For those who require a vehicle with seating for 7 or 8 passengers, the traditional choices have been limited to mini-vans and large truck based SUV’s. With minivans being largely out of style, and consumers looking for respectable gas mileage, manufacturers have stepped up with offerings in the mid-size SUV category that are not only practical, but downright appealing.
The top five list for the 2012 7 passenger category includes three small to large-midsize SUVs and two minivans. The vehicles in this list offer trims and price points from frugal to somewhat extravagant, and each one offers extensive customization.
Looking for the most recent rankings? Check out the top 5 of 2013.
2012 Acura MDX
U.S. News & World Report felt this sport utility vehicle deserved a ranking of third out of the 20 best luxury midsize SUVs, as well as awarding it 2012’s Best Luxury Midsize SUV for Families. It has been referred to by reviewers as an exemplary combination of sporty performance, interior comfort and exceptional value. It promises 16 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway which is mediocre at best. At a suggested retail price of $43,280 this is one of the best performing and most comfortable SUVs and it’s also one of the least-expensive in its category.
The 2012 MDX has strong acceleration and a roomy cabin, making it an outstanding crossover vehicle. With three rows of seating, the MDX features a state of the art 3.7 liter, 300 hp VTEC V6 engine. It has a 6 speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. It can do 0 to 60 in less than seven seconds.
The interior is stylish and comes with many luxury features. The seating is leather and heated with a three zone climate control system. It comes standard with power tailgate, Bluetooth, steering wheel phone and audio controls and XM satellite radio. The safety features get a high rating due to a number of accident avoidance features. There are front, side and curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction control and an add-on package for cruise control and blind spot warning.
2012 Buick Enclave
A 3-row midsize crossover SUV, the Enclave is available in four trims: Base, Convenience, Leather and Premium. Front wheel drive comes standard, but AWD is optional for all trims. In its review, U.S. News & World Report ranked it number one out of 22 affordable midsize SUVs, and gave it the 2012 Best 3 Row Midsize SUVs for Families award. Reviewers have given the Enclave high ratings for its quiet, refined interior, comfortable ride and smooth handling. It offers great value at an MSRP of $36,500-$45,765. However, this is significantly pricier than some of the more affordable midsized SUVs such as the Chevrolet Traverse.
This crossover has a 3.6 liter V6 and a 6 speed automatic transmission which maxes out at 288 hp. This is plenty to haul 8 people and their cargo, but don’t expect the Enclave to be overly fun to drive. Test drivers say that the acceleration isn’t particularly powerful and the handling is much less agile than that of its competitors. The standard FWD promises a respectable 17 mpg city and 24 on the highway. All wheel drive delivers 16 and 22 mpg in the city and on the highway, respectively. The Enclave is a capable family vehicle as it has lots of cargo space and is so spacious for passengers that the third row is described as “adult-sized”. Key specifications like cargo capacity, suspension and colors vary depending on the selected trim. Overall, it offers luxury-quality looks and features at a less-than-luxury price.
If you’re interested in getting a stylish and comfortable luxury SUV at a reasonable price, Buick’s 2012 Enclave should definitely be near the top of the list.
2012 Toyota Sienna
For those looking for the best minivan, this one comes highly recommended, ranking first out of the 7 best, as per U.S. News & World Report. At an affordable price of $25,060 (up to $40,570 for upscale trims), it has tons of available features and is the only minivan with available AWD. Even its closest competitors are edged out by its recent redesign that includes plenty of cargo space, an attractive exterior, a comfortable interior and a number of innovative features such as second row lounge chairs and a split screen DVD player. With five trims to choose from (base, LE, SE, XLE and Limited), it can be customized to fit any family from a basic point A to point B hauler for a cost-conscious family to a luxurious “cruise ship on land” for those who want (and can afford) it all. The LE and Base trims have 4 cylinder engines and an optional V6 while the upper trims come standard with the V6.
The Sienna has an automatic transmission and depending on the chosen trim, can give up to an excellent fuel economy of 19 mpg city and 24 mpg highway. Optional features include of luggage racks, cruise control and a remote engine start. Also depending on the trim, the exterior will have a tire pressure monitoring system and a power tilt sunroof. Some of the models have climate control, dual zone air conditioning, CD changers and wireless cell hookup. The higher end models provide a navigation system, hands free communication systems along with memory and powered passenger seats.
The size of the market for minivans has decreased significantly in recent years and only the best models are left standing. The Sienna, Odyssey and Caravan are all high quality vehicles that server their owners well. However, if you are looking to buy the best there is, the Sienna is a comfortable, functional, something-for-everyone family vehicle that almost every reviewer agrees is the best valued minivan available today.
2012 Chevrolet Traverse
This affordable midsize SUV was not engineered for sporty performance or handling, but it has stylish design, a comfortable and spacious interior, best-in-class cargo space and solid car-like handling given its size. Unlike many cars with 3 rows, all the seats in the 3rd row are adult-sized. There are four trims to choose from (LS, 1LT, 2LT and LTZ). The base model has front and rear climate control and satellite radio. Additional features are available on the 2LT and LTZ trims. Chevrolet also offers a navigation system with rear view camera, a power lift gate and a passenger entertainment system. Reviewers cite the existence of some low-quality interior materials, lack of some features that are offered standard in other vehicles and below average power and acceleration as being the downsides of the Traverse. That said, it’s performance and interior should be adequate for most buyers. The suggested price for the traverse (depending on trim level) ranges from $29,660 to $41,035.
Its cargo capacity is outstanding at 24.4 cubic feet when all three rows of seating are in use. With the back two rows folded you can utilize up to 116.4 cubic feet of space. The Traverse trims have a V6 3.6L engine and an automatic transmission. The gas mileage is pretty good at 17/24 mpg city/highway for the FWD and 16/23 mpg city/highway for the AWD.
If you need plenty of space for family and cargo, decent fuel economy and good handling for an 8 passenger SUV at an affordable price, the Traverse is an excellent solution.
2012 Honda Odyssey
U.S. News & World Report ranked this minivan 2nd out of the top 7 and awarded it 2012 Best Minivan for Families. The Odyssey seats up to 8 people, comes with a V6 engine and FWD and is available in 4 trims (LX, EX, EX-L and Touring). It has a solid and longstanding reputation for performance, safety, comfort, reliability and high resale value. Reviewers praised it for its roomy and comfortable interior, long list of features (standard and available), amazing crash test scores and great performance given its sporty handling and above average engine power. It has a 16.2 inch rear entertainment screen that can play movies and video games simultaneously to keep the children occupied on those long trips. All the trims except the base LX have the unique ability to expand the second row to accommodate up to 3 car seats or to create more space in an already comfortable environment.
The Odyssey has the capacity to carry a considerable load. With all the seats up, there is 38.4 cubic feet of cargo space. It boasts a 3.5 liter V6 with 248 hp. The LX, EX and EX-L trims have a five speed transmission. The Touring model is a 6 speed. It is one of the most fuel efficient 7+ passenger vehicles with 18/27 mpg city/highway and is beaten only by the Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Its MSRP starts at $28,375 and goes up to $43,825 depending on the trim level.
While it is somewhat more expensive than other vans available, most reviewers say it is worth the extra money. The Odyssey is a highly-functional, reliable and family-friendly vehicle that is idea for long road trips, dropping the kids off at school and everything in between.