DAN EDMUNDS: Midsize three row SUVs provide lots of utility at a reasonable price-- usually between $30,000 and $50,000, if you don't go nuts with options. They're perfect for a growing family and a stylish alternative to the minivan, which doesn't offer all wheel drive in most cases. You can expect lots of advanced safety features, along with capable acceleration. JONATHAN ELFALAN: The KIA Telluride is our number one ranked midsize three row SUV, recently beating out our previous favorite, the Honda Pilot. KURT NIEBUHR: Now we have the new Hyundai Palisade and the all new Ford Explorer. We wanted to include a Honda Pilot in this comparison test, but Honda declined. JONATHAN ELFALAN: We put these SUVs through our rigorous and standardized testing and evaluation process to find out which of these three you'd have at the top of your shopping list. DAN EDMUNDS: But before we get started, remember to visit edmonds.com next time you're ready to research a new car, truck, or SUV. And for more videos like this one, click Subscribe. JONATHAN ELFALAN: One of the most important aspects of any midsize three row SUV worth it's sheet metal is interior space. And we've crawled through all three of these cabins pretty extensively. What did you guys think? KURT NIEBUHR: I thought, when we're talking about the front rows on these things, any size driver is going to be able to sit in them. There's plenty of leg room, headroom, shoulder room. That's not the issue. It's when you get into the second row. That's when things-- DAN EDMUNDS: Yeah there are definitely some differences back there. All of them have slide and recline middle row seats. It's interesting that the Ford comes standard in most cases with captain's chairs and a bench is optional, whereas on the Hyundai KIA, it's the other way around. But with a seat all the way back-- I'm 6' 2, so I notice it more-- there's just kind of like a little less leg room in the Explorer. I felt like my knees are a little closer to the front seat back. And I can sit behind myself, technically, if I set the driver's seat to my liking. But in the other two, I just have lots of room and the seats have better cushioning, too. JONATHAN ELFALAN: It's probably a good time to mention car seats. So I tried installing car seats in all three of the cars. As far as the seat anchors, I found that the Ford had anchors that are slightly more visible, which made it easier to find and click in, whereas with the Telluride and the Palisade, the anchors were a bit more recessed. But when it came to installing the seat base, all three were relatively easy. But having a larger, rear facing car seat, I found that there were significantly more space in the Telluride and Palisade than there was in the Explorer, where I could barely fit a hand in between the driver's seat and the car seat when it suggested for myself. I'm about 5' 9, so it wasn't an issue. But I think drivers that are 6 foot and taller might have an issue with that. KURT NIEBUHR: Speaking of size issues, these are three row SUVs, but that extra row is not really meant for someone like you. But it was still kind of eye opening to get in the back of these. I'm about 6 feet tall, so I'm kind of at the limit as to what you can reasonably expect a vehicle this size to accommodate. But here we also saw two of the vehicles have enough room for people like me. JONATHAN ELFALAN: Third row seats are usually meant for children. But I feel like the Telluride and the Palisade did an exceptionally good job in making it actually pretty comfortable for adults. Now, in terms of access to the third row-- again, the Telluride and Palisade have similar ways of getting back there. There's a release button you press. And they actually have two-- there's one on the shoulder, and one on the bottom, which makes it easier for kids to access. And when you push that button, the seat slides forward and you can just climb in. DAN EDMUNDS: One thing I noticed about the Ford is if somebody wanted to get in the third row, but it was folded down flat, that you couldn't do it from the door. You'd have to go around to the hatch, open the hatch, and use the buttons there to power the third row up and then go around and get in. JONATHAN ELFALAN: With the KIA having manual fold seats, and the Palisade having power fold seats, it didn't matter. You could put the third row seat up from either the rear passenger door or the trunk. KURT NIEBUHR: Now, once we actually sat in those back m it was also more comfortable, I felt, in the Hyundai and the KIA. There was just that much more room, not only for our bodies, but it was a better place to sit. The Hyundai and the KIA-- both had a cup holder, they had USB power jacks back there. And the Ford, on the left hand side, had an armrest. But your side-- JONATHAN ELFALAN: That's right. It was really strange, Ford having some sort of asymmetrical arrangement. I went to go put my arm on the armrest and found it sitting in a bin instead, which was very uncomfortable. KURT NIEBUHR: Speaking of bins, that kind of leads us back up to the front row. And each of these vehicles has a different way of handling small items storage. DAN EDMUNDS: Yeah, the last car I was in was the Explorer and I really liked the way they've used the space there. It's got a rotary shifter. I think all three of these handle