Currently reading: Top 10 best seven-seater cars 2021
Family haulers aren't restricted to MPVs any more. These are 10 of the best
11 mins read
11 May 2020

The MPV once reigned supreme for big families with lots to carry, but not any more.

Once the car-buying public realised that it was entirely possible to buy a big, seven-seat family car with the space and cabin flexibility to accommodate more than 2.4 children but with looks less like an Antonov cargo transporter than an otherwise pretty normal SUV, the sales decline of the ‘one-box’ multi-purpose vehicle was under way. But for the most successful few, it still continues.

There are now myriad sizes and types of SUV that’ll offer up to seven seats for those who need them. Not all of them will do so while also giving you access to the entire engine range, though - and while others claim full seven-seat practicality, the usability of those rearmost seats is often restricted.

Here, then, are the best seven-seaters outside of the MPV class, according to Autocar, and the reasons we like ’em. All cars here offer up to seven forward-facing seats, although not necessarily as standard. One or two new cars still include rearward-facing child seats in the boot as an option (the Tesla Model S still does, for example; the Mercedes E-Class Estate doesn’t any longer) but we’re not counting those as quite the same kettle of fish.

1. Volvo XC90

Raising your budget and buying a bigger car doesn’t guarantee you a more usable seven-seat option in this class, but even so, few will be surprised to see that our top three options are all big SUVs. And the best of them is the Volvo XC90. Although most of its direct rivals are newer, none has matched it in terms of seven-seat versatility.

The XC90 has seven seats as standard regardless of which engine and trim level you choose. Even the T8 plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version gets all seven, unlike in its PHEV opponents from BMW, Mercedes and Land Rover.

Volvo’s recent impressive record on exterior design still makes the car stand out on the road and the interior looks and feels roomy and light. Volvo offers petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid powertrain options. Although the PHEV has the most convincing blend of performance, refinement and economy, the B5 mild-hybrid diesel makes for a very respectable compromise. 

The second-row seats all slide fore and aft individually, with the middle second-row seat optionally converting into an integrated booster seat. The third-row seats can be furnished with air conditioning vents at extra cost, and although they don’t have Isofix booster seat anchorages, they’re big enough for smaller adults or children to enjoy reasonable comfort and access to them is pretty good.

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2. Kia Sorento

The unuttered truth about full-sized seven-seat SUVs, which many of the cars in this chart confirm, is that most of them don’t come for the same price as a full-sized MPV. However, the Kia Sorento remains the glorious exception to that. It isn’t far off as big and accommodating as the BMW X5s and Volvo XC90s of this world but can still be had from a price surprisingly close to £30,000.


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The Sorento offers plenty of room in row two, where the sliding and tumbling seats allow fairly easy access to the pair of seats in row three (not quite as roomy but still perfectly usable by smaller adults and bigger kids). Isofix child seats can only be secured to the outer middle-row seats, but the rearmost ones are big enough to take less bulky belted safety seats and booster seats.

There is only one engine choice available: a 197bhp 2.2-litre diesel that makes plenty of torque and doesn’t struggle with heavy loads or towing. Although the car definitely feels its size on the road, the Sorento driving experience has become fairly refined and slick over the years, particularly so if you opt for a higher-spec automatic. Equipment levels are generous at the upper end of the trim spectrum.

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3. Audi Q7

Audi’s full-sized SUV, the Q7, is taken to the podium of this chart on the basis that it has six good-sized passenger seats, all with proper Isofix child seat points; and it’s the only car here that does. That’s an advantage for which Audi charges plenty, of course, and it’s worth noting that if you opt for either of the tax-saving TFSIe plug-in hybrid models in the range, your car will come with five seats rather than seven in order to make space for the electric drive gubbins, which seems a great shame.

Still, the big Audi does make a very convincing seven-seater if you stick with the conventional powertrains - and there are several. The car’s 3.0-litre TDI diesel engines produce 228bhp or 282bhp, with a 335bhp 3.0-litre turbocharged 55 TFSI petrol option bridging the price gap up to the TFSIe plug-in powertrains. Further above still, there’s also the 4.0-litre 429bhp tri-turbo V8 diesel of the SQ7 for those who want to transport a family of seven at a greater rate of knots - and can afford to.

