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3-Row SUVs With the Best Cargo Areas

2020 Ford Explorer

Cars.com editors judged many categories in our 2020 3-Row SUV Challenge, but cargo space is one area bound to stick out for SUV shoppers. Automakers market their own cargo specs, but inconsistent methodology makes for unreliable comparisons. We calculated our own cargo volumes, measuring major dimensions behind each SUV’s second and third rows. Space alone doesn’t fully illustrate an SUV’s cargo setup, so we considered other cargo aids, too: powered and hands-free liftgates, cargo-area controls to fold the seats, additional under-floor cargo space, a sliding second row and cargo depth with all seats folded.

 2020 3-Row SUV Challenge
Results | Winner | How We Tested | Mileage Drive | Cargo

Some of those items, like powered liftgates and sliding second-row seats, came on all the SUVs we tested, so we’ll instead detail the differences. Our calculated volumes account for 20 out of the category’s 30 total points. The category’s remaining 10 points come from those cargo aids. As such, our well-equipped test cars fell into two different groups: those with strong cargo credentials and those without.

From Best to Worst Cargo Areas, Here’s How the 7 SUVs Tested Rank:

1. 2020 Chevrolet Traverse

2. 2020 Hyundai Palisade

3. 2019 Volkswagen Atlas

4. 2020 Kia Telluride

5. 2020 Honda Pilot

6. 2020 Ford Explorer

7. 2020 Subaru Ascent

Cargo Losers

2020 Subaru Ascent, 19 Points (Out of a Possible 30)

2020 Subaru Ascent

The Ascent has respectable volume behind the second row, but measured space behind the third row was second-worst in the group. The Subaru lost more points for below-average cargo depth with all seats folded, as well as for missing cargo aids.

  • As-tested volume behind second row (third row folded): 21.7 cubic feet
  • As-tested volume behind third row: 11.6 cubic feet
  • Depth to the front-center console with all seats folded: 84 inches
  • Cargo-area seat-folding controls for third row: No
  • Cargo-area seat-folding controls for second row: No
  • Hands-free liftgate: No
  • Significant under-floor storage: Yes

2020 Ford Explorer, 20 Points

2020 Ford Explorer

Need to load up on occupants and cargo? Avoid the Explorer. As-tested volume behind the Explorer’s third row was the group’s worst by a wide margin — the result of relatively narrow confines without much height. Volume behind the second row was second-worst only to the Pilot, but the Explorer gained points thanks to deep maximum cargo depth and a decent roster of cargo aids. 

  • As-tested volume behind second row (third row folded): 20.9 cubic feet
  • As-tested volume behind third row: 9.4 cubic feet
  • Depth to the front-center console with all seats folded: 86 inches
  • Cargo-area seat-folding controls for third row: Yes
  • Cargo-area seat-folding controls for second row: No
  • Hands-free liftgate: Yes
  • Significant under-floor storage: Yes

2020 Honda Pilot, 20 Points

2020 Honda Pilot

A high cargo floor meant short dimensions to the tops of the seatbacks, relegating the Pilot to worst-in-group cargo space behind the second row. Decent volume behind the third row helped, but a lack of cargo-area seat releases did not. 

  • As-tested volume behind second row (third row folded): 18.8 cubic feet
  • As-tested volume behind third row: 13.0 cubic feet
  • Depth to the front-center console with all seats folded: 84 inches
  • Cargo-area seat-folding controls for third row: No
  • Cargo-area seat-folding controls for second row: No
  • Hands-free liftgate: Yes
  • Significant under-floor storage: Yes

Cargo Winners

2020 Kia Telluride, 24 Points

2020 Kia Telluride

Respectable dimensions behind the second and third rows helped the Telluride, as did releases in the cargo area for the second row — a feature only one other SUV, the Hyundai Palisade, had as tested.

