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A brown 2023 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek is shown from the front during a 2023 Nissan Pathfinder vs 2023 Chevy Traverse comparison.

Seven Versatile Midsize SUVs Ranked by Passenger and Storage Space

When putting SUVs head-to-head in matchups like the 2023 Nissan Pathfinder vs 2023 Chevy Traverse, there are all kinds of factors to keep in mind, from technology to fuel efficiency to overall aesthetics. That’s a lot to keep track of, and it can be overwhelming for people who are trying to decide on the model of their next vehicle. So today, we’re going to keep things simple and focus on something that many midsize SUV drivers are concerned with; space.

If you’re opting for a midsize SUV over a compact model, you’re probably concerned with the number of passengers and cargo you can take along for the ride. We’ve looked at the 2023 model year offerings of seven popular SUVs and judged them based on factors like passenger space across all three rows, as well as interior cargo volume. We’re also keeping towing capacity in mind since you can always move some extra cargo to a trailer. Without further ado, here they are, from the tightest squeeze to the most spacious.

7. The GMC Acadia

The Acadia is more on the compact side of its class, which can be helpful for maneuvering in tight spaces, but necessarily sacrifices interior space. The Acadia has less headroom up front than any other vehicle on this list, at only 40 inches, so drivers and front passengers might feel a little cramped. It’s also tied with the Mazda CX-9 for least from leg room, offering only 41 inches in the front.

With the second and third rows of seating folded down, the Acadia provides a respectable 79 cu.ft. of cargo space; however, if you need to use all of the available seating and still bring some luggage along, it’s less impressive. With only 12.8 cu.ft. of cargo volume with all seats up, the Acadia falls behind other three-row SUVs. Unless you get a model equipped with the optional towing package, you can’t make up for that lack of space by moving some cargo into a trailer. Even when you do, the Acadia’s 4,000 lbs of towing capacity is far from the best in its class.

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

6. The Mazda CX-9

Mazda seems to have focused on looks rather than space while designing the cabin of the CX-9. The materials are certainly nice, but it might be hard to appreciate them if you’re feeling cramped. Across all three rows, it has the least headroom of any vehicle listed here, so taller passengers may feel slightly claustrophobic no matter where they sit. It also comes in last for overall cargo volume, with only 71.2 cu.ft. available with both the second and third rows of seating folded down. The CX-9 can only tow up to 3,500 lbs, so if you have a trailer that’s on the larger size, you’re out of luck.

5. The Kia Sorento

In the first or second row, you’ll probably enjoy your experience inside the Kia Sorento, with a well-designed interior when it comes to materials and overall layout. However, the third row is more of an afterthought, clearly meant to be folded down most of the time to expand the limited cargo space in the back. If you leave them upright, you’ll only have 12.6 cu.ft. of cargo volume left, the least of any option on this list. You can move some of that cargo into a trailer, but not much. The maximum towing capacity on the Sorrento is 3,500 lbs, and many trims can only manage 2,000 lbs.

4. The Toyota Highlander

The Highlander is around the middle of the pack regarding most of the figures we’re looking at. It’s not particularly cramped, and it’s not particularly spacious. Your passengers probably won’t complain about their accommodations, but they won’t be complimenting them either. When it comes to towing, the Highlander can manage 3,500 lbs or a more respectable 5,000 lbs, depending on which powertrain you opt for.

3. The Subaru Ascent

With 31.7 inches of space, the Subaru Ascent does a good job of offering passengers in the third row a good amount of legroom. Even full-grown adults should be pretty happy back there, which is a rare thing for a three-row SUV. Fill all those seats up, and you’re left with 18 cu.ft. of cargo space, which isn’t bad at all. Subaru is known for making powerful vehicles, and the Ascent is no exception: it can tow up to 5,000 lbs, making it perfect for handling small trailers.

2. The Chevrolet Traverse

Chevy’s Traverse has a high ceiling that gives passengers from front to back plenty of headroom. Legroom is a little more mixed. While the Traverse has the most third-row legroom of any model on this list at 33.48 inches, it’s among the worst options for first-row leg room, at only 41.01 inches. Its cargo hold has plenty of space, whether you fold down some of the seats or leave them all upright. Its towing capacity is also strong, though not quite #1, with a maximum capacity of 5,000 lbs.

A red 2023 Chevy Traverse RS is shown from the side while on the highway.

1. The Nissan Pathfinder

Balancing the many dimensions and capacities relevant to this category, we’re giving the blue ribbon to the 2023 Nissan Pathfinder. This SUV can seat up to eight passengers, but if you don’t need to seat three in the second row, you can switch the bench out for a pair of captain’s chairs that provide even better ergonomics with a center console between them that provides extra storage and can be removed for easy access to the third row. There are plenty of storage solutions throughout the cabin, from bins in the lower dashboard to a pass-through console between the front two seats, so you can tuck away everything you want easy access to while on the road.

With 44.3 inches of legroom and 58.3 inches of hip room in the front row, the Pathfinder is the best option on this list in either category, so drivers of all shapes and sizes can feel comfortable behind the wheel. In the third row, the Pathfinder offers plenty of shoulder room at 58.4 inches, so even with a full bench, everyone can have enough space. With all three rows of seating in use, the Pathfinder still has 16.6 cu.ft. of cargo space in the back for you to play with.

With the back two rows of seats folded down, that number goes up to 80.5 cu.ft., so whether you’re packing a long trip’s worth of airplane luggage or loading in bulky equipment for an outdoor getaway, it’s easy to fit everything you need. Folding the seats down is quick and simple, so you can reconfigure the cargo space to suit your needs from trip to trip. Cargo that needs extra security can be tucked into the under-floor storage in the back, which is fully concealed from view when you’re not accessing it and can be divided into sections for organization.

If the interior isn’t enough space for what you need, then you can also hook up a trailer. When properly equipped, the Pathfinder can tow up to 6,000 lbs, which is certainly impressive for a midsize SUV. Features like tow mode and trailer sway control helps keep the driver in control in a variety of road and weather conditions. You can also strap things like bikes and kayaks to the roof, thanks to the available roof rail attachments. Inside and out, there are plenty of storage solutions onboard the Pathfinder. For those on the hunt for a three-row SUV with plenty of cargo space and a lot of versatility, we enthusiastically recommend this impressive vehicle.