Whether in the midsize class of SUVs or the full-size range, consumers are looking for these vehicles to have three rows to offer them versatility in their seating configurations. The Baby Boomer generation only had a handful of three-row SUVs, mostly turning to minivans for extra seating, but that’s not the case for Millennials. Consumers in this generation are heading into their peak income years and desire a vehicle with more seats. The growth of this vehicle segment offers these drivers what they desire.
The sales numbers tell the SUV tale
In the full-size SUV market, ABC News reports that nearly 70% of all sales are for three-row variations. These numbers, provided by J.D. Power, also tell us that midsize three-row SUVs make up about 10% of all sales in this class. To be somewhat transparent, most full-size SUVs offer standard three-row seating while the midsize models do not.
Even so, the midsize market shows growth from 6% in 2016 to the numbers we see now. This is due to more models offering three rows of seats along with some blurring of the line between segments.
New names enter the three-row SUV market
Both Jeep and Land Rover previously did not offer a three-row SUV. This fact makes it somewhat stunning that Jeep had as much growth as it has over the past decade. Today, we see the longer version of the Grand Cherokee called the L model, along with the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer giving us three Jeeps from which to choose.
Land Rover heads in a similar direction to the long version of the Grand Cherokee L to offer a longer wheelbase for the Range Rover. The increased growth in this segment allows this brand to predict up to 30% of all sales for the Range Rover to be three-row models.
Kia wins our hearts and several awards with three rows
The Kia Telluride is still relatively new to the market, but it continues to dominate the midsize three-row SUV market. This SUV receives some upgrades for 2023, making it even more dominant than before. This Kia has won industry awards, and buyers that look to the Telluride are typically new to Kia. If the first Kia bought for a family is this SUV, owners know they’re buying an award-winning vehicle.
Could a new van take some sales from the three-row SUV market?
When the Volkswagen ID.Buzz arrives on US soil; it will have three rows of seats. The German brand isn’t bothering to send the smaller, two-row version to our shores. Why is that? They also see the impressive growth in this market. Could this electric van take some sales from the three-row SUV market? The ID.Buzz has the iconic look of the venerable Microbus and comes into the market at a time when EVs are growing in popularity. These factors signal a possibility that this new van might grab some of the market share from this SUV category.
What are the best three-row SUVs you can buy now?
If you’re ready to join the masses by turning to three rows of seating in the vehicle you drive, knowing the top models can help. Here are Consumer Reports’ top three-row SUVs in each category:
- Chevrolet Traverse – Best Midsize Three-Row SUV – Score 83
- Audi Q7 – Best Luxury midsize Three-Row SUV – Score 80
- Ford Expedition – Best Large Three-Row SUV – Score 73
- BMW X7 – Best Luxury Large Three-Row SUV – Score 81
Variety requires testing these SUVs
There’s a huge variation among the three-row SUVs in the market. Midsize models are certainly smaller, but some cut into the cargo area to give you room for adults in the rearmost row. Many automakers don’t expect adults to ever venture into the third row, which is why they leave out the nicer features like leather upholstery when assembling this rear area. If you’re looking for an SUV with room for seven or eight people, you’ll want to test drive any model you consider and spend a little time in the rear seat to see if it meets your needs.
What’s next for the SUVs with three rows?
Most likely, the next wave of models we see will be EV variants of the current vehicles offered. We don’t see any electric vehicles in the three-row SUV classes yet, but that should change with automakers building more EVs and better batteries.
Next, check out the 2023 Toyota Highlander XSE SUV, or watch the worst 2019 three-row SUVs in the video below:
This article was updated on 8/1/2022.