  • As-tested volume behind second row (third row folded): 22.9 cubic feet
  • As-tested volume behind third row: 13.8 cubic feet
  • Depth to the front-center console with all seats folded: 83 inches
  • Cargo-area seat-folding controls for third row: No
  • Cargo-area seat-folding controls for second row: Yes
  • Hands-free liftgate: Yes
  • Significant under-floor storage: Yes

2019 Volkswagen Atlas, 24 Points

2019 Volkswagen Atlas

The Atlas boasts excellent cargo space, with the group’s highest as-tested volume behind the third row and second-highest volume behind the second row. On space alone, the Atlas leads the pack. But Volkswagen is stingy on ancillary features, with no cargo-area seat controls and only marginal under-floor storage. 

  • As-tested volume behind second row (third row folded): 27.1 cubic feet
  • As-tested volume behind third row: 18.1 cubic feet
  • Depth to the front-center console with all seats folded: 84 inches
  • Cargo-area seat-folding controls for third row: No
  • Cargo-area seat-folding controls for second row: No
  • Hands-free liftgate: Yes
  • Significant under-floor storage: No

2020 Hyundai Palisade, 25 Points

2020 Hyundai Palisade

Dimensionally similar to the Telluride, with which it shares a platform, the Palisade also got strong marks in measured space. (A different front-center console added another inch of maximum cargo depth, while minor differences in the cargo layout behind the third row meant slightly more space there.) A wealth of cargo-aiding features stole the show, as the Palisade was the only SUV in the group with cargo-area controls to fold the second and third rows. 

  • As-tested volume behind second row (third row folded): 22.9 cubic feet
  • As-tested volume behind third row: 14.2 cubic feet
  • Depth to the front-center console with all seats folded: 84 inches
  • Cargo-area seat-folding controls for third row: Yes
  • Cargo-area seat-folding controls for second row: Yes
  • Hands-free liftgate: Yes
  • Significant under-floor storage: Yes

2020 Chevrolet Traverse, 26 Points

2020 Chevrolet Traverse

With 26 points, the Traverse is the cargo-friendliest SUV here. Credit two best-in-group dimensions, by our measurements: cargo volume behind the second row and depth with the seats folded. That, plus reasonably good cargo aids, gave the Chevrolet the category’s strongest showing. 

  • As-tested volume behind second row (third row folded): 28.6 cubic feet
  • As-tested volume behind third row: 15.2 cubic feet
  • Depth to the front-center console with all seats folded: 90 inches
  • Cargo-area seat-folding controls for third row: Yes
  • Cargo-area seat-folding controls for second row: No
  • Hands-free liftgate: Yes
  • Significant under-floor storage: Yes

If you’re only concerned about roominess, here’s how the SUVs ranked in terms of the most as-tested cargo room behind the second and third rows:

SUVs With the Most As-Tested Cargo Room Behind the Second Row (Third Row Folded):

1. 2020 Chevrolet Traverse: 28.6 cubic feet

2. 2019 Volkswagen Atlas: 27.0 cubic feet

3. 2020 Hyundai Palisade: 22.9 cubic feet

4. 2020 Kia Telluride: 22.9 cubic feet

5. 2020 Subaru Ascent: 21.7 cubic feet

6. 2020 Ford Explorer: 20.9 cubic feet

7. 2020 Honda Pilot: 18.8 cubic feet

SUVs With the Most As-Tested Cargo Room Behind the Third Row:

1. 2019 Volkswagen Atlas: 18.1 cubic feet

2. 2020 Chevrolet Traverse: 15.2 cubic feet

3. 2020 Hyundai Palisade: 14.2 cubic feet

4. 2020 Kia Telluride: 13.8 cubic feet

5. 2020 Honda Pilot: 13.0 cubic feet

6. 2020 Subaru Ascent: 11.6 cubic feet

7. 2020 Ford Explorer: 9.4 cubic feet

To read more about our cargo testing methodology, be sure to check out How We Found the Best 3-Row SUV of 2020.

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