Three-row SUVS provide fun alternative to minivans

2016 Honda Pilot front
There are many great options in the seven and eight passenger SUV segment, like the redesigned Honda Pilot. Photos by Benjamin Yong.

Here’s an interesting statistic for you — the sales of crossover/sport utility vehicles are on a meteoric rise, to the tune of a 22 per cent year-over-year increase at the start of 2016. In January, they represented four out of every 10 new vehicles sold in Canada.

Who can blame the buyers? Whatever the size of crossover or SUV, they have the looks and handling of a car, the go-everywhere traction of a truck and the cargo-carrying ability of a van. For families that need all the space they can get, three-row SUVs are a great alternative to a minivan, like the all-new 2016 Honda Pilot.

2016 Honda Pilot side

2016 Honda Pilot

The American-built Pilot enters its third-generation for this model year, and is virtually unrecognizable from the boxy outgoing version. All the body panels have been reshaped for a more muscular look, and the SUV gets all the modern options such as LED projector headlights with automatic high beam, 20-inch wheels and for the first time in the vehicle’s history, a panoramic moonroof.

2016 Honda Pilot power outlet

For family outings, there is almost no limit to what can be plugged in. There are five USB ports (four are high output for faster charging), an auxiliary jack for things like music devices, two headphone jacks and two 12-volt power outlets. There’s even an HDMI input and a household 115-volt, the perfect combination to hook up a video game console when paired with the available rear entertainment system complete with nine-inch screen and DVD/Blu-Ray player.

2016 Honda Pilot rear seats

About 90 millimetres have been added to the SUV’s length yielding more interior space. Up to eight passengers can be accommodated, and those sitting at the very back can gain easy entry by using a one-touch button to slide and tilt forward the second row.

2016 Honda Pilot engine

All new pilots are powered by a 3.5-litre i-VTEC V6 engine mated to either a six-speed or nine-speed automatic transmission, offered in both front and all-wheel drive. Prices start at $35,490.

More choices

Here is a short list of our other favourite three-rows from other manufacturers.

• 2017 Toyota Highlander: receiving a significant mid-model refresh including new exterior styling and the addition of an SE trim level, the Highlander seats eight and is paired with either a gasoline or hybrid V6 powertrain.

• 2016 Mazda CX-9: completely redesigned from the ground-up, the 2016 seven-passenger CX-9 goes on sale in June and is the most efficient variant yet, featuring a 35 per cent improvement in fuel economy thanks to SKYACTIV technology.

• 2016 Hyundai Santa Fe XL: the regular Santa Fe’s bigger brother with two extra seats, the XL can fit up to 2,265-litres of cargo for big hauling jobs, and tow 5,000 pounds with a standard 3.3-litre V6 engine.

• 2016 Infiniti QX80: the luxury SUV formerly known as the QX56 is one of most well equipped in its class, coming with hard-drive navigation, remote engine start, a 360-degree camera view system and room for seven or eight, depending on trim level.

Posted by Benjamin Yong

Benjamin Yong is a freelance journalist and communications professional living in Richmond, B.C. He is often found writing about cars and the auto industry, amongst other things, or driving around in his work-in-progress 1990 Mazda MX-5. Twitter: @b_yong Instagram: @popuplights