Money may earn a commission when you click on the products and services below. Opinions are our own,
but compensation and in-depth research determine where and how they appear. Learn more about how we make money.

Published: Apr 25, 2023 6 min read
Illustration of an automobile in the spotlight
Money; Getty Images

Once known as the gas guzzlers of the road, today's SUVs are noticeably more fuel efficient and versatile. That's especially the case for midsized SUVs with 2 rows of seats.

Naturally, these vehicles hold fewer passengers (up to 6) than 3-row SUVs (with a capacity of 9), but the 2-row SUV is sufficiently spacious for many families, both in the cabin and the cargo hold. And almost all 2-row SUVs cost less to buy and to run than their large cousins, often significantly so.

We narrowed down the 2-row SUVs on the market to these five picks, considering factors like value, safety and performance. The specs listed below each review are for the model or “trim level” we assessed, which was the most popular one according to the automaker.

Our Top Picks for the Best 2-Row SUVs

Kia Soul — Best Overall and Best Value
Toyota RAV4 — Best for Features
Honda Passport — Best for Handling
Subaru Forester — Best for Safety
Ford Bronco Sport — Best for Technology

Reviews of the Best 2-Row SUVs

Best Overall and Best Value: Kia Soul

Courtesy of Kia
  • Low in price and overall cost of ownership
  • Expansive list of driver-assistance features
  • Power is the lowest of the group
  • Cargo capacity is relatively small

Compared with other SUVs, the Kia Soul provides the most value for the money. At just below $20,000, the Soul’s starting price undercuts those of rival SUVs by at least several thousand dollars. This SUV also delivers the best fuel economy of the group, and is relatively hassle-free: Kia received the fewest number of owner complaints of any brand on this list, according to the latest J.D. Power Initial Quality Study.

The Soul’s LX base trim is packed with features including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There’s also such advanced safety equipment as a blind-spot collision-avoidance alert, forward collision avoidance-alert and intelligent speed limit assist.

The boxy design allows for plenty of passenger space. However, compared with rival two-row SUVs, the Soul falls short in cargo capacity.

Best for Features: Toyota RAV4

Courtesy of Toyota
  • Plenty of features
  • Good gas mileage
  • Slower acceleration than most competitors

The Toyota RAV4 sports a good mix of features and value. The popular XLE trim starts at $29,485 and offers available heated front seats and a heated steering wheel. An 8-inch touch screen and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are among its standard tech features. All trims are equipped with the Toyota Safety Sense suite of driver assistance technologies. The XLE adds a blind spot monitor with rear-cross traffic alert to the mix.

The RAV4 is roomy inside and boasts 37.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind its second row. Despite its beefy 203-horsepower engine, though, the RAV4 is slow to accelerate; otherwise, it feels solid and agile on the road.

Best for Handling: Honda Passport

Courtesy of Honda
  • Agile handling
  • Better off-roading capability than many SUVs 
  • More expensive than many comparable vehicles

The spry Honda Passport launches from 0 to 60 mph quicker than any model on this list. Equipped with a robust 280-horsepower V6 engine, the Passport feels silky smooth on pavement and easily handles tougher terrain, thanks to standard all-wheel drive and intelligent traction management. The popular, mid-tier TrailSport trim sets you up to go off-road with 18-inch rugged-style tires, roof rails and fog lights.

The Passport’s interior is well-appointed, with power-adjustable, heated front seats and leather trim. Honda’s SUV also provides more cargo space than any other model on this list, with 41.2 cubic feet of storage behind the second row.

Best for Safety: Subaru Forester

Courtesy of Subaru
  • High marks for safety
  • Off-road specialty model available
  • Slow acceleration

The Subaru Forester stands out for its safety features and off-road ability. Named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Forester received top marks for headlight safety – the only model in the category to ace the agency’s headlight test for nighttime visibility across all trim levels.

Even the base model comes with advanced safety equipment such as blind spot detection with lane change assist and rear cross-traffic alert, reverse automatic braking, and high beam assist.

Drivers seeking a little off-road adventure can opt for the popular Wilderness trim (priced below) with advanced transmission tuning, 9.2 inches of ground clearance and water-repellent upholstery.

Best for Technology: Ford Bronco Sport

Courtesy of Ford
  • Lots of the latest features
  • Retro design
  • Less interior room than most in this group

The retro-inspired Ford Bronco Sport comes with Ford’s SYNC3 infotainment system, an 8-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Standard safety equipment includes a Blind Spot Information System with Cross Traffic Alert.

The SUV also has an SOS Post-Crash Alert System to help speed up emergency response. This feature is especially helpful if you are in a rural or remote area. Evasive steering assist uses the Bronco Sport’s camera and radar sensor to detect the vehicle ahead and apply active braking. The system can also help you when maneuvering around the vehicle, by providing additional steering support.

Adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane centering and speed sign recognition are available. The popular Big Bend trim, a step up from the base model, adds extras including heated seats and Sirius XM satellite-radio capability.

Jaclyn Trop is an award-winning journalist who road-tests and reviews vehicles, in addition to covering automotive news. Her byline has appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Fortune, Consumer Reports and U.S. News & World Report, among other publications.