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The Q7’s key strengths, besides those spacious, well-provisioned seats, are its top-notch on-board technology and cabin quality, and its refined, isolated, luxurious drive. Such filtered controls do make a big car feel even bigger at times, but those who aren’t put off by the Q7’s sheer size or price will find a lot to like.

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4. Peugeot 5008

Peugeot’s bigger ‘double-oh’ SUV option deserves special mention here for making the most of the space it affords. It’s the only mid-sized SUV that makes the top half of our rankings, and so while it doesn’t provide as much passenger comfort and space as the bigger options, it does give you more choice than rivals about where to fit in your bigger, bulkier child seats and how to comfortably arrange older passengers around them.

That’s because the 5008 has three separate middle-row seats that all slide and fold individually, all with Isofix anchorages. Sliding the middle one forward by itself might make room to squeeze in three fairly bulky moulded-plastic booster seats side by side although, because the 5008 doesn’t have the widest cabin, this will always be a bit of a squeeze.

The third-row seats are only big enough to be used by children but will just about take a smaller belted child seat and an occupant if you slide the seats in front of it forward to make space.

The engine range starts with 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol and 1.5-litre four-cylinder diesel options of about 130 horsepower, ranging upwards to include a more powerful 2.0-litre diesel. The car handles well, feeling a little smaller and more wieldy, and handling more keenly, than plenty of rival options here. It’s good value, too.

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5. Land Rover Discovery

When Land Rover introduced the current Discovery, much fuss was made about the convenience added by its five rearmost motorised seats, which can be raised and lowered electrically - and even remotely via smartphone app.

The idea is that, instead of having to wrestle with straps, latches, backrests and removable tonneau covers, you can configure the car for however many passengers you happen to be carrying before you even board.

The feature isn’t standard equipment on lower-trim models, though - and, moreover, isn’t much use if you’ve got cargo in the boot that needs to be either moved or removed before you can convert the seats. But get past the showroom gimmicks and this big, functionality-first Land Rover remains a fine, full-sized seven-seater, with a likable charm and luxury vibe, that we would recommend for any big family with the means to afford it.

That’s a pretty big caveat, of course, because you’ll do very well indeed to escape a Land Rover showroom these days having bought one for less than £50,000. But the good news is that even vehicles in entry-level S specification get seven seats as standard, with Isofix anchorages on four out of five of those back seats. You have to climb all the way to HSE grade to get access to those motorised, app-managed ‘intelligent’ folding seats, though, and even then you must order them as a cost option.

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The Discovery engine range currently comprises four- and six-cylinder diesel options and a four-cylinder petrol, although rumours abound that a hybrid version will be introduced soon. And since all Discoverys are seven-seaters as standard, you’d imagine any hybrid would have to be as well.

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6. Skoda Kodiaq

Skoda branched out into the seven-seat SUV market in 2016, launching a car that split the difference between full-sized and mid-sized options quite cleverly. The Kodiaq has a big cabin and a generous boot for a car of its price and size, and all versions of it bar the bottom-rung variant get seven seats as standard; even the warm diesel vRS performance version.

The one dimension in which the car is lacking a bit of space is cabin width, and because the middle second-row seat can’t be slid into an offset position relative to both outer ones, it’s tricky to get three child seats installed side by side. Moreover, crash testing body Euro NCAP confirms that the rearmost seats aren’t approved even for belted safety seats (although the Kodiaq isn’t the only seven-seater to which that caveat is applied) and access to them can be a little bit tight when squeezing behind the tilted second-row chairs.

The Kodiaq’s engine range is pretty broad, offering plenty of choice on both the petrol and diesel sides, and the car is pleasant and easy to drive, if a little bit firm-riding in some trim editions.

