By Shell on Jun. 23, 2021
There was a time when the only solution to transporting more than five people was a people mover. Then, during the 'crossover' craze of the early noughties, a tempting new alternative sprung into existence – the seven-seat SUV.
This now-ubiquitous configuration seems to have it all over its more traditional counterpart, giving increased occupant-hauling ability without the daggy vibes. But is a seven-seat SUV really the best option when five seats just aren't enough? We investigate the pros and cons.
Pro – Style and flexibility
It’s hard to deny that most seven seaters are more stylish than their minivan counterparts. Plus, you have the flexibility of folding two seats away in the boot when you don’t need them.
If you want to expand your horizons beyond sealed roads, you can also tick the box for all-wheel-drive – a rare feature in the people-mover market.
Pro – Price
Not many brands sell both a traditional people mover and equivalent-sized seven-seat SUV, but those that do tend to sell the latter for a little less.
Kia, for example, was offering its Sorento seven-seater SUV in base petrol form for $49,290 driveaway as this was written, or $1,600 less than its Carnival people mover in the same base-level/petrol specification. The difference between equivalent diesel models was smaller ($600) but still to the advantage of the SUV.
Pro – Fuel economy
More a trend than a rule, but if we take Kia's Sorento/Carnival duo as an example, the seven-seat SUV is lighter than its people-mover counterpart (1835-1908kg versus 2082-2090kg). This translates to better fuel economy than a Carnival in diesel form (6.1L/100km versus 6.5L/100km) despite both using the same engine (petrol models aren't directly comparable owing to them having differently tuned engines).
Con – Space, comfort and accessibility
Because they're not designed for permanent seating, the final-row seats in a seven-seat SUV tend to be harder to get to, more cramped and less comfortable than the equivalents in a people mover. That can make them a short-haul option at best for lanky teens and taller adults. You'll also have to live with just seven seats rather than the eight or more some people movers offer.
Con – Boot space
Most people movers, being optimised for the people-hauling role, can not only deal with a full load of passengers but their luggage as well. The Carnival, for example, has 627 litres of boot space with all of its eight seats in use. The Sorento, in contrast, offers a scant 187 litres at full occupancy.
Con – Spare-tyre configuration and access
Those foldaway seats occupy the real estate usually taken up by a spare tyre, often forcing designers to find another solution. The result can either be a less-effective spare – say, a space-saver instead of a full-sizer – or having it slung underneath the car, where it gets dirty and can be tricky to access. But with many people movers now using similar foldaway arrangements for their final-row seating, spare-tyre niggles might be inevitable whichever way you go.
If you only occasionally need more than five seats, and you're not planning to transport basketballers back there for hours at a time, a seven-seat SUV is a logical choice. If you're transporting more than five for a significant proportion of your driving or need to haul five-plus people and their luggage, a people mover might still be the best way to go.