The results of Cars.com’s 2020 3-Row SUV Challenge are in, and the 2020 Hyundai Palisade raced to the head of the pack, winning top honors. The Challenge put seven of the most popular mid-size three-row SUVs through a series of tests to determine which model was best in class.
“Today’s large family vehicle of choice is the three-row SUV. Most families who seek a minivan alternative are increasingly moving toward purchasing them because they offer generous seating, spacious cargo areas and advanced features,” said Jenni Newman, editor-in-chief of Cars.com. “The vehicles in this Challenge also have less bulk and lower fuel costs than their truck-based full-size SUV counterparts.”
Three expert judges from the Cars.com editorial team individually awarded points in 19 separate categories, covering everything from drivability and fuel economy to interior space and technology. Prices ranged from $46,055 to $54,420, and all seven models were equipped with all-wheel drive as well as captain’s chairs for the second row in lieu of bench seats.
All categories combined for a possible maximum score of 585 points. The points awarded to each vehicle resulted in the following ranking:
- 2020 Hyundai Palisade Limited AWD, 432 points. The verdict: Premium materials, a pleasant driving experience, plenty of room and a smoking value to boot. If our Palisade had cost $10,000 more, it might still have come out on top.
- 2020 Kia Telluride SX AWD, 428 points. The verdict: More of a 1B than a second-place finisher, the Telluride shares many of the winner’s strengths, with the perfect size, top-notch materials, and calm and easy driving behavior wrapped up in a quality package that’s priced thousands less than competitors.
- 2019 Volkswagen Atlas SEL Premium 4Motion, 406 points. The verdict: Our previous champion holds up well in important ways, accommodating occupants and cargo simultaneously better than the others with the best third row, plus it drives nicely, but its interior quality holds it back, especially versus the newcomers.
- 2020 Ford Explorer Limited 4WD, 380 points. The verdict: A redesign boosts drivability and creates an arguable niche model, but it leaves potentially more important aspects like interior space, comfort and value behind.
- 2020 Subaru Ascent Touring, 369 points. The verdict: In a vacuum, the Ascent seems like a decent vehicle, but its driving manners, snug interior and refinement don’t stand up well when tested back-to-back against these competitors.
- 2020 Chevrolet Traverse AWD High Country, 367 points. The verdict: Cargo space and ride comfort are the Traverse’s claim to fame, but its value is a disappointment on many levels.
- 2020 Honda Pilot AWD Elite, 364 points. The verdict: A last-place finisher that can still be recommended, the Pilot is comfortable and easygoing, but its quality has been surpassed and its user interface is a major drawback.
“Though there were tight groupings based on our scores — especially of the top two and bottom three — we considered this a strong batch of competitors overall,” added Newman. “Shoppers should be able to find the right fit for them by comparing the strongest and weakest aspects of the models depending on their families’ unique needs.”