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7. Mercedes GLB

Mercedes has adopted an interesting design strategy with its new smallest SUV: to miniaturise much of the visual DNA of its largest (the GLS) and also to squeeze in seven seats as standard into a vehicle small enough that you probably wouldn’t expect to find them. Both factors might just help to sell the car in an increasingly crowded market.

So far, we’ve only driven the car on the Continent, and only in bottom-end GLB 200 petrol and GLB 220d 4Matic diesel forms. Even the petrol engine serves up ample performance for what’s a fairly laid-back-feeling car on the road, with ride quality being impressive on adaptive dampers and body control a little soft and permissive but still good.

The middle-row seats slide fore and aft and offer decent space for adults although the rearmost chairs are much smaller and useful for children only. Four out of five rear seats have Isofix child seat points, though.

A tax-saving plug-in hybrid version of the car is expected, but it’s likely to be a strict five-seater.

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8. Land Rover Discovery Sport

The smallest Land Rover of the range (leaving aside Range Rovers for now) gets seven seats as standard so long as you avoid the bottom-rung, front-wheel-drive D150 diesel engine. Few of its mid-sized SUV direct rivals (Audi Q5, BMW X3, Mercedes GLC) offer the same passenger accommodation, which is a selling point for the Land Rover; albeit probably only for families who might make very occasional use of those extra back chairs - and only for those willing to pay for the privilege (even the very cheapest seven-seat Disco Sport is a £40k car before options).

The Discovery Sport’s rearmost seats aren’t as big as some. You can, in principle, make extra leg room for them by sliding the middle row chairs forward as you need to, but there isn’t too much of it to spare in row two. Moreover, there’s little boot space available if you do regularly use the car in seven-seat mode, making this much more of an occasional seven-seater than the bigger Discovery might be.

The driving experience is impressive for its car's comfort, and in 4WD forms, it has more rough-terrain capability than most people will need, although Land Rover’s Ingenium four-cylinder diesel engines don't feel quite as strong as equivalents from Audi, BMW or Mercedes. A range-topping plug-in hybrid P300e version will be launched soon but it will be a strict five-seater.

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9. BMW X5

A BMW showroom isn’t the greatest place to find seven-seat cars. The 2 Series Gran Tourer is one of the more affordable ones (and features in our MPVs class) but you have to scale the X-car SUV range all the way to the X5 before you’ll find a seven-seater option within it. When you do, you might be disappointed to discover that it only comes on a £60,000 car - and even then as a cost option.

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If you do opt for them, you get electrically sliding and folding second-row seats that do at least make it easier to get access. Third-row space is just about big enough for adults of average heigh; children will be more comfortable, although there are no Isofix child seat points back here - and there are only two available in the second row.

The X5’s driving experience is a fine advert for the car. It handles keenly and has plenty of performance and great drivability with its pricier engine options. It should be noted, though, that both the 45e plug-in hybrid- and the M50i performance petrol versions are five-seat only, and so is the £110k X5 M.

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10. Mercedes GLS

If you’re going large with your luxury seven-seater, there’s undoubtedly an argument to be made for larging it up all the way into the very biggest member of Mercedes’ current SUV line-up: the unapologetically hefty GLS.

This a car for people who need not only to carry seven, but also to carry seven full-sized adults - and, in every case, in plenty of comfort. The GLS’s second row-seats don’t quite offer S-Class levels of luxury but they’re comparable. Its rearmost ones aren’t quite as accommodating, but even so you’d need to be very tall not to find enough room in them.

The car’s sheer size limits its appeal as a driver’s car, irrespective of engine choice, even though the GLS 400d we road tested has plenty of real-world pace, great drivability and fine refinement.

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Where keen drivers are concerned, though, special mention must go to the GLS 63 4Matic, which proves that you can get super-SUV performance and drama in a seven-seater package fit for as many adult occupants, so long as you know where to look. The likes of the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, Range Rover Sport SVR, BMW X5 M and Bentley Bentayga are all five-seaters at best, so if you really must have room for the entire band in a luxury package with more than 600 horsepower - one that’ll do 62mph from rest in just 4.2sec - look no further. It’s yours from £116k.

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