the shifter differently and the Ford is in a nice rotary knob. It's really easy to figure out. But what it means is doesn't take up much space. So there's room for a nice big bin in front of it that you can close, and that's where the USB port is. There's a couple of cup holders alongside the shifter and a little slot where you can stand up your phone, so you can still use the cup holders you don't have to put your phone in a cup holder, which is nice. Yeah and there's a little place where you can lean a phone up against a wireless charging pad right behind that. And then there's the center console, which isn't too huge. But since you've got the one in the front, that's not bad. And then the door pockets are big and the glove box is big. And even the rear seat has big door pockets. The center console in the Ford Explorer is non-existent, it's more of a tray on the floor. They say that so you can hop into the back row between the captain's chairs. OK, but it is just a tray on the floor. But still, it's a pretty good setup. JONATHAN ELFALAN: I found that the Palisade also made good use of that storage space up front. It also has a shift by wire, gear selector up front. So you don't have this mechanical mechanism taking up a lot of space. DAN EDMUNDS: Push buttons, though. JONATHAN ELFALAN: Push buttons-- yeah I know. I mean we can argue that point. I think some people might like it, some people not. But I think the fact is, it saves space up front. KURT NIEBUHR: As big as that space is, I think within a month or two, that's going to turn into like a junk drawer in somebody's house. I think you're going to throw hair clips in there, like cell phone cable, sunglasses, car keys are going to get lost because it's got a little charging pad slot that actually disappears underneath the shifter. And I didn't run into a time when I couldn't find my car keys. And they'd actually slid inside there. And I had to go fishing around for it. But I think normal life is just going to pile a bunch of stuff inside that bin. Yeah, the KIA does have a more old school shifter. I kind of like that better. It has less space, less actual volume. But I think the KIA uses it better. I think you've got cup holders that hold cups well. You've got a place to put your phone. You've got not as much space, but I think it just utilizes the space and it has better. And if you open up the center console bin, you can put a roll of paper towels in there vertically. I don't know why you would ever want to do that, but-- JONATHAN ELFALAN: You know you can. KURT NIEBUHR: Yes. JONATHAN ELFALAN: It's just kind of cool. KURT NIEBUHR: Exactly. JONATHAN ELFALAN: I know it doesn't have quite as much space as the other two, but I didn't find myself wanting for extra space. So even though I didn't have as much space, like you said, I think it makes good use of the space it does have. And I also think it looks kind of the nicest. DAN EDMUNDS: Yeah, sure. KURT NIEBUHR: I think as long as you're still sitting in the front seats of these vehicles, we can talk about climate control because each of these SUVs handles it in their own way. The KIA has got three vents across the center, tons of airflow. I was always comfortable. The Hyundai Palisade has two. And the Explorer also has two. DAN EDMUNDS: Yeah, but the Explorer is a little different because they've got that screen in the middle and the vents are off to the side. And so that it doesn't really have the airflow down the middle of the car. It's like right on your hand. So I didn't really like that so much. But the other thing that was almost a little more annoying was I just never could quite be comfortable without always fussing with the temperature. It's not really very good at just picking a temperature and setting it and forgetting. JONATHAN ELFALAN: One thing that I did like about the Explorer was how effective the seat ventilation and heat were. I mean, noticeably better than both the KIA and the Hyundai. I think that's maybe enough to compensate for its lack of climate control. DAN EDMUNDS: But this is a great way to talk about an SUVs interior. But they're about carrying cargo and doing some work. So we should talk about utility. All three of these, when you have the rear seats folded down and the middle is in use, they all have about the same amount of space. But things start to get different when you put up the third row to put people in it. JONATHAN ELFALAN: Yeah we actually tried loading all three of these with carry on luggage. And what we found is that we could fit five regulation size carry on luggages in the back of both the Telluride and the Palisade and just hit the hatch button and have the hatch close all by itself. DAN EDMUNDS: Five is good. You could go pick somebody up from the airport and have the kids along. JONATHAN ELFALAN: Right. When it came to the Explorer, and we did the same sort of method with having an automated hatch close on its own, we can only fit three. Now we were able to fit four kind of laying down and squishing it a little bit. But depends on how much you care about your luggage. If you're cool with that, then four will fit in the back of the Explorer. KURT NIEBUHR: All three of these also have their own way of folding that third row. The Hyundai Palisade and the Ford Explorer, they're power, the KIA they're