SUV

When you're looking for the best SUV for your family, there are many factors to consider. Size, safety and performance are all part of the equation, but even top-rated SUVs and crossovers make some compromises. There are dozens of choices in almost every category, so choosing the right SUV can get complicated.

To help you narrow down your search, we'll tell you about the top-rated family SUVs and crossovers based on Edmunds' expert testing. But it's not just about what we think; it's also about your specific needs and circumstances. So let's begin with a few pieces of buying advice that apply to anyone who's shopping for the best family SUV.

By the way, if you're just here for the expert ratings and recommendations, scroll down a couple of sections and you can dive right in.

Finding the Best Family SUV for You

As a first step, we recommend identifying must-have features for your family so you can dispense with any SUVs that don't deliver. Size is a good starting point. How big is your family and how willing are your loved ones to share their space? Most compact and midsize SUVs seat five in two rows, but many also offer the option of a third row. Cargo room is important, too, since all those passengers are bound to have plenty of stuff to carry with them. The smallest SUVs and crossovers have enough room for five and not much else, while the biggest family SUVs can accommodate up to nine passengers and whatever they might bring. Don't forget that size is inversely correlated with gas mileage, generally speaking, so if you need maximum mpg, go with the smallest SUV you can live with.

Edmunds' Top-Rated Family SUVs

Let's look at the latest results from the Edmunds testing program. Our vehicle testing team subjects approximately 200 vehicles every year to a full battery of tests and rates each vehicle on a five-star scale. Only the finest performers make the cut for our top-rated lists. Here are the best SUVs for families, according to our vehicle experts.

Best 3-Row SUVs for Families

If you plan to use the third row in your family SUV, we prefer the larger vehicles in the midsize class since they use carlike platforms for refined driving dynamics. But if you also plan to do some serious towing or hauling, we'd point you toward true full-size SUVs with trucklike underpinnings, such as the new Ford Expedition. The midsize models offer enough room in the third row to seat children comfortably and even accommodate adults for shorter trips, while the full-size SUVs offer industrial-grade toughness and even more room, along with plenty of usable cargo space behind the third row.

2018 Mazda CX-9

Edmunds Rating

There are a number of reasons why the CX-9 shines, from its dynamic driving demeanor to its upscale styling inside and out. The turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is tuned to provide big torque right off the line, making acceleration feel effortless, while the CX-9 shrinks around you on winding roads for a genuinely rewarding experience. Inside, the CX-9 doesn't have as much third-row or cargo space as some rivals, but it compensates with an attractive dashboard layout and high-quality materials. Bottom line? If you and your family like to drive with vigor and ride in style, the CX-9 belongs in pole position. Read Full Review

Read Edmunds' long-term test of the Mazda CX-9

2018 Mazda CX-9 Overview and Pricing

2018 Nissan Armada

Edmunds Rating

Suppose the CX-9 just isn't big enough for your cargo-carrying needs, but you're not quite sold on a "trucky" full-size SUV. The full-size Nissan Armada is an intriguing proposition because, unlike its predecessor, it's actually not based on a truck. Instead, the Armada is an Americanized version of the legendary Nissan Patrol SUV, a rival to the Toyota Land Cruiser that's been plying its trade in deserts and other harsh environments for decades. So that purpose-built SUV pedigree comes standard, along with an enormous cargo bay and generous passenger space. We're fans of the standard 5.6-liter V8 engine, too — it makes great noises and hauls the Armada and all its occupants up to speed with impressive ease. Fuel economy? Keep your expectations low and you might be pleasantly surprised. Read Full Review

2018 Nissan Armada Overview and Pricing

2018 Honda Pilot

Edmunds Rating

If passenger comfort is what you're after, the Pilot is tough to top, especially in the midsize segment. Unlike the Mazda and Ford, the Honda offers adult-friendly (or big-kid-friendly) dimensions even in the third-row seat. It's got a bit more maximum cargo capacity, too, although the Explorer still wins with all seatbacks in place. Performance is strong from the 3.5-liter V6 engine, even if the ZF-sourced nine-speed automatic transmission can be finicky. (If you agree, try the Honda-built six-speed in lesser Pilot models.) You'll also find that the cabin is full of handy storage cubbies where you and your kids can stash small items, including a vast and configurable bin beneath the front center armrest. Read Full Review

Read Edmunds' long-term test of the Honda Pilot

2018 Honda Pilot Overview and Pricing

Compare 3-Row Family SUVs

Best 2-Row SUVs for Families

If you don't need a third row in your family SUV, that brings a lot of smaller, more manageable vehicles into play. You can still enjoy plenty of functionality with one of these SUVs, yet you'll have a much easier time parking in tight spots and navigating twisty two-lanes. Chances are you'll save some money, too. Unless a third-row seat is a must-have for your family, there's a lot to be said for downsizing to a two-row SUV.

