What's the Best 3-Row SUV for $40,000?

CARS.COM — Family-friendly SUVs are still vehicles with a big business. There are plenty of kids to cart around in these SUVs, groceries and sports equipment for kids of all ages to carry. Whether you are in the market for a smaller SUV or a full-sized SUV like the Ford Explorer or Chevrolet Traverse with third-row seating and plentiful cargo space, there's an option that's just right for any family large enough to need one. 

$40,000 3-Row SUV Challenge
Index | What the Judges Said | Mileage Drive

We focused this Challenge on SUVs with third-row seating that cost less than $40,000, including a destination charge, and achieved at least 19 mpg in EPA combined city/highway fuel-economy ratings. We picked the price based on Cars.com's listings for these SUVs that came with the features we know are popular with families (such as an extra row of seating). After four days of testing by experts from Cars.com, USA Today, "MotorWeek" and a real-life, in-market family, here's how the results broke down:

  1. 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe, 800.5 points
  2. 2014 Dodge Durango, 781.5 points
  3. 2014 Toyota Highlander, 744 points
  4. 2014 Nissan Pathfinder AWD, 726 points
  5. 2014 Mazda CX-9, 652 points
  6. 2014 Honda Pilot AWD, 648.5 points
  7. 2014 Chevrolet Traverse, 625 points

Of the seven contenders, the Hyundai Santa Fe was the clear winner ahead of the Dodge Durango. What, exactly, makes the Santa Fe such a formidable three-row SUV offering? Find out in the video for our Challenge below.

Cars.com photos by Evan Sears

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