manual. I actually prefer a manual folding seat. It's quick and easy. I'm tall enough, and my arms are long enough where I can just reach in and grab the strap and then the seat folds flat. But something to keep in mind is that if the weather isn't that great outside, if you don't live in sunny Southern California, to reach in and grab that handle to raise the seats, you're going to lean over a muddy bumper or a wet bumper, or a bumper covered in snow and your clothes are going to get ruined. DAN EDMUNDS: Right, and if you're not very tall, you might have a little bit more trouble reaching in and pulling the strap up. KURT NIEBUHR: Yeah, I agree. JONATHAN ELFALAN: I also liked the speed and ease of which those KIA seats folded. But I will have to say, I was holding my baby girl and trying to put the seat down, and you actually need to use two hands to both raise and lower that seat. So when you grab the strap, you need to pull it back and hold it in place when you release it. DAN EDMUNDS: You just dropped your child. JONATHAN ELFALAN: Exactly. Having the power release, other than the convenience of it, still serves some use in real world situations. DAN EDMUNDS: The other thing is getting into the hatch of all these vehicles. They all have a cool, hands free way to open the hatch. But they're not quite the same. JONATHAN ELFALAN: With the Ford, you have to do this kicking motion. And I think you tried it a few times. How did you find that? DAN EDMUNDS: Well, you have to stand on one foot and swipe your other foot underneath it. And there's a certain spot it wants you to be at. If you don't get it right, you look kind of silly. But getting to your point earlier about ice and snow, if this was winter and it was icy, standing there on one foot trying to get the door to behave, I don't know-- JONATHAN ELFALAN: While holding shopping bags or your child trying to do that it's kind of awkward. Whereas with the KIA and the Hyundai, they have this smart tailgate where you just have to stand in back of the tailgate, it beeps to let you know that something's happening. And then the tailgate just opens, which I think is a brilliant solution. KURT NIEBUHR: Yeah, when I first walked up and tried that on the Hyundai Palisade, I swiped my foot and the hatch opened. And I only later found out that no, it can sense where the key is and then it beeps, and then it opens. You can just walk up like you guys both said, you can walk up with your arms full and just wait. You might look a little weird and people might look at you and think that you've lost your keys. But you just wait and that's it. JONATHAN ELFALAN: But it's also not a perfect solution because there are times where I was standing in my driveway talking to my neighbor and I'm behind the Telluride and all of a sudden it starts beeping. And you're just like, oh wait, I don't want it to open. DAN EDMUNDS: I guess if you stood back there and then started talking, got interrupted by a dog walker coming by-- JONATHAN ELFALAN: Yeah, but it's also nice to know that you can turn that feature off if you don't like it. DAN EDMUNDS: Yeah. JONATHAN ELFALAN: So other than hauling things inside, SUVs are generally more capable at towing things than other types of vehicles. But since I don't have any real experience in this, maybe our resident tow expert can shed some light. DAN EDMUNDS: Sure, and you know there's some big differences here because the Ford, in its two wheel drive form, is rear drive. It was front drive in the last generation but they changed back to rear drive. The Hyundai and KIA are both front drive machines at heart. So really, that's an advantage for Ford because you want your tongue weight to be pressing down on the drive wheels. And you get that with a Ford. And that's part of the reason why I can tell a little bit more. It's maximum tow rating is about 5,600 pounds. And they have four engines and even the hybrid can tow 5,000. The thing about the Ford that is also good is that the hitch is right there where you can see it, the connector for the four and seven pin wiring is right there. Seven pin wiring means it'll support electric trailer brakes. You have to add your own trailer brake controller, but that's a plug and play operation using a pigtail that comes in the glove box. So kudos to Ford for that. But the Hyundai and KIA, they're no slouch either. They can tow 5,000 pounds. And what's good about them is you can get load leveling rear shocks with those. In the case of the Telluride, it comes when you get the hitch. In the case of the Palisade, it's something that comes when you get the 20 inch wheels. So it works even if you're not towing if you got three rows of people in there. And 5,000 pounds is a nice solid number. And the one thing that the Ford has over both of them is that it's got a tow haul mode. And that changes the shift points and just makes it a nice drive when you're towing a trailer. KURT NIEBUHR: So that rear drive platform has more benefits than just being able to do power slides in an SUV. DAN EDMUNDS: Yeah, I think so. But that's a good one. JONATHAN ELFALAN: Speaking of power slides, let's talk about performance. DAN EDMUNDS: Finally. KURT NIEBUHR: So that Ford is [BLEEP] fast. All right. That Ford is really fast. And we actually had two of the available four engines come in. We had