could be considered something of a steal for what it offers.
1 – Volvo XC90
The new-for 2015 Volvo XC90 jumps straight to the top of our seven-seat SUV wish list, because it packs pretty much all the car you’d ever need into a stylish, comfortable and safe package.
Building on the numerous strengths of the old model, 2015 versions gain more economical engines and a smoother, more refined ride. Best of all though, is that where the old model excelled for passenger accommodation, the latest does even better. The boot is huge in five-seat mode, yet even with all seven seats in place, a 450-litre boot isn’t far off the volume available in a BMW 3 Series. All of this room is packed into what is undoubtedly one of the nicest interiors in the segment.
The old XC90 was a hugely popular SUV because it was so good at what it does. The new model is even better, so if you want a seven-seater with lots of room in the very back then the XC90 is still the first you should consider.