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Top five 7-seater SUVs
Buying guide

Top five 7-seater SUVs

CARS24 buying guide

Once upon a time Australian families drove Holden Commodores and Ford Falcons. If it was a big family maybe the sedan was traded for a wagon.

Nowadays seven-seat SUVs have emerged as the preferred family transport choice. They range from hard-core off-roaders to traditional passenger cars with a little bit of extra ride height.

Here are five of the best to consider.

ymgerman /

1. Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series

King off the road and pretty impressive on it, the LandCruiser wagon is also capable of stuffing its commodious cabin full of people and towing a big van or boat at the same time.

Here we’re focussing on the 200 Series, which first went on sale all the way back in 2007 and is only now being superseded by the 300 Series.

The ’Cruiser is a big and heavy sucker, big enough to actually fit eight people in some variants across three rows of seating. Adults can even fit back in row three if necessary because of the sliding second row seat.

It’s powered by a V8 turbo-diesel engine that has plenty of pulling power (or torque as the boffins call it) to ensure it can cope.

There was also a V8 petrol engine on offer for a while, but the less thirsty diesel really is the choice to go with. It’s also the better bet for towing.

The interior ambience of the LandCruiser varies all the way from the fleet-oriented GX to the luxurious Sahara. It isn’t only trim that changes either, as equipment levels go from the spartan to the sumptuous.

In tandem with that comes an escalation in mechanical equipment. Toward the top of the range there are even automatically disconnecting and connecting anti-sway bars that deliver better handling on the road and more wheel travel - and therefore more capability - off it.

But whatever specification you choose, you’re getting Japanese-built Toyota quality, hence the ’Cruiser holds it value exceptionally well on the used market.

Something similar: Toyota Prado. A bit smaller, a bit less space, a bit less pricey and only four cylinders. Every bit as solid.

2. Ford Everest

If the LandCruiser is too big and expensive for your tastes then the Ford Everest might fit the bill.

Like the big Toyota, it is based on what’s called a ladder frame. That really helps when you go off-road with ground clearance and things like that.

The problem is ladder frames often compromise how a vehicle drives on normal roads around town and on the highway. That’s why most cars are built around what’s called a monocoque chassis, even most SUV wagons.

The good news is the Everest is just about the best of these off-road wagons to drive on-road. Just like the Ranger ute it’s based on it’s been developed in Australia by Ford and therefore it behaves with real aplomb on everything from freeways to inner-city streets.

So it works as a family wagon, although be aware row three is best suited to kids than taller teenagers.

The Thai-built Everest comes with permanent 4WD with low-range gear ratios for serious off-road work and the choice of two diesel engines.

There’s a bit of devil in the detail here as the newer 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel engine is more refined, punchier and quieter and comes mated to a 10-speed automatic. The older 3.2-litre five-cylinder is more affordable but only gets six ratios to choose from.

You know the old saying; you pay your money you make your choice.

Something similar: Isuzu MU-X. It’s rough, tough and simple. But also very reliable.

3. Mazda CX-9

Aussies have truly embraced Mazda through the decades, coming to recognise the Japanese brand’s appealing combination of quality, great driving credentials and affordable pricing.

The current second-generation CX-9 has been around since 2016 and has proved both a commercial and critical success. Its arch-rival is the very highly rated Toyota Kluger, but this is the better vehicle.

It achieves that through a cool collection of traits; the cabin is quiet and comfortable, the equipment levels are competitive and the driving experience is topped off by a refined yet strongly responsive 2.5-litre petrol-turbo engine.

The CX-9 is big enough so that occupants of row three aren’t after-thoughts; access is well thought out and adults can fit if necessary. Yet it is also of a size that makes it entirely suitable for city driving.

Something very similar: Mazda CX-8. It comes with the choice of non-turbo petrol engine or a turbo-diesel. It’s a frag narrower than the CX-9 and not quite as spacious inside.

4. Kia Sorento

Let’s be clear, the original Sorento from the mid-2000s was an average vehicle that simply reinforced the Korean car industry’s reputation for mediocrity sold at an affordable price.

But the second generation was better and by the time the third generation Sorento was delivered in 2015 it was a thoroughly competitive seven-seat SUV.

The fourth generation Sorento that went on-sale in 2020 is a bit of a stunner, but there aren’t that many around on the used car market yet.

The third generation Sorento was a conservatively handsome wagon that came in two different mechanical offerings; front-drive petrol V6 or all-wheel drive diesel four-cylinder. An eight-speed auto was standard on all models.

It was also bigger and quieter than its predecessor, adequately fitting kids in row three, although not quite as well as the CX-9.

One hugely reassuring feature the Kia offers is seven-year warranty coverage and capped price servicing. This is transferrable to a new owner. So buy a 2018 Sorento and you’ve still got at least three years warranty left. Cool.

Something similar: Hyundai Santa Fe. Hyundai owns Kia so these two share a lot of mechanical traits.

5. Skoda Kodiaq

We’ve travelled from Japan to Korea via Thailand and Australia, now it’s time to consider a European offering.

Skoda originally arrived in Australian back in the 1960s when the Czech Republic was still part of the Communist eastern Bloc and its cars were almost antiques right off the showroom floor.

It returned in 2007, by then a member of the vast Volkswagen Group. Since then it’s been a slow but steady climb upward in recognition and sales.

What Skoda does is tap into the massive resources of its parent and combine that with its own clear focus on value for money, style and substance. Get in this car and the instant impression is this car should be more expensive than it is.

When it launched in 2017, the Kodiaq was the most mainstream model from the brand ever to land in Australia.

Like the CX-9 and Sorento, it’s more of a traditional wagon with extra ground clearance than a true off-roader.

Every model in the range is a seven-seater, 4x4 and automatic. They all drive very well using a choice of turbo-petrol and turbo-diesel engines.

Like many of these family SUVs, third row three seating is restricted to young kids, although the sliding second row can improve legroom.  That’s great example of the Kodiaq’s functionality, one of its greatest assets.

It also has plenty of unexpected extras, such as flip-out plastic protectors to stop the edges of the doors being damaged on a wall, or the umbrellas hidden in the doors.

Something similar: Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace. Almost identical, in fact.