platinum with a three leader twin turbo V6. And we had a limited with a 2.3 liter turbo charge four cylinder. And they were both quicker than the KIA and Hyundai. DAN EDMUNDS: The four cylinder, the 2.3 liter four, got to 60 miles an hour in seven seconds. And the V6, the 3 liter V6, did in 5.8 seconds. So as you say, that's fairly fast. KURT NIEBUHR: Just what you want out of three row SUV. JONATHAN ELFALAN: I don't think anything else in this segment even comes close to that three liter. I mean, they've put their stamp on that. And that's not the only thing that Ford does well. It actually handles, quite surprisingly well. I think you said it at the track where this is more like a tall wagon than a midsize three row SUV. But that said, the Hyundai and KIA aren't slouches in a straight line. I think 7 and 1/2 seconds to 60. Considering these things are primarily people movers, I think we could call those both adequate. DAN EDMUNDS: Oh, sure. JONATHAN ELFALAN: Now, in terms of handling, I felt like the Telluride and Palisade also weren't bad. They're not going to feel like a vehicle that you can go out and you'd want to attack a back road in. But at the same time, they handled themselves pretty well. DAN EDMUNDS: The Ford Explorer would be a little bit more enjoyable to drive. It's just really nice on a winding road. Steering loads up nice in corners. And it just has nice balance and composure. JONATHAN ELFALAN: So performance is kind of a fun thing to talk about, but it's not all about performance, especially with these types of vehicles. So driveability-- I think with the Ford and its new 10 speed automatic transmission, I found that it wasn't quite as smooth as I would have wanted it to be if I was driving this thing every day. Like the performance, it's got it. It's got it. But it seems like it's tuned a little too aggressively, would you say? DAN EDMUNDS: Yeah, it feels really eager. You really feel the boost, not so much the eco. And it really wants to go. And that shows in our mpg results. The Hyundai and the KIA are both rated at 21 miles per gallon combined. And the 2.3 liter Ford is rated at 23. And so it should be two better based on similar driving. But what we saw is that everything got 21 miles per gallon. JONATHAN ELFALAN: With the Ford, the way that it's tuned, you want to almost dig into that boost, which is going to cost you mpgs. KURT NIEBUHR: Yeah, that eagerness in the Ford, where it's always on and it feels like it's always ready, also was kind of found in the ride too. JONATHAN ELFALAN: Yeah you bring up a good point with comfort. So with the Ford, I found that it had good primary ride but not good secondary ride. And what I mean by that is that it was able to handle the big stuff really well. But some of the finer undulations in the road really came through and it made the ride feel a little busy, following every little detail of the road surface, which I didn't feel in the Telluride or the Palisade. Now, those suspensions are by no means perfect. But I felt like they absorbed a lot more of that secondary jitteryness better. DAN EDMUNDS: I think they were a little more consistent across a wider range of road surfaces. JONATHAN ELFALAN: All of these SUVs can be had with all wheel drive. And all of our test cars came with all wheel drive. These systems aren't necessarily geared for any hardcore off-road. It's more inclement weather. But that said, we did spend a little bit of time with these things off road. And by we, I mean Dan. So Dan, what do you think? DAN EDMUNDS: Inclement weather is the main reason for having all wheel drive, here. But they can do a little bit more than that. We had a little off road course, we could take them on. The Hyundai and KIA both have a four wheel drive lock button, which doesn't necessarily lock the center differential, but it makes sure that the front and rear axle have equal amounts of torque. It's not waiting for slip to engage an axle, it's just making it be engaged all the time. The Ford has something similar, but it's kind of buried into a setting that they call trail. And then there's another one for sand and deep snow. So you have a couple of different settings there. They all have about the same level of articulation. None of them really hiked the wheel any further off the ground than any of the others. But ultimately, if we all took all three of these out someplace, it's not like one of them was going to be holding up the other two. JONATHAN ELFALAN: Pretty equally capable. DAN EDMUNDS: Yeah, but it's going to be you know dirt roads, not the Rubicon trail. JONATHAN ELFALAN: OK, moving on to technology. All these SUVs were equipped with some pretty advanced driving aids, like adaptive cruise control. They had lane keep assists. They had blind spot monitoring. And all worked fairly well, I think pretty even in that field. But I think what grabs people's attention even more today is the infotainment systems and smartphone integration. What do you guys think about those? KURT NIEBUHR: Unsurprisingly, the Hyundai and KIA systems were basically the exact same. Has its own Font. Yeah, shocker. But also, both of them were the same size. As 10.25 inches for both, It's the traditional landscape layout. DAN EDMUNDS: Widescreen landscape, really nice. KURT NIEBUHR: Yeah, but Ford had a better idea. DAN