Classy contender: Improved safety and noise reduction make Mazda’s CX-9 an excellent prospect.
Classy contender: Improved safety and noise reduction make Mazda’s CX-9 an excellent prospect.

What’s the best seven-seater SUV for us?

THE QUESTION

We have a 2011 Ford Territory Titanium diesel seven-seater. We have two boys, 10 and 7, and mainly do city driving with the occasional trip intrastate and interstate. We don't go off-road or tow anything. The Territory recently had $3000 worth of work and we are concerned this might be commonplace now. We ideally want another seven-seater diesel, with plenty of room for the things we need, nothing too dated and not a base model. We also don't want anything that is too costly to buy, run or service, which may exclude BMW, Audi and other luxury brands. Can you help us narrow the search down? I have read good things about the Hyundai Santa Fe and I really like the look of the sporty SE model.

Dave Hansen, email

 

THE ANSWER

You are spoiled for choice and also spoiled by the contenders in the seven-seater scene. There have been updates and new arrivals throughout 2017, most notably an improved Kia Sorento and an all-new Honda HR-V with seven seats for the first time. Since you're talking a relatively luxurious replacement for the Territory, it's safe to rule out the ute-based models including the Ford Everest because they lack the refinement of a dedicated SUV. It's also worth having a second thought on diesel, as petrol engines are getting closer to matching diesel efficiency, particularly with small-capacity turbos that make excellent torque. The premium for a diesel plus the price of the fuel mean you need to drive at least 30,000km a year to make the purchase financially viable. Some brands fit diesels only to their all-wheel drive models, increasing the price for no benefit in the city and suburbs. The Santa Fe might be your benchmark but it's just been surpassed by its Kia Sorento twin, which comes with a seven-year warranty.

Refined and comfortable: The Kia Sorento
Refined and comfortable: The Kia Sorento

CHOICES

KIA SORENTO, From about $47,374 drive-away

Recent improvements make the Sorento - a former Car of the Year - more refined and comfortable with improved infotainment. Importantly, it now has an eight-speed automatic to improve response and efficiency, as well as Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and auto safety braking across the range. The diesel brings it to at least $50,000 drive-away.

Leading contender: Mazda CX-9’s updates make it hard to ignore.
Leading contender: Mazda CX-9’s updates make it hard to ignore.

MAZDA CX-9, From about $48,156 drive-away

The driving benchmark for the class got a tweak in August with improved safety, noise reduction and improved access to the second and third rows. There is no diesel option but Mazda reckons the 2.5-litre turbo four has the torque of a 4.0-litre V8. Auto safety braking operates up to 80km/h and adds pedestrian detection.

Bigger, better: The new Honda CR-V comes with seven seats.
Bigger, better: The new Honda CR-V comes with seven seats.

HONDA CR-V, From about $42,657 drive-away

For the first time the bigger new CR-V is available with seven seats, filling a giant gap in Honda's SUV line-up in Australia. It's a comfortable, refined machine and the only obvious shortcoming is the need to spend nearly $50,000 on the LX to get the full suite of active safety gear. The five-year warranty is a plus.

Under the radar: Skoda’s Kodiaq is worth considering.
Under the radar: Skoda’s Kodiaq is worth considering.

WILDCARD

SKODA KODIAQ, From about $46,290 d/a

Ignore the Czech badge and think of the Kodiaq as a seven-seater VW Tiguan. The 140kW diesel is $52,790 on the road. The Kodiaq is comfortable and refined, has city emergency braking, nine airbags and leather upholstery. It's not the biggest in the rear, which means it's best for five or occasional seven-seater work.

 

VERDICT

Use the Santa Fe as your benchmark on driving and pricing but take a test run in the others, a classy and varied bunch. If a diesel is essential then the Sorento's update makes it the best package. The Kodiaq is a five-plus-two alternative. The one to beat is still the CX-9 and it's the smart choice for maximum relaxation and enjoyment as a family hauler.



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