I need a vehicle that holds seven to eight passengers comfortably. Are there any vehicles besides the big SUVs (Suburban, Yukon XL, etc.) that suit my needs as well as being better on gas?
Several vehicles that seat seven or eight people get better fuel economy than full-size SUVs like the Chevrolet Suburban and GMC Yukon, including the Toyota Highlander Hybrid (28/28 mpg city/highway) with standard all-wheel drive, the front-wheel-drive Ford Explorer with the 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine (20/28 mpg) and the Honda Odyssey minivan (18/27 mpg). A seven-passenger 2014 Acura MDX goes on sale this summer with ratings of up to 20/28 mpg with front-wheel drive and 18/27 mpg with all-wheel drive.
However, we can't promise that the third-row passengers will be comfortable. In fact, if they're about 6 feet tall or larger, we can almost promise you they will be uncomfortable. The same is true for most full-size SUVs — even monsters such as the Suburban — so you probably won't give up much third-row space in choosing a smaller, more economical vehicle.
In addition to the ones mentioned above, you might also consider the Chevrolet Traverse with front-wheel drive (17/24 mpg), Dodge Grand Caravan (17/25 mpg), Dodge Journey (19/26 mpg) with front-wheel drive and four-cylinder engine, and front-wheel drive Honda Pilot (18/25 mpg). Though none of those EPA estimates knocks our socks off, they look a lot better than the Suburban's estimates of 15/21 mpg with standard rear-wheel drive
You can find other candidates with the Cars.com Vehicle Recommender, here, which lets you select vehicles by fuel economy, number of seats, price and other factors.
The acid test for any vehicle should be how well you and your most frequent passengers will fit, so keep that in mind when shopping. Moreover, if kids are involved, think ahead to when they will require more space for themselves and their stuff.
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