2018 Honda CR-V

Edmunds Rating

The CR-V is a perennial best-seller for good reason. It's got a ton of cargo space for a so-called small SUV, and even 6-footers will find the back seat to be fully accommodating. But the CR-V really took a leap forward with its redesign for 2017, adding peppy turbocharged power in most models, plus better handling and a revamped interior with a modern control layout. Fuel economy is truly remarkable with the new 1.5-liter turbo engine, which happens to perform better than the regular 2.4-liter engine, too. If there's one thing we're not sold on, it's the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), which can feel rather slow on the draw and tends to produce intrusive engine drone during brisk acceleration. But if you're cool with the CVT, pretty much everything else about this Honda comes up aces. Read Full Review

Read Edmunds' long-term test of the Honda CR-V

2018 Honda CR-V Overview and Pricing

2018 Mazda CX-5

Edmunds Rating

Is your family willing to give up just a wee bit of practicality in the name of performance and style? Look no further than the redesigned CX-5. It's beautiful to behold, it drives more like a sport sedan than an SUV, and its interior could fool you into thinking you're in a luxury vehicle. We don't mean to sell its versatility short, by the way; with about 60 cubic feet of maximum cargo space, it's a more than respectable hauler, and rear passenger comfort has improved for this generation as well. Sure, the CR-V still has the edge on both fronts, but there's something to be said for a handy SUV that stirs your soul when you're on the move. Read Full Review

2018 Mazda CX-5 Overview and Pricing

2018 Ford Edge

Edmunds Rating

If even the CR-V strikes you as a bit too small, there's a midsize two-row segment with your name on it. Our favorite representative from this group is the Ford Edge. It's a carlike crossover SUV that was recently redesigned with all the latest features from Ford, including the nifty Sync 3 touchscreen interface. You'll notice a burlier feel from the driver's seat, as well as less road noise at speed and more assertive acceleration, particularly if you spring for the hot-rod 2.7-liter turbocharged V6. The Edge is more like a luxury vehicle, in other words, yet it retains plenty of practicality for most families. Read Full Review

2018 Ford Edge Overview and Pricing

Compare 2-Row Family SUVs

Family SUV Safety and Technology

Of course, safety is a top priority as well. All of the top rated family SUVs will keep you safe, but also consider available features that go beyond basic crash protection. Advanced systems such as automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection are now offered, and they can drastically reduce the severity of an accident. Then there are options such as adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist that are designed to relieve driver fatigue on longer trips. Furthermore, the best SUVs for families now offer various levels of consumer technology, so be sure to look for features such as USB charging ports, rear-seat entertainment systems, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.

Child Car Seats

The LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) protocol was introduced in 2002 to simplify the installation of child car seats. If you're shopping for a family SUV that's good for car seats, one thing to check is whether your child safety seat mounts easily to the vehicle's LATCH anchor points. Another question is whether there's still enough room for adult passengers up front with a safety seat installed in the second row. We recommend bringing your child car seat to the dealership to see how it fits.

Top Family-Friendly Features in SUVs

When you're in the market for a new family SUV, the array of available features can be dizzying. Here are four features that we consider to be especially important for the family-minded SUV shopper.

Hands-Free Power Liftgate
When your hands are full and you're approaching the car with kids in tow, the last thing you want to do is wrestle with the liftgate. The solution is a hands-free power liftgate that opens by itself, typically when you wave your foot under the rear bumper with the key fob in your pocket. It's an increasingly common feature across the SUV landscape.
Rear-Seat Entertainment System
Nothing's better for keeping the kids occupied on a long trip than a rear-seat entertainment system with display screens and headphones. Some systems feature screens that are mounted to the front headrests, just like on a plane, while others have screens that flip down from the ceiling.
USB Ports
Families have a lot of devices that need to be charged, so the more USB ports a vehicle provides, the better. Many SUVs have enough USB ports for both front and rear passengers to stay juiced up.
Rear Window Sunshades
Typically a higher-end feature, retractable rear sunshades help protect your little ones from the heat and rays of direct sunlight. Why buy those goofy aftermarket suction-cup sunshades if you don't have to?

Time to Test-Drive!

So now you know what our experts think, and you've got our shopping advice, too. If you'd like more of the latter, check out our 25 Tips for Easier Family Car Shopping, which should be helpful for any family in search of a new car. But at the end of the day, there's no substitute for firsthand experience with all of the family SUVs you're considering. Get out there and start test driving — find out for yourself what the best family SUVs are today.

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