Best mid-sized SUV: Nissan X-Trail
Also consider: Kia Sportage
Mid-size SUVs have a flavour to suit almost every taste, but it’s the Nissan X-Trail ($36,750) that currently stands tall.
The latest generation Nissan X-Trail is among the most spacious of the breed and there are seven-seat options ($39,790). The additional third row of seats won’t suit adults, but it’s fine for little ones.
On the road, the Nissan X-Trail is also a polished performer, whether zipping around town or transporting the family on a road trip holiday. Light steering is accurate while the compliant suspension soaks up bumps nicely. The Nissan X-Trail’s ageing 2.5-litre engine is arguably its weakest link, but the smarts of the standard CVT transmission helps maximise what’s on offer. If the budget stretches - and you’re prepared to wait a few months - then the Nissan X-Trail’s E-Power hybrid system brings some EV driving manners while using less fuel.
An excellent alternative is the Kia Sportage ($32,795), which comes with the choice of a four-cylinder driving the front wheels (it’s a tad underpowered), a turbo driving all four wheels or an excellent (and frugal) diesel all-wheel drive that is terrific for road trips.
Best seven-seat family car: Toyota Kluger
Also consider: Mazda CX-8
Large SUVs are the perfect workhorses for three- and four-child families.
Toyota’s Kluger ($55,120) provides sprawling middle row space and an easily accessible third row for the family. What the Toyota Kluger lacks in cabin elegance it makes up for with space, while ensuring the basics are done well.
A recently arrived four-cylinder turbo promises V6-like performance from the Toyota Kluger while using less fuel. But it’s the hybrid system that makes most sense in the Toyota Kluger.
If you need an extra seat - for up to eight - then consider the Hyundai Palisade, which also has a beautifully appointed cabin.
But it’s the Mazda CX-8 ($42,060) that gets our runner-up tick. The Mazda CX-8’s 2.5-litre engine isn’t particularly powerful, but sharp pricing cements its place as a large SUV to consider.