EDMUNDS: The one that everybody talks about is the 10.1 inch portrait oriented screen that's right in the middle. It looks like an iPad sitting there. And we like the portrait oriented screen at around 1500, but this one is quite a bit narrower. And so when you run Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, the screen is kind of small, the useful part. The bottom half doesn't really have anything going on, either. So I like the lower level eight inch screen, which is landscape oriented. And you get a little tray underneath it, which I like. I mean I can actually put my phone right in there. JONATHAN ELFALAN: Now, what is that thing about having CarPlay plugged in and using the native nav. DAN EDMUNDS: As soon as you plug-in your phone, it wants you to use the navigation system through Apple CarPlay, and the native nav winks out. And it's like, no, I need to be in both environments at once. The Ford isn't really very happy doing that, whereas the Hyundai and KIA are just fine. JONATHAN ELFALAN: But I will say this-- the benefit of that larger vertical screen on the board is that if you're using the native navigation system, and you like to run in the direction of travel, you do have a long runway to see what's coming up. DAN EDMUNDS: Oh, yeah. JONATHAN ELFALAN: You can see a lot of streets. DAN EDMUNDS: You know, the one thing we haven't talked about yet is probably the most important thing, is price. So how much do these things cost? KURT NIEBUHR: Well, that's a tough question to answer. All of these things have a pretty broad price range. And I think it depends on what you want as far as options go. You can buy all three of these vehicles in a base two wheel drive configuration. That Palisade starts at 32,645, the Telluride at 32,785, and the Explorer XLT starts at 37,870. Now, there is a more basic Explorer than the XLT but that's probably just for fleet sales. But if you can find one of those, that's going to start at 33,860. All the ones we drove are highly optioned all wheel drive versions. The Palisade limited stickered at 47,605, the Telluride SX at 46,860 and they Explore Platinum at, get this, 61,330. Now 61k is pretty steep, and most people probably won't pay that much for an Explorer. So we brought in a limited with a four cylinder engine to see if that would help its case. No, that stickered at 53,120. JONATHAN ELFALAN: I mean, that just goes to show you where the Telluride and the Palisade are at. Like, I don't think you could get those things above 50 if you threw everything at it. Yet, they had the same number of features as the Ford, and, in some ways, felt better built. Like, I think the interior quality of both those cabins were really nice, the materials that they use, everything felt solidly screwed together. So KIA and Hyundai are providing a real value at this price point. And I think they've set a new benchmark for this class in that sense. So with the Ford, I mean, that's a hefty price tag. So what are we getting? DAN EDMUNDS: Where the money is in the Ford, I think, is in the rear drive layout. They've got some really cool forged aluminum control arms underneath there. There's the 10 speed automatic four engines with turbocharger. So there's a lot of money in the engineering. But it's not the kind of thing that you're going to see each and every day. It does lead to sharper handling and a couple of other things. But as far as just commuting to the store or whatever, you're not going to necessarily see it. So it's kind of like a case of, you don't quite get what you pay for. KURT NIEBUHR: So we talked about a lot of stuff. We tallied up all the scores. And one of these vehicles comes out in first place. But that means one of these vehicles comes out in last place. JONATHAN ELFALAN: This is the best Explorer that Ford has ever built. And I think it could be an attractive option if you're going to be doing a lot of towing. And if you live up in the mountains, you could be driving a lot of mountain roads. But fact of the matter is, the benchmark has been moved. And the KIA and Hyundai are really, really good SUVs. KURT NIEBUHR: Both of those vehicles don't really have any flaws. They do everything that they're supposed to do-- they're smooth or quiet, they're comfortable, they carry people. Also, in a lot of comfort, they can still tow. My preference, though, would lean toward the KIA. I think it has a richer interior. And I think it fits in with the brand. I know that styling is very subjective and it always will be. But the KIA is instantly recognizable as a KIA. And I think the Palisade doesn't seem to fit in with other Hyundais. DAN EDMUNDS: Yeah, I'm totally with you there. I like to Telluride because it's got its own personality. People stop me at gas stations and they wondered what it was. One of them thought it was Land Rover. And I don't see that exactly, but I do see that it looks really unique. JONATHAN ELFALAN: So it sounds like we decided. Explorer, Palisade, Telluride. The Telluride remains our top pick in this segment against some pretty formidable competition. It received an impressive score of 8.4 out of 10 overall, which is to say we really like this thing. But let us know what you think down in the comments. Be sure to hit subscribe if you want to see more great content just like this and see you next time.