There was a time when seven-seaters were big, family cars that lacked real character and were pretty drab where performance and driving dynamics were concerned.
How things have changed. These days, there are models that a beautifully styled, packed with all the latest on-board technology and can produce a decent turn of pace out the blocks too.
They still have seven seats so can carry a five-a-side footie team, the coach and a driver, while offering decent storage space too. So which model should you go for?
We have selected three of the best cars on sale today and will be looking at key areas such as cost, practicality, safety, efficiency and any dealer offers and hopefully we can help you make your own choice.
Our selected models are the Toyota Highlander, Volvo XC90 and Kia Sorento.
The Toyota Highlander is a relative newcomer to the UK scene even though it has been on sale elsewhere for some time. It is available in trim levels called Excel and Excel Premium costing £51,670 and £53,650 respectively.
Powered by the Japanese carmaker’s full hybrid electric powertrain which is self-charging and has a maximum power output of 245bhp, the Highlander can sprint from 0-62mph in 8.3 seconds and tops out at 111mph.
The Volvo XC90 is a very capable, stylish and upmarket seven-seat SUV that is available as a mild hybrid from £61,990 or hybrid from £76,525. The range-topper is called the XC90 T8 Recharge and it can deliver almost 40 miles of pure electric range between charges and takes five hours to charge from 0-100 per cent from a home wallbox. It can complete the 0-60mph dash in 5.8 seconds and tops out at 112mph.
The Kia Sorento is a classy looking seven-seater with trim levels called 2,3 and 4 which are priced at £40,590, £43,020 and £48,840 respectively. The top and bottom trim levels can be matched to a 1.6 turbocharged petrol engine while Sorento 3 is available with the additional choice of a 2.2-litre diesel powertrain. There is hybrid along with plug-in hybrid technologies to be considered too.
One thing you are guaranteed with any Kia model is no unexpected extra costs. There are very few optional extras so the customer simply chooses the trim they want.
Practicality & Safety
The Toyota Highlander boasts the lowest centre of gravity in the segment, resulting in confident road holding with nicely weighted steering. Accessing the pair of back seats is easy as the second row of seats slide and fold forward. Adults can fit in them, but like most seven-seaters, they are best suited to youngsters.
And rather cleverly, if visibility through the rear-view mirror is blocked by passengers’ heads, the driver can switch to a digital rear-view mirror that offers a camera view of what’s going on behind the car.
There is a powered tailgate and storage ranges from 332 litres with all seven seats in use, to 865 litres with the third row of seats dropped flat or 1,909 litres with just front seats in use. With all-wheel drive, along with a two-tonne towing limit, it’s a fabulous family vehicle.
The Highlander features Toyota Safety Sense as standard with a pre-collision system that can detect pedestrians by day or night and cyclists during daytime driving. Other safety systems include lane trace assist and lane departure alert, road sign assist, intelligent adaptive cruise control with curve speed reduction, emergency steering assist, intersection turn assistance and adaptive high beam assist.
Next up is the Volvo XC90 with its decent levels of boot space ranging from 356 litres to 1,002 with the third row flat, or 1,856 with rows two and three dropped.
The third row of seats are big enough for a couple of adults to sit comfortably and that is most rare in these types of vehicles. Although they do have to clamber in and out which may not be that dignified!
Volvo is a name that is synonymous with safety and it is one of the safest premium SUVs on sale today with a wealth of technology aimed at preventing accidents from happening. There is automatic emergency braking, distance alert, blind spot monitoring, rear collision warning, post impact braking and so many features it would take hours to list them all. You can even purchase a pet harness to make sure your dog is safely secured on journeys too – that is how seriously Volvo take safety.
We can focus on the Kia Sorento in range-topping 4 guise as it is still the cheapest of our trio of cars. This model is packed to the rafters with high-end tech so expect to see a 12-speaker Bose sound system, full smartphone connectivity, head-up display and powered front seats that can be heated along with the outer seats in row two. This model also features four-wheel drive for added practicality.
The boot is accessed via a powered tailgate and can swallow 608 litres of kit and this limit increases to 1,996 litres with the seats in rows two and three folded flat. The car also offers seven well-sized seats which will be good news for anyone expected to travel in row three for a long trip.
Safety kit includes multi-collision brake assist, forward collision avoidance, driver attention warning, downhill brake control, trailer stability assist, lane follow assist and a wealth of other features. And it takes the warranty crown too thanks to the Sorento’s seven-year, 100,000-mile cover.
While practicality and performance are high on the wish-list of any seven-seater owners, the running costs need to tick all the right boxes too. And the Toyota Highlander is fairly efficient with a combined 39.2-39.7mpg and carbon emissions set at 160 to 163g/km.
The Volvo XC90 T8 Recharge has official WLTP tested performance figures that reflect a combined 113mpg and carbon emissions from 63g/km. These low CO2 figures would work well with anyone looking to get the car on a business agreement where impressive Benefit in Kind tax savings would be seen.
As far as Kia goes, we are focusing on the range-topping Sorento 4 with its 1.6-litre petrol engine with battery and electric motor. It can complete the 0-62mph dash in a very respectable 9.0 seconds, tops out at 119mph and can deliver a combined 38.2mpg with carbon emissions of 168g/km.
The Highlander Excel, with a cash price of £52,635, is available on a zero APR deal. The customer pays a deposit of £13,035.50 followed by 22 monthly payments of £539 with an optional final payment of £27,202.50.
The Volvo XC90 T8 Plus Plug-in Hybrid AWD automatic is available on PCP with a customer deposit of £15,558 followed by 48 monthly payments of £899 and an optional final payment of £30,527. The overall cost would be £89,267 for a model with a revised price of £77,240.
The Kia Sorento 4 with 1.6 turbocharged petrol self-charging hybrid engine and automatic gearbox is 36 monthly payments of £900.58. There would be no customer deposit but a contribution of £750. The optional final payment is £23,892 for a total cost of £57,063 for a model that is available for £49,500.
These offers were spotted on dealer websites at the time of this comparison and may only be available for a set time. It is worth doing your own homework and searching for optional incentives that may also be available.
So, which takes your fancy?
All three of these seven-seaters are worth exploring for anyone looking for a family car that oozes charm while being a practical vehicle.
When it comes to price, then the Kia Sorento wins by quite a margin and we like the fact there are no crazy optional extras to worry about. It also has the best warranty package too. The Volvo takes the award for performance and safety – little surprise there, but it is the most expensive car in our line-up.
There was very little to separate the Toyota Highlander and the Kia Sorento with regards to storage limits and, for us, the Highlander looks the part.
But it is all down to individual choice and if these three models are not what you’re looking for then maybe consider the Skoda Kodiaq, BMW X5, Land Rover Discovery, Audi Q7 or Mercedes GLS to name but a few.