$40,000 3-Row SUV Car Seat Challenge: the Highs and Lows

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Large families basically have two choices when it comes to what to drive: a three-row SUV or a minivan. Both have their merits and handle cargo and passenger room differently. During Cars.com's recent $40,000 3-Row SUV Challenge, I spent a few days getting to know seven of the contenders in the midsize crossover class, driving them, climbing in and out of them, and installing car seats in their second and third rows.

Read the Full $40,000 3-Row SUV Challenge

Although they all have to offer a large amount of room in order to fit that third row, it's obvious that not all SUVs are created equal. When it comes to car seats, there were some very clear winners and losers, with the Honda Pilot and Hyundai Santa Fe leading the pack, and the Chevrolet Traverse and Mazda CX-9 bringing up the rear.

By Jennifer Geiger | April 9, 2014 | Comments (1)

Several Midsize SUVs Fail IIHS Crash Test

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The 2014 Honda Pilot didn't do very well in Cars.com's $40,000 3-Row SUV Challenge, and it fared even worse in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's latest crash test. The Pilot is one of several SUVs that scored poorly in the IIHS's challenging small front overlap test.

More Safety News

The agency recently performed the test, meant to simulate a 40-mph crash of a vehicle's front corner into another vehicle, a tree or a pole, on nine midsize SUVs; six scored marginal or poor. Only the 2014 Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain took home good ratings, earning them Top Safety Pick Plus status.

The GM twins join the redesigned-for-2014 Toyota Highlander, which was tested last year and also deemed a Top Safety Pick Plus. To qualify for the agency's highest award, a vehicle must earn a good or acceptable small overlap rating, good ratings in four other occupant protection tests and a rating of basic or higher for front crash prevention.

By Jennifer Geiger | April 7, 2014 | Comments (13)

$40,000 3-Row SUV Challenge: What the Judges Said

Chris Woodyard and Joe Bruzek

Here are our judges for this Challenge:

  • Joe Bruzek, Road Test Editor, Cars.com
  • Jennifer Geiger, Assistant Managing Editor, Cars.com
  • Kelsey Mays, Consumer Affairs Editor, Cars.com
  • Chris Woodyard, L.A. Bureau Chief, USA Today
  • Brian Robinson, Producer, "MotorWeek"
  • LadyAnn and Ed Sabalburo, a Southern California couple with a young daughter and a second child on the way; they own an Acura MDX currently and are thinking about moving up to a bigger SUV.

We set a maximum price of $40,000, including a destination charge, and a minimum EPA combined city/highway mileage rating of 19 mpg. There were eight SUVs that met our criteria:

By Patrick Olsen | April 6, 2014 | Comments (7)

Which 3-Row SUV Gets the Best Mileage?

$40,000 3-Row SUV Challenge Mileage Results

Squeezing fuel economy out of the three-row SUVs tested for Cars.com's $40,000 3-Row SUV Challenge is no easy task for automakers. Large people-and-cargo haulers capable of carrying eight and towing up to 5,000 pounds or more aren't really conducive for saving gas.

$40,000 3-Row SUV Challenge
Index | ResultsWhat the Judges Said

Efforts to raise fuel-economy numbers mean there are a variety of fuel-saving technologies in the seven SUVs we tested. Our mileage drive put these features — including efficient transmissions, cylinder deactivation, Eco modes, sleek aerodynamics and weight savings — to the test.

By Joe Bruzek | April 6, 2014 | Comments (3)

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

$40,000 3-Row SUV Challenge

Family-friendly SUVs are still a big business: There are plenty of kids to cart around, groceries and sports equipment for kids of all ages to carry.

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

We focused this Challenge on three-row SUVs 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 SUVs that came with the features we know are popular with families. 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:

By David Thomas | April 6, 2014 | Comments (18)

2014 Mazda CX-9 Photo Gallery

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The 2014 Mazda CX-9 finished fifth in our $40,000 3-Row SUV Challenge. "True to the zoom-zoom marketing gimmick, it was the best handling vehicle in the bunch," said one of our judges. Check out our gallery below to inspect the CX-9's styling, interior and family-friendliness.

By David Thomas | April 6, 2014 | Comments (0)

2014 Mazda CX-9: Car Seat Check

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Fun to drive isn't the first thing that comes to mind when describing three-row crossovers, but the 2014 Mazda CX-9 is just that with its 3.7-liter V-6 engine and responsive automatic transmission. Things got decidedly less fun when installing child-safety seats into it, however. The CX-9's interior isn't the roomiest, and the third row doesn't have a set of lower Latch anchors or any tether anchors. We can live without the third-row Latch anchors because you can use a seat belt to install a car seat instead, but the missing tether anchors means that a forward-facing convertible cannot be installed there.

More Car Seat Checks

In Car Seat Checks, we don't install rear-facing child-safety seats in the third row because most parents want the young children who ride in these seats in the second row so they can assist them, if needed. Kids in forward-facing car seats are older and a bit more independent, making it more likely that parents will install their child-safety seats in the third row when necessary.

By Jennifer Newman | February 20, 2014 | Comments (0)

Is the Mazda CX-9's Gas Mileage Competitive?

"Is the Mazda CX-9's gas mileage poor compared to other SUVs?"

Anonymous

By Rick Popely | November 2, 2013 | Comments (0)

2014 Mazda CX-9: What's Changed

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Most significant changes: Optional rear cross-traffic alert

Price change: $200 higher on Sport; $250 more on Touring and Grand Touring

On sale: Early October

Which you should buy, 2013 or 2014? 2013. The prices increases are modest on the 2014s, but so are the changes. The better deals should be on 2013 models.

Mazda refreshed its three-row CX-9 crossover for 2013 with new front and rear styling and a new dashboard design that includes a standard 5.8-inch touch screen. The changes are more modest for 2014: Rear cross-traffic alert is a new option, and the Grand Touring model has new 20-inch wheels.

By Rick Popely | October 29, 2013 | Comments (0)

Refreshed Mazda CX-9 Doesn't Need to Change Third Row

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The Mazda CX-9 has undergone a refresh for the 2013 model year. This doesn't equal a full redesign — even if TV and radio commercials make it sound that way. The reality is that small changes of the baby-step variety were made to the CX-9's outside and inside, but not wholesale changes, especially not to the third row. In the past, our team of editors has dinged the CX-9 for being tight on space in both legroom and headroom, as well as being difficult to access the third row.

The truth in numbers is hard to dispute. Not one interior dimension has changed between the "old" 2012 CX-9 and the "new" 2013 CX-9 and that includes the third row. Third-row dimensions are far roomier in the slightly longer Chevy Traverse and even the significantly shorter Honda Pilot. You can compare all four here.

But my family found the CX-9's third row to be flexible enough to make up for the shortness of space.

By Kristin Varela | May 30, 2013 | Comments (0)

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