Top 10 best seven-seater cars 2023

Open gallery Close News by James Disdale 14 mins read 30 March 2023 Share

If you need to haul a full household (and more besides), then a seven-seater will be just the ticket. Not that long ago that would have meant an MPV or people carrier, a boxy machine that put space and practicality ahead of style and performance.

However, like the rest of the new car market, the people-mover sector is now dominated by SUVs, with most offerings combining the seemingly universal appeal of rugged off-road looks with a passable impression of a minibus. While many of these don’t offer quite the utilitarian appeal of a true MPV, there are enough smartly thought-out machines with a spacious and flexible interior to ensure that growing families need not despair when it comes to getting about. That said, there are still one or two examples of the traditional seven-seater, plus there’s enough choice at a wide array of price points to ensure buyers aren’t restricted to the pricier, premium end of the market.

Of course, not all seven-seaters are equal and, like some other aspects of life, size is everything. With some in our list the third row seats are best for kids or occasional use, while others can carry a full complement of adults in complete comfort, even leaving decent space for luggage. It’s also worth noting that for inclusion in this list all the seating must be forward facing, which rules out the Tesla Model S with its optional boot-mounted rear facing child seats.

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So, here’s our rundown of our favourite seven-seat machines, each one of which should ensure that nobody gets left behind.

1. Volvo XC90

It’s getting on for a decade old now, and there’s an all-electric replacement around the corner, but the Volvo XC90’s considerable appeal remains undimmed. There are rivals that are sharper to drive or offer more up-to-date tech, but few offer the same compelling blend of space, practicality, comfort and class as the seven-seat Swede. Moreover, in revised plug-in hybrid (PHEV) guise, it offers a great balance of performance, efficiency and low running costs, particularly for business users.

Perhaps the Volvo’s greatest strength is its interior, which roomy, well-equipped and smartly finished with rich materials. More importantly, unlike many the XC90 delivers enough space for seven adults to travel in reasonable comfort, with the third row seats serving-up good head and legroom. Better still, even with all seats in use (those in the very back can be quickly and easily folded into the floor when not needed), there’s a decent 316-litres of boot capacity. Interior flexibility is further enhanced by a second row that slides and reclines, plus has the option of an integrated child booster seat, while there’s enough handy storage for most odds and ends.

Despite its age, the XC90 still stands out on the road, with a certain understated class that means it’s not such a confrontational or aggressive presence as some of its full-sized SUV rivals. All the engines are four-cylinder turbocharged units, with the mild hybrid B5 diesel serving-up a decent plent of pace and parsimony. There’s also the T8 PHEV model (it remains a full seven-seater, unlike similar plug-in rivals such as the Land Rover Discovery, which is limited to five) that’s serves up the best part of 400bhp and claims up to 40 miles of EV running, helping drop it into the 8% Benefit in Kind (BiK) tax band for company car users. Whichever powertrain you use, the Volvo is composed and capable on the road, but the emphasis is on comfort and refinement rather than an uplifting driving experience, although that’s perfectly in keeping with the car’s remit.


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2. Hyundai Santa Fe

The recently revised Santa Fe has plenty going for it, not least the fact it was named Best Large Car in the 2022 Autocar Awards. The vast, family-friendly Korean machine has always been one of our favourites, but the addition of efficient and tax-busting plug-in petrol-electric powertrains has lifted it to the top of our rankings.

Despite the addition of a large lithium ion battery pack and electric motors, the space in the Santa Fe’s seven-seater interior has remained unchanged. That means third row seats that are not only easy to access, they’re also genuinely adult-sized. And when you don’t need to carry extra people, the Hyundai’s boot is an impressive 571-litres, swelling to 1,649-litres with all the seats folded flat. Better still, the facelift has seen uplifts in material quality and technology, giving the car real premium appeal.

On the move it favours a relaxed approach, but that’s just fine because it’s a seven-seat SUV after all. The 262bhp 1.6-litre motor sounds a little strained when extended, but it does its best work in the mid-ranges, where the 90bhp electric motor can add some instant torque-fill muscle. Speaking of which, the Santa Fe claims a decent 36 miles of all EV running on a full charge. There’s also a less powerful 227bhp ‘self-charging’ petrol electric unit, plus a 2.2-litre diesel for those who do big miles or tow (its braked limit of 2500kg is 1200kg more than the PHEV).

Elsewhere, the steering is light and precise, and provided you’re not in a massive rush the Hyundai can be hustled along with satisfying precision. Refinement is also good, and while the ride can get choppy on really bad surfaces for the most part it’s composed and comfortable.

At £50,000 for the plug-in version the Santa Fe ain’t cheap, but look more closely and you’ll find not many others provide a similar blend of talents for the cash.

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