clifford chow
28 Jun 2018

With the popularity of SUVs, manufacturers are jumping on to the bandwagon by adding more “value” to their vehicles.

Since SUVs have the added advantage of space at the rear, it comes as no real surprise that “value” in some instances could be the addition of extra seating.

Here are what we think are four great “people carrier” SUVs which would rival an MPV!

Peugeot 5008

Ahh, yes… the French always have a way with their quirks, but the new 5008 does take things a little further. The previous car was to us seriously still an MPV. It did the job pretty well, while staying true to being practical.

Styling-wise, the 5008 which is now an SUV, looks expensive with a good measure of chrome accents. Its larger-than-life front grille, and sculpted headlamps, together with faux scruff plates makes for an aggressive-yet rugged looking car, while it’s notched rear tail lamp cluster is edgy. Look again, and you will realise that the designers have added a little bit of visual trickery with this one, by forward-sloping the chrome trim on the “D” pillar to give the illusion of a sportier-looking vehicle.

The 5008 also benefits from the same fanciful dash its 5-seater sibling, the 3008 utilises. Featuring a digital instrument binnacle, and physical menu buttons for its infotainment unit, providing easier selection of different functions. While there is a creative use of materials, quality of the fit is not the best, with some lines on some examples not joining up visually. Some attractive goodies include a wireless QI compatible mobile charging pad, and different display modes for the instrument binnacle, and we soon learnt that driving in “minimal” display mode makes life simpler.

That mentioned, seats up in the front are supportive, and even for something which is not sporty, the 5008 still offers those all-important adjustable thigh cushions for better leg support. Middle row passengers also have it good, with ample legroom. Rear passengers on the other hand may find that legroom is very limited, and would be better described as a 5+2 seater. One of the Pug’s party tricks though, is the removable these +2 seats, which frees up more space.

There are two model variants here, a 1.2 litre 3-cylinder turbocharged model which delivers a decent 129bhp and 230Nm of twist, and a more potent 1.6 litre with 163bhp and 240Nm. While the 1.2 is serious value-for-money (and we loved it in the 3008), the extra power from the 1.6 makes the 5008 simply more practical as a car to live with (not about the cost), just remember that you will be hauling seven one time or another, and you are after-all lugging around more weight.

Kia Sorento

The Koreans have come a long way, and have shown determination in building better cars for the world. Alright, enough of my idealistic spin…

While the car is not the most refined here due to the diesel engine clatter, the heaps of torque (441Nm should be more-than ample for most applications) and lower cost of diesel certainly offsets any of the noise-negatives. A large 71 litre diesel tank may raise some eyebrows when you are faced with the total bill at the pumps, but the range the Sorento is able to deliver with such a tank, together with some frugal driving will keep you on the road for a very long time.

While we have tested the 4WD version, which delivers quite a sweet and responsive drive, we would say that the 2WD version is just sufficient, and you will get some fuel savings from lesser driven wheels, at a slight sacrifice of handling.

Quality-wise, the Sorento’s use of interior materials could be a tad better, though fit is very good. Our major gripe with the car involves large blind area on the passenger side, where lower or smaller vehicles might fall into the space where the driver might not be able to see them.

The Sorento offers very comfortable seating up in the front and middle rows, while its wide girth ensures that even the middle-passenger gets some shoulder dignity. The third row seats however are a little cramped for adults, and the car would be better described as a 5+2 seater (but still with enough space for rear passenger dignity), though it would flatly beat the likes of the Honda CRV. As a consolation, rear passengers get their own set of air-conditioning controls and the middle-row seats do slide forward for some added (and important) legroom.

Buying the 4WD will cost a decent bit more. For some, this could come useful if handling is one of the boxes that needs checking, but at $143,999 for the base 2WD, it is priced more competitively, and you will get better fuel consumption figures.

