Third Row Seats: The 6 Smallest, Easiest-Parking Vehicles With Them

April 26, 2011

If you require seating for six or seven, you'll probably need a third row. But at the moment that you realize you need more than five seating positions, your entire range of vehicle possibilities becomes much more limited.

Getting a third row often involves settling for a much larger vehicle that's unwieldy to park and maneuver—especially if you live in a more congested, urban area.

Turns out, you don't have to get settle for a embarrassing plus-size SUV or even a significantly larger vehicle to get that third row. As long as you're only planning to carry kids in the third row, you'll do just fine with one of several easy-to-park vehicles that might even fit in a compact-only space.

To single out the most compact vehicles with third-row seats, we simply looked at overall length and width. Turning diameter might matter sometimes, but ultimately overall size is what's important.

Don't forget to consider outward visibility, too. With those third-row seats, can you see out when you're parking or changing lanes? And if you'll be putting a booster or child seat back there, can it mount in the third row and how easily? Also, how easily can you reach back to the third row when needed?

Consider those questions as part of your vehicle shopping, and click through for the smallest, easiest parking vehicles with third-row seats.

 

2012 Mazda MAZDA5

2012 Mazda MAZDA5

 

Mazda5
Length: 180.5 in
Width: 68.9 in
Rear headroom: 37.1 in
Rear legroom: 30.5 in
Capacity: 6

It's easy let your eyes play tricks on you with the economical Mazda5; from a few paces back, it looks like a minivan—which it is, but at about 7/8-scale compared to most 'full-size' minivans, the Mazda5 takes up the same overall parking footprint as a compact like the Mazda3, Volkswagen Jetta, or Chevrolet Cruze. Yet it offers a cavernous, versatile minivan interior and seating for six adults, if those back in the third row don't mind being a little tight. The wide-opening sliding side door actually makes getting back there easy though. You won't find fancy features like power-folding third-row seats in the Mazda5, which has been redesigned for 2012, and upholsteries and trims are basic but tough. However what really redeems the whole package is that the 2012 Mazda5 is actually very enjoyable to drive, with a perkier, more responsive, and curve-friendly driving feel than any of the other crossovers on this list.

 

2011 Toyota RAV4 FWD 4-door 4-cyl 4-Spd AT (GS) Angular Rear Exterior View

2011 Toyota RAV4 FWD 4-door 4-cyl 4-Spd AT (GS) Angular Rear Exterior View

Toyota RAV4
Length: 181.9 in
Width: 73.0 in
Rear headroom: 37.2 in
Rear legroom: 30.0 in
Capacity: 7

The RAV4 is one of the smallest vehicles in the North American market with a third-row seat, available on top trims as a standalone option that costs less than $1,000—and for less than $24k, you can get a four-cylinder RAV4 that can, in theory, seat seven. Despite the spare tire that hangs on the back of most models, the RAV4 is a surprisingly spacious and comfortable vehicle inside. There are a few important catches though: It's very hard to get back into that third row, and there's not much space left for cargo with the third row up in place.

 

2010 Mitsubishi Outlander GT

2010 Mitsubishi Outlander GT

Mitsubishi Outlander
Length: 183.7 in
Width: 70.9 in
Rear headroom: 35.4 in
Rear legroom: 27.7 in
Capacity: 7

Take a look at the Mitsubishi Outlander from the outside, and you'd likely not at all suspect that there's a third row of seating inside. But with some clever design, Mitsubishi has done it. The Outlander's third row is by no means comfortable in those rearmost two positions—and it takes some extreme contortion to get adults back there—but it's a legal and reasonably safe place to put a couple of kids when you need a couple of extra seating positions. With a two-piece, fold-down tailgate, which can hold up to 400 pounds, and an excellent 73 cubic feet of cargo space with the completely flat-folding second and third rows, the Outlander can come in very handy for space-challenged urban families.

 

2011 Kia Sorento

2011 Kia Sorento

Kia Sorento
Length: 183.9 in
Width: 74.2 in
Rear headroom: 36.6 in
Rear legroom: 30.3 in
Capacity: 7

The Kia Sorento is a few inches longer and wider than compact crossovers like the Honda CR-V, or Kia's own Sportage, which opens up just enough space for the optional third row seat that's available on all but the base-model Sorento. Get the Sorento with it only if it's strictly for kids, though; adults will find that there simply isn't enough headroom or legroom to fit—even if the official measurements are comparable to those of other larger vehicles on this list. With the third row up in place, beware that there's only 9.1 cubic feet of cargo space behind—enough for the kids' backpacks but not much else.

 

2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

Toyota Highlander
Length: 188.4 in
Width: 75.2 in
Rear headroom: 36.3 in
Rear legroom: 29.9 in
Capacity: 7

The Toyota Highlander is very family-friendly, but you won't find a lot of design excitement or driving excitement here. That said, the utilitarian Highlander is very roomy inside has some excellent packaging—including a clever middle seat that stows away inside the front console when it's not being used, allowing walk-through access to the third-row. That third row itself isn't truly adult-sized, but it's enough for kids to get comfortable, and parents will like how the Highlander is sensibly sized, not unwieldy. The Highlander's also available in high-mileage Highlander Hybrid form and, as such, gets great EPA ratings of 28 mpg city, 29 highway.

 

2011 Volvo XC90 FWD 4-door I6 Angular Front Exterior View

2011 Volvo XC90 FWD 4-door I6 Angular Front Exterior View

Volvo XC90
Length: 189.3 in
Width: 74.7 in
Rear headroom: 35.5 in
Rear legroom: 30.1 in
Capacity: 7

The XC90 is the top model in Volvo's alphanumeric model nomenclature, which might lead you to think that it's a gigantic vehicle. But compared to many American-sized utility vehicles, that's not at all the case, and it's considerably shorter than some mis-size sedans, making it easy to park and maneuver. The XC90 has seating positions that are more carlike than those of most SUVs and crossovers—and the front seats especially are among the best—and its ride quality is top-notch. The rearmost seats are hardly adult territory either, but they'll do just fine for kids. And despite the XC90's dated design, Volvo has kept it stocked with top safety-tech features like park assist, bi-xenon swiveling headlamps, and a Blind Spot Information System (BLIS).

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