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The Most Comfortable SUVs

U.S. News & World Report
February 20, 2013
The Most Comfortable SUVs
The Most Comfortable SUVs

Think about the amount of time you’ll spend in your SUV. You go to work, shop, take your kids to their activities and go on family vacations. With so much of your life spent on the road, it’s important to find an SUV that’s comfortable enough to take you and your family through all of life’s duties.

What size SUV do you need?

The first thing you need to do is decide what type of SUV you and your family need. While most small crossover SUVs seat five people, the Dodge Journey has an optional third row, which adds two seats. Just bear in mind that in small crossover SUVs, third rows tend to cost more and can be cramped and uncomfortable for adults.

For more space, check out midsize and large SUVs, which typically seat anywhere from five to nine people and carry a lot of cargo. The Chevrolet Tahoe, a large SUV, seats up to nine while holding 16.9 cubic feet of cargo. With the second row folded and third row removed, its cargo capacity swells to 108.9 cubic feet. In comparison, the Honda CR-V, a compact crossover, holds 37.2 cubic feet with all five seats in use and maxes out at 70.9 with the second row folded.

If you want a crossover SUV that seats more people than the Honda CR-V, consider the redesigned Hyundai Santa Fe. With an optional third row and seat belts for seven, the Santa Fe has 80 cubic feet of cargo space behind the first row of seats. There’s 40.9 cubic feet of cargo room behind the second row and 13.5 cubic feet behind the third row.

Is the driver comfortable?

When shopping for an SUV, it’s important that the driver’s seat fits you. Check the controls. Can you adjust the temperature and other features without reaching too far? Check the steering wheel. Does it tilt and telescope, and can you find a comfortable driving position?

Are seats plush and adjustable? Imagine yourself after driving for a few hours. If your back starts to hurt after 30 minutes, it probably won’t feel much better after three hours on the road. Don’t forget to check your sight lines. Are there a lot of blind spots? Do you have a clear, commanding view of the road? If the SUV you choose has great visibility, you’ll feel more relaxed and confident behind the wheel.

Interior features can also aid driver comfort. Check for features like steering wheel-mounted controls, hands-free Bluetooth connectivity and conversation mirrors. The less you have to fiddle with the radio and your phone or turn around to check on the kids, the more at ease you’ll feel. Power-adjustable seats, heated and cooled front seats, a heated steering wheel and power lumbar support are also features that should make driving more comfortable. These amenities aren’t standard on all SUVs and crossovers, but it may be worth the extra money to add them.

Are the passengers comfortable?

When checking out the passenger seats, think about who is going to use them most. If you plan on routinely hauling older kids or adults, you’ll need more space. Pay attention to the SUV’s interior dimensions. Keep in mind, though, that just because an SUV looks big from the outside, it may not be particularly roomy on the inside. For instance, the Chevrolet Tahoe is a large, truck-based SUV with up to nine seats, but reviewers say that the third row is best left to children. However, test drivers think the midsize Chevrolet Traverse’s third row is comfortable for adults.   

If you have young children, bring their car seats to the dealership so you can see if they are easy to install. Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH), which are used to securely install car seats, are required by law and do a better job of holding car seats in place than seatbelts. SUVs have at least two of these. Once the kids are in their seats, see if they have enough leg space and can reach everything that they’ll need, like books and snacks. You also won’t want them kicking the back of your seat, and you won’t want to have to turn around and hand them everything they need while you’re driving. A rear seat that can move forward and back, which is available in the GMC Terrain, can help resolve these problems.

Even if your kids don’t need car seats, have them hop in the back. If they have a hard time getting in and out, consider an SUV that’s closer to the ground. For instance, the Nissan Murano has a lower step-in compared with some other crossovers, so it should be easier to get in and out of for most kids. The Jeep Grand Cherokee has a higher step-in compared with the Murano, so it may be harder for kids to get in. Finally, have your kids test out the third row. If you routinely have adults or older kids in the third row, trading up to a bigger SUV or crossover may be worth it.

Comfortable SUVs



Max. Seating Capacity

Max. Cargo Space

GMC Yukon




Buick Enclave




Toyota Highlander




Honda CR-V




Toyota Venza




Ford Edge