The Highlander is a very well-rounded vehicle for getting the family across town or across the country while keeping them safe and comfortable, but it offers very little excitement for the driver.
For that, the MazdaCX-9 is a better pick, as it's nearly as comfortable and versatile, but it simply steers and handles better.
The Ford Flex is the winner for visual excitement; most will like its uber-boxy style and pleasing interior materials.
Those who want something a little more rugged-looking, with more of a traditional SUV driving position, should consider the Honda Pilot, which is very safe and well-laid out for passengers, too.
Of them all, the Chevrolet Traverse is probably the best pick, other than the Highlander for passenger comfort, and the Chevy has an even more spacious (and easier to get to) third row.
Toyota's own RAV4 offers a third row, but the rearmost row is just kidstuff; if it's just for occasional use, it might suffice.
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|2012 Toyota HighlanderBrowse Used Listings||2012 Chevrolet TraverseBrowse Used Listings||2012 Ford FlexBrowse Used Listings||2012 Honda PilotBrowse Used Listings||2012 Mazda CX-9Browse Used Listings|
|17 MPG City / 25 MPG Hwy||16 MPG City / 24 MPG Hwy||16 MPG City / 24 MPG Hwy||17 MPG City / 25 MPG Hwy||16 MPG City / 24 MPG Hwy|
|Gas I4||Gas V6||Gas V6||Gas V6||Gas V6|
|Sport Utility Vehicle||2WD Sport Utility Vehicle||2WD Sport Utility Vehicle||2WD Sport Utility Vehicle||2WD Sport Utility Vehicle|
|FWD 4-Door I4 (Natl)||FWD 4-Door LS||4-Door SE FWD||2WD 4-Door LX||FWD 4-Door Sport|
|Front Wheel Drive||Front Wheel Drive||Front Wheel Drive||Front Wheel Drive||Front Wheel Drive|
|4 Door||4 Door||4 Door||4 Door Sport Utility||4 Door Sport Utility Vehicle|