Car Buyer Labs

Car Buying Advice, Tips, and Reviews

A grey 2023 Mazda CX-9 is shown from the front at an angle in the forest.

A Balanced Commute: Midsize SUVs

Finding the right vehicle means finding the right balance. Chances are, you need to get the biggest bang for your buck, and your vehicle needs to meet the diverse challenges that your family faces on a day-to-day basis. This is especially true if you are a one-vehicle family. If your car is used for commuting, transporting kids, the occasional cargo hauling, family outings, date nights, vacations, and more, you need something flexible. If this is the case, it sounds like it’s time to look into SUVs for sale. But maybe not a full-size SUV, and not a compact either. You need a commuter SUV––something which can be used professionally during work hours and for family life during after-hours and weekends.

Enter the midsize SUV. It’s not a full-size, it’s not a compact; it’s a commuter SUV, perfect for finding that balance. I really want to emphasize the commuter element because a family vehicle does not necessarily need to be the absolute best in design features; the kids usually make it hard to keep it nice and pretty, anyway. But, if you’re commuting in your vehicle, you may end up driving colleagues, clients, business partners, or whoever else you interact with throughout the day. So, you want a vehicle that accommodates this part of your work life while also being a good fit for your family. But what vehicles should you look at?

A red 2023 Chevy Traverse RS is shown from the front at an angle while driving.

Chevy Traverse

Chevy does it right with pretty much everything. However, the Traverse doesn’t get enough noise since it falls between the Tahoe and the Equinox. Classic middle child syndrome. But middle children always have a special spark about them, and so does the Traverse.

The Traverse makes an ideal commuter vehicle because it combines the bold stance of an SUV with the sleek refinement of a sedan. With the bold stance of an SUV comes the capacity of an SUV. The 2023 Traverse offers a maximum storage capacity of 2,780L, making it able to compete with even some full-size SUVs. Plus, 2,268 kg of towing capacity means you can haul extra cargo when needed.

Let’s talk about commuting. The interior of the Traverse is a luxurious oasis, complete with available leather-appointed seats and top-notch technology. You can keep the look simple with an all-black colour scheme that says “all-business.” Otherwise, you can go with a Maple Sugar colour scheme with black accents that says “all-business but with a flare.”

This comfortable interior is enhanced by a large infotainment screen and premium connectivity features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. These allow you to stay up-to-date on everything you need, from calls and messages to news, radio, audiobooks, podcasts, and music. It’s all integrated into your vehicle through your smartphone.

The Traverse offers next-level commuting. Chevy is a great brand, and the Traverse is a great vehicle. But neither the brand nor the vehicle is the only game in town.

Kia Sorento

Kia always finds a strong balance of efficient engineering and inviting design, which is the exact combination you want in a commuter SUV. When it comes to design features, the Sorento is redefining the midsize SUV market. Sporty and colourful interior design cues make for a heightened riding experience, and three rows of seating mean more space for more people to enjoy the fabulous features on the inside.

The real shining star of Kia, though, is its reputation for efficiency. With efficiency built into the very engineering of its vehicles, the brand maximizes the bang you get for your buck. The Sorento is particularly exciting because it offers an efficient and affordable hybrid option. Even better, it offers a plug-in hybrid option. This gets you the most bang for your buck because it has an all-electric range of 51 kilometres. An all-electric ride means less noise and far fewer stops for fuel. If your commute is a daily event, you will benefit from this efficiency in a special way because you’ll be saving your money for other things while you cruise on all-electric power.

Higher-efficiency vehicles mean a more future-proof ride. Nobody wants to purchase a vehicle that will have to be replaced within just a few years. So, why not enjoy a classy ride in a luxurious, fun, and highly-efficient midsize SUV? That’s what you’ll get in the Kia Sorento.

A red 2022 Kia Sorento is shown from the front at an angle while rounding a bend after leaving a dealer that advertised that it had SUVs for sale.

Mazda CX-9

Mazda’s strong point is crafting engaging and affordable luxury vehicles. This makes for an ideal commuter SUV. Everything the Mazda CX-9 offers, from the sporty exterior to the optional bold interior colours, makes for a stylish commute. However, be aware that the CX-9 will provide a different look depending on which trim you select.

If you want to go all-out with luxury design, the CX-9 Signature is the way to go. With illuminated exterior features, the vehicle literally glows, inviting you to experience the amazing interior. Once inside, you’ll find either Deep Chestnut or Pure White Nappa leather-trimmed seats with quilting and piping. These features all make for a stylish ride, but what takes the CX-9 even further is the opportunity to have a connected ride.

Mazda Connected Services allows you to use the MyMazda app on your smartphone to adjust the vehicle’s climate, lock or unlock your doors, adjust vehicle lighting, and ensure that your vehicle is doing alright. All of this can be done from afar, whether you’re in the office, in the house, or out having fun. Once inside the vehicle, you can enjoy a modern infotainment system built around a standard 26 cm touchscreen. Every trim is navigation-ready, and available SiriusXM Travel Link provides real-time traffic updates.

The combination of design and owner-vehicle connectivity creates a uniquely innovative driving experience. Don’t forget that this is still a midsize SUV, so you get all the benefits of extra interior space and SUV-level performance. In addition to all of this, the CX-9 also offers competitive fuel efficiency; it may not be on the level of a plug-in hybrid, but for a traditional gasoline-powered vehicle, it certainly holds its own. The combination of its luxury design, SUV architecture, efficiency, and connectivity make it a highly-effective commuter SUV. The CX-9 is the best of all worlds!

Finding the Balance

Balance is key when searching for a vehicle. You need something which delivers for all areas of your life. A commuter SUV offers the features you need for your commute and professional life but provides you with the capacity to take care of your family as well. This balance is not always easy to find, but these three midsize SUVs have all achieved it in innovative ways.

While all three are focused on design, the Mazda CX-9 is especially focused on that area, making for a highly-enjoyable experience. The Traverse focuses on providing nearly full-size SUV dimensions, while the Sorento emphasizes efficiency. Of course, there is overlap in that all three of these vehicles are focused on dimensions, design, and efficiency in their own way. But, if you’re really concentrating on finding the right mix of all three, the Mazda CX-9 provides a brilliant balance. It is a true luxury vehicle combined with a true SUV body, making for a flexible driving experience adaptable to your life’s diverse needs.