Best and worst seven-seat SUVs and 4x4s

We round up the best seven-seat SUVs you can buy, and the ones you should avoid

Long gone are the days when transporting seven people meant opting for a boring people carrier or a cramped estate car.

Seven-seat 4x4s allow you to move the family with a dash of style, with the added capability to tow caravans and boats, or traverse a muddy field.

However, these are large vehicles so you need to choose the right engine if you're to avoid frightening fuel economy. Pick the right SUV and third-row passengers need not feel second-class, and there is little need to suffer an uncomfortable ride, clattery engines or a spartan cabin. The best represent very comfortable transport, whatever the terrain.

The best

Range Rover Sport

If you want a seven-seat car to make the neighbours jealous, this is surely it. The Sport is excellent to drive, lovely to sit in and is practical and premium in equal measure. In order to get a driving experience that lives up to the Sport name, pay the extra to get the Dynamic Pack.

The higher-output SDV6 is money well-spent in terms of refinement and performance but take a test drive to see if you feel the improvement is worth the investment. 
Pick of the range: 3.0 SDV6 HSE

The best of the rest

Hyundai Santa Fe

The Range Rover Sport is a bit rich for many buyers' blood, but a far more achievable prospect for many is Hyundai's Santa Fe. Plainly it lacks the badge allure of the Range Rover, but it gives little away in terms of practical family transport. It is spacious, good on fuel for such a big vehicle and comes packed with kit. Factor in the five-year warranty and the Santa Fe's appeal as an ownership prospect becomes obvious. If you can do without the four-wheel-drive option, you can save around £1400 and get an extra couple of miles to the gallon.
Pick of the range: 2.2 CRDi Style 4WD 7st

Land Rover Discovery 4

Fabulously gifted off-road, supple and comfortable on it, the Discovery is getting on a little bit now but it offers generous space, even in the third row of seats. It is nicely appointed inside, and if you can find the driveway space for it (and the £40,000 to buy it), it's a supremely good family car. If you can't stretch to the Range Rover Sport, this is a hugely capable alternative.
Pick of the range: 3.0 SDV6 255 GS

Volvo XC90

As old as the hills and shortly due for replacement, but it gives some indication of just how impressive the XC90 has been during its life that it still merits consideration. It's always been a very impressive seven-seat 4x4 and time has not diminished its talent. It is not the most dynamic drive, and rivals offer better economy, but equipment levels are good if you avoid the base ES trim. Shop around for the best deals because there are some huge savings to be had on the list price of this comfy, premium SUV.

Pick of the range: 2.4 D5 200 SE

The ones to avoid

Mitsubishi Shogun

Despite huge price cuts in 2013, this rugged, go-anywhere off-roader is still too far off the pace to warrant serious consideration as a usable seven-seater. A punishing ride, noisy diesels and sky-high running costs cannot be offset by the large kit list and appeal, rugged looks.

Ssangyong Rexton W

A 2013 face-lift addressed many of the Rexton's more troubling foibles, but despite very tempting prices for such a large lump of motoring real estate the current version is still a hard car to recommend. The 2.0-litre engine is willing but has to be worked hard, the steering is vague and the ride is fidgety.

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