Three affordable 2018 model year compact crossovers now offer a third row. Are these the perfect size vehicles for families with two or three children?
Nissan Rogue, Mitsubishi Outlander, and the Volkswagen Tiguan. We don’t like to tease readers. Those are the three affordable compact crossovers that now offer an optional third row of seats. For those with a bit of padding in the budget, the Land Rover Discovery Sport is an option worth considering as well.
Back in the days before the compact crossover became the top-selling vehicle segment, automakers were keen on offering five-passenger crossovers with a pair of pop-up jump seats in back for occasional use. Vehicles like the first-generation Toyota Highlander had these seats. Even the compact Mazda5 had them (and they faced sideways!) Small third-row seats were hugely popular with families who saw the obvious advantage when it came time for a soccer carpool, or when granny and gramps joined the family for a quick run to dinner. The temporary seats were a hit with the rugrats too, who of course, wanted to just jump over the second row to get back there. Unfortunately, the automotive media helped kill off these seats and also helped along the rapid size increases of these popular vehicles. “Cramped for adults, ” and “difficult to access third-row seating” were the mantra written by writers who just didn’t get it in review after review.
Now that compact crossovers have grown up and increased in size, automakers are starting to bring back the temporary third-row of seating. Customers seem interested. Nissan offers the Rogue with three rows in the middle “family value” trims. Is the fact that the Nissan Rogue (top of page image) went from third or fourth in the segment in sales to first place after adding in the third row of seats correlation or causation? We may never know. What we do know is that Nissan is not alone in recognizing the attraction of a temporary seat in which kids can sit in a pinch.
The all-new Volkswagen Tiguan now offers a third row. The most significant change between the old Tiguan design (still sold as the “Tiguan Limited”) and the new one is size. Remember that first-generation Toyota Highlander we mentioned above? The new Tiguan has the same length and width as that vehicle. Like it did with the Passat and Jetta, VW is up-sizing to meet the preferences of American customers. VW offers the third row standard on its 2WD trims and as a $500 option on most of the trims with VW’s 4Motion AWD system.
The Mitsubishi Outlander also offers a compact third-row of seating. Our own Nicole Wakelin tested the Outlander recently and titled her review, “An Affordable SUV For Seven.” Nicole is one of the automotive media members who “gets it.” She said of the Outlander’s third-row of seating, “Third rows aren’t typically used all the time. They’re used in a pinch when there are a couple extra kids in tow. The third row in the Outlander is best for exactly that situation. It isn’t particularly comfortable, but the kids aren’t going to care.”
The Outlander, Rogue, and Tiguan can all come with a third row and decent amenities for around $30K. For another $10K Land Rover’s Discovery Sport is an interesting option. It’s shorter than the VW Tiguan but wider, and width matters in a third row.