2017 Midsize SUV Comparison Has No Clear Winner

While this midsize non-premium SUV comparison test doesn’t include all the models available for the U.S. market, it’s still worth knowing how the GMC Acadia, VW Atlas, Mazda CX-9, Nissan Pathfinder, Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander compare.

Choosing between these six models will ultimately come down to personal preferences and sticker price. They’re all very capable in their own way, and picking an overall winner is indeed hard.

However, as proven here by Kelley Blue Book, adding up all the pluses and minuses does help in deciding how these SUVs should be ranked.

For example, the KBB team found that the 2017 GMC Acadia scored poorly compared to the others, in categories such as highway and city driving, interior quality and cargo space. It was among the best in terms of infotainment systems, but that’s about it.

Aside from the Acadia, it’s a close race between the other five models. The 2017 Honda Pilot and Mazda CX-9 seem to have the best interiors of the bunch, while also excelling at highway and city driving characteristics – unlike the 2017 Nissan Pathfinder, whose best feature is its spacious 3rd row.

Speaking of which, the 2018 VW Atlas came out on top in the 3rd row seating category. It also scored well in terms of cargo space and was said to have a good infotainment system.

As for the Toyota Highlander, aside from a strong rating for city driving, nothing else really stood out during the course of this comparison test. Still, it’s a strong contender with few shortcomings.


  • WG

    The clear winner design wise for me is the Mazda CX-9. Although the Atlas is the newest one out of the bunch, both the exterior and interior looks dated already to me. The CX-9 might not be the most practical compare to others in its class, but for me I would definitely prefer it over the others.

    • Kevin Cagle

      We have owned one for close to a year now. Positives: The LOOK, the interior, gas mileage (simply amazing – 23.5mpg avg 70city/30 highway), comfort, power and tech gizmos, regular unleaded. Downsides: 3rd row is really only for ferrying kids around town The nannies sometimes startle you when they take over. I wish the seat memory also held the Mirror setting. I cant wait until they add Carplay.

  • An Existing Person

    The CX-9 is the winner in all aspects for me.


  • Christian

    “Midsize SUV” LOL…The don’t get bigger here in Europe.

    • Ermal Morina

      lol ikr.

  • Rocket

    The CX-9 is the driver’s choice, but packaging is terrible for the class. Fold the third row of seats, and you’ll have less cargo capacity than you get in the nearly foot shorter Edge. Fold all seats in both models and the Edge still maintains an advantage. Even the small-for-the-class Highlander offers more than 15% greater interior volume. Having said that, if they removed the third row, reduced length by 10″ or so, and slapped on a CX-7 badge, I’d give it serious consideration. With such a big gap in their crossover lineup, Mazda is missing an opportunity in the space occupied by the Edge and Murano.

  • gor134

    If those are all midsize, what does the full-size Chevrolet Traverse compete with?

    • Rocket

      Honestly, minivans.

      I’m [mostly] kidding, of course. The Traverse is massive, but it will largely be shopped among these models, as will the Explorer. They mentioned that Traverse and Explorer testers weren’t available.

  • eb110americana

    The GM CUVs were never sporty and never pretended to be, but they always had better sound deadening, better ride, and interiors that didn’t look like they were yanked from compact sedans. This made them well-suited for their actual intended use as family runabouts and roadtrippers. The Acadia is all-new, and while shedding weight may have an effect on the buttery smooth ride (I don’t know) it has a nice interior, and I would be surprised if it didn’t lead in terms of noise isolation as well.

    I haven’t watched the video yet, but slamming the interior and both city and highway driving in the Acadia sounds more like bias to me. GM could honestly line their cars with lambskin leather wrapped gold iPhones, real metal, and wool carpets, and they would still get called cheap. Meanwhile, the VW, features layers of plastic-on-plastic interior that feels like the closest thing to driving a Rubbermaid container since the Dodge Caliber, and it gets a pass? Well, I guess it’s German, so it’s “luxurious, high-grade sh!tty plastic.” But at least it’s VW, so it will all be cracking and switches will stop working after 5 years! Exotic!

    • Wolverine350R

      The article slammed the Acadia, while the video really didn’t. It’s like the writer just doesn’t like it. The video says the interior is nice in quality and practicality, but is not as aesthetically pleasing (I don’t understand why people like the infotainment system looking like it was glued on the dash instead of integrated **shrug**). They also say its a small vehicle for this group and the ride is firm with the 20 inch wheels.

  • Bash

    Its either the CX-9 or the Highlander to me…. and im already leaning toward the CX9.

  • Rocket

    I would have liked to see the Flex tested, too. Sure, it’s getting old, but its aging well. It’s too bad it’s largely overlooked in this segment.

    • emjayay

      More of a big boxy station wagon though.

      • Rocket

        True, but to me that’s a good thing. Nobody is doing any off-roading in any of these after all. The Flex is lower, narrower, is among the best in cargo and people carrying capability, and with the 3.5L EcoBoost it’s quicker than anything tested here. In some cases, far quicker.

      • brn

        They’re all station wagons. The Flex just admits it.

  • Matthijs

    I don’t get it.. I know Americans can be quite obese but how many families are there with 4 to 5 children? Why do you need such a big car?


    • Wolverine350R

      Obesity has nothing to do with this, is there not a single fat person outside of the US. And I say US because “Americans” would include everyone from Canada to the southern tip of Chile.

      We are about to have a second child, we have a dog (A real dog, not a purse rat). If family visits we typically drive out of town some (so 6 people, driving to the nearest thing to do 2 hours away). To visit family is an 800 mile (~1300 km) drive (lots of luggage + dog). I have found a lot of people from densely populated areas like Europe do not understand the expanse of the US if they have not visited, it is generally a lot more then 10 miles between cities. Basically I want something with two rows with good cargo space that I can have a third row in every once in a while.

    • Dirtdogger

      So are you saying there aren’t obese Europeans? I know I’ve seen plenty just saying, and you may want to visit America before judging Google Earth is your friend

    • Kevink109

      really uncalled for- we have an even larger three row SUV- so three kids and a dog, plus carpools, soccer teams, baseball teams, waterpolo teams- snow ski and tow- so umm that leaves us with few options- I wish I could get something this small that would work

  • Hiluin

    Mazda CX-9 or 2018 Chevrolet Traverse.

    • Michelin

      Alfa Romeo Stelvio !!!

  • brn

    I can’t believe how much all these things are. How many people are really spending $45K on transportation.

    • Chad Gordon

      Judging by my commute in the morning, a Shit Ton of ‘Em!

    • Kevin Cagle

      The mazda cx-9 is the best value proposition. We were able to get a Grand Touring (top model) 2WD for 37700.

  • Giziclown

    Even a 5 year old child can pick up a clear winner, he would choose the Mazda CX-9.
    It is far more premium to the others, these Kelley Blue Book guys are real droids.
    I hope one day we can find exception among them. Come on!!!

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