Mazda CX-9

When Mazda planned out its CX-9 SUV, the car manufacturer pulled all the stops with its exterior styling, producing one of the sharpest-looking SUVs available. From its larger-than-life front grille, sleek headlamps and a side profile keeping to its “Golden Ratio” proportions.

This is also a first by Mazda in a long while, fielding a turbocharged engine to their range. The CX-9 is powered by a force-fed version of their 2.5 litre engine, good for 231bhp, and a healthy dab of 420Nm. Handling, even for the 2WD version is superb (for its size) and the 2.5 litre turbocharged engine is willing, and only gets vocal above 3,500rpm.

On the inside, the Japanese manufacturer ensured that priority would be placed high on quality. With a dash featuring plenty of chrome accented trim and robust black plastic buttons, which feature a tactile feel that rivals those of luxury German brands, you may be fooled into thinking that you are in something which is European-built. Buyers will be spoilt too, with a 12-speaker BOSE sound system as part of its kit. The infotainment unit though is one of Mazda’s weaknesses, as the user-interface can come across as rather dated, especially for a car this well planned.

For long distances, like trips up North, the CX-9’s seats are well-suited, with plenty of space for adjusting yourself. Middle-row seats are also supportive and can comfortable seat three occupants Large rear doors also makes gaining access to the third row a rather simple affair, and by-far the CX-9’s rear legroom is one of the best we have encountered so far, though like many similar SUVs, there is always a lack of thigh support.

The large footprint of the CX-9 translates to added room for cargo, and even with all three rows of seats are deployed, there is still 230 litres to spare, which is almost similar to some smaller hatches.

Unfortunately, the CX-9 does not come cheap here. While it is already expensive at $187,800 just for the 2WD version, it does simply offer more useful space than the KIA.

Honda CR-V 1.5 Turbo 7-Seater

We have to admit that the CR-V is actually the smallest car here, with the shortest wheelbase at 2,660mm, meaning that packaging-wise it does offer less when it comes to legroom for rear passengers. My 172cm height would mean that the top corner of my head fits snugly with the rounded roof lining when seated at the last row of seats. The CR-V is really more of a 5+2 seater than a full seven-seater SUV. Front and middle row passengers though benefit from very good head, and legroom.

But the car does deserve a noteworthy mention here. With merits in its build quality, pretty good equipment levels (including an innovative Lane Watch feature) and Honda decided to field a smaller turbocharged 1.5 litre engine for better fuel economy this round. While the engine might be a little vocal when pushed, we cannot deny that together with the CVT transmission, it provides a smooth ride. Good for those who love something effortless and easy.

Even with an added rear row of seats, the CR-V offers very good flexibility for loading up the boot. There is a parcel shelf intended to keep the loading area flush with the last row flattened out, and offering some room for organisation. Drop the last and middle row seats, and the CR-V delivers a pretty good 1,627 litres of cargo room.

We Recommend

Mazda CX-9

Not as expensive as maybe a 2.0 Land Rover Discovery with seven seats (which is built for another purpose), but delivers wonderfully in passenger comfort. You do not really need four driven wheels in urban Singapore.

The CX-9 does impress with its build quality with a premium feel, larger-than-life styling, above and beyond its passenger accommodating qualities. The 2.5 litre turbocharged unit matches well with its passenger-carrying intent, and is pretty smooth in delivery too. Cargo room too is generous, already offering 230 litres with the third row of seats deployed… very good for those who may be a little lazy to lower them. 

Kia Sorento

We test drove KIA’s most costly version of this car a while ago and took a liking to it. So knocking off the 4wd and also some of the frilly trim bits, there is an easier to swallow base 2WD version offering the same versatility for much less. There is however that nagging large blind area on the passenger side you may need to look out for when switching lanes.

But for under $150K, the entry version of the Sorento is a value buy, rivalling Mazda’s offering. That’s if you can get past the diesel engine clatter, then again… you do get a decent 16.7km/l combined for something this large and with a whopping 441Nm of torque to play with.

*prices correct at time of publication

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