Best Midsize SUVs for 2021
  • Buying Guides

Best Midsize SUVs for 2021

By Autolist Editorial | April 25, 2021

The midsize SUV segment offers a wide variety of vehicles; everything from true body-on-frame, off-road rigs, to the almost full-size, three-row crossovers.

That means there is something for almost every SUV shopper all in one segment.

We have narrowed down the best choices in a crowded crossover and SUV field to help you get the practicality you're looking for (and to avoid buying that minivan).

Here are our favorites:


Chevrolet Blazer

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Chevy revised the Blazer nameplate, but this is not the rugged two-door SUV of the past, it is sporty crossover, which borrows much of its look from the Camaro. The driving dynamics are not like a sports car, but it does deliver on its aggressive looks, with surprisingly sprightly handling for a SUV of this size. Inside the Blazer continues with its Camaro imitation, but with much more cargo space. Standard tech includes an 8.0-inch touchscreen to run the infotainment, and standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Active safety features are mostly optional with available automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control.

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The base engine is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder making 193 horsepower, the mid-tier engine is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four making 230 horsepower, and the top engine is a 3.6-liter V6 making 308 horsepower. All engines share a nine-speed automatic transmission, and front-wheel drive is standard with all-wheel-drive available. The turbo four-cylinder offers the best fuel economy, at 22 mpg city and 29 on the highway. Base price starts at $29,995 in L trim, and top-tier premier trim will set you back at least $43,695. Those looking for even more luxury may want to consider the Blazer's cousin the GMC Acadia.

Browse Chevrolet Blazer listings here.


Dodge Durango

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The Dodge Durango received a mild styling refresh for the 2021 model year, with new headlights and updated front and rear fascia. Inside the Durango offers quality materials, and a well-thought-out space. The optional third-row seat is tight for adults, and really limits cargo space with all seats in the upright position. The intuitive infotainment system runs through either an 8.4 or 10.1-inch screen, and includes Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. A second-row entertainment is optional, and well worth it for peace on longer trips. With a maximum towing capacity of 8700 pounds, the Durango is also very good at truck stuff.

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Powertrains for the Durango go from mild to wild. The 3.6-liter V6 engine offers 295 horsepower, while 5.7 and 6.4-liter V8s offer 360 and 475 horsepower respectively. The Durango is also available in Hellcat trim, which includes a 710-horsepower supercharged 6.2-liter V8. Fuel economy is 19 mpg city and 26 highway in V6 trim. The Hellcat gets a laughable 12 mpg city and 17 highway. Durango pricing has almost as wide a range as its horsepower. Base SXT models start at $33,740, luxury Citadel trim begins at $49,590, and Hellcat models start at a whopping $82,490.

Browse Dodge Durango listings here.


Ford Explorer

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The Ford Explorer is probably the most well-known SUV in America, and the current version offers more refinement than you might expect if you last rode in the backseat of one on a family road trip. The Explorer's exterior styling is fairly handsome, and the interior is well designed for both passenger and cargo space. Three rows of seating are roomy and comfortable, but the rear-most is best suited to children. Some interior appointments and materials are not up to par with the competition from Mazda, Hyundai, and Kia. Most trim levels get an 8.0-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system, while higher trims get a larger 10.1-inch screen. All but base models get an excellent premium sound system standard.

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The Explorer offers a range of engine options. The standard engine is a punchy 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder making 300 horsepower, Platinum trim gets a 365-horsepower twin-turbo V6, and ST models use the same engine tuned to 400 horsepower. A 10-speed automatic transmission handles the gears, with RWD standard and AWD optional. The Explorer is also available as a Hybrid, where a 3.3-liter V6 and electric motor share duty and create a combined 318 horsepower. Base Explorers start at an MSRP of $33,920 and sporty ST trim tops the range at $54,075. The base price for Hybrid models starts at $50,600 in Limited trim, and $54,330 in top-tier Platinum trim.

Browse Ford Explorer listings here.


Hyundai Palisade

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Hyundai's entry in the three-row SUV category really made a splash when it debuted, and it is still one of the best options in the segment. The exterior styling is less shocking after a couple of years on the market, and if not good-looking, it is at least interesting. Inside, materials and quality lead the segment (possibly tied with its cousin the Kia Telluride), nearing what you would find in luxury SUV's from BMW or Mercedes. The Telluride has a respectable amount of cargo space, even with all three rows of seats upright there is 18 cubic feet of space available behind the rear seats. The infotainment runs through an 8.3-inch touchscreen in lower-tier models, while high-end trims get a 10.3. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are included.

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All Palisades are powered by a 3.8-liter V6 making 291 horsepower, and equipped with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Though power is not as high as some options on the list, it does the job. Front-wheel-drive is standard with all-wheel-drive available. FWD models get 26 highway and 19 city mpg, while AWD models are penalized two mpg in highway mileage. Pricing for the Palisade starts at $33,860 in base SE trim and top-tier Calligraphy trim starts at $47,385.

Browse Hyundai Palisade listings here.


Hyundai Santa Fe

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Hyundai's two-row midsize SUV has more in common with its larger sibling than the brand's compact SUVs, which means materials and quality punch above its price point. Exterior styling shares the current face with the rest of Hyundai's lineup, and some may find it polarizing. Inside the cabin is spacious, with ample legroom in front and rear seats, and plenty of cargo space available with the seats up or down. 8.0 or 10.3-inch touchscreens run the infotainment system which also includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

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The base engine in the Santa Fe is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder making 195 horsepower. A turbocharged 2.5-liter 4-cylinder is optional and makes 277 horsepower. Both engines are mated to an eight-speed automatic, with FWD standard and AWD optional. A hybrid model joins the lineup, with a combined output of 226 horsepower from its gas and electric motors, and includes AWD as standard. The non-turbo FWD model gets the best mileage for traditional engines at 28 highway and 25 city mpg. Fuel economy for the hybrid model is 33 city and 30 highway. Pricing starts at $28,035 in base SE trim, and tops out at $43,285 in luxury Calligraphy trim. The least expensive hybrid option, the Blue trim, starts at just under $34,000.

Browse Hyundai Santa Fe listings here.


Jeep Grand Cherokee

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The Jeep Grand Cherokee is probably the most versatile SUV on this list. Offering off-road chops not far off the Toyota 4Runner and Jeep Wrangler, but with the on-road poise and luxury interior modern SUV buyers expect. The Wrangler offers too many options and trims to list, but the three stand-outs are the Trailhawk which is oriented to the off-road, the Summit which offers luxury levels of opulence, and the Trackhawk with its 707-horsepower supercharged V8. Base models do not get much in the way of infotainment with a 5.0-inch touchscreen, but higher trims get an 8.4-inch screen.

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The base engine in the Grand Cherokee is a 3.6-liter V6 making 295 horsepower and a 5.7V8 making 360 horsepower is optional. SRT models get a 6.4-liter V8 with 475 horsepower, and the previously mentioned Trackhawk has that insane 707 horsepower supercharged V8. The V6 is the most common and gets an EPA estimated 25 mpg highway and 18 city. Pricing starts at $36,140 in Laredo trim, and tops out at $54,895 in luxurious Summit trim, for the non-SRT models. A fully redesigned
Cherokee is expected for 2022.

Browse Jeep Grand Cherokee listings here.


Jeep Wrangler

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Jeep's off-road convertible SUV technically falls in the midsize segment, and it is definitely worth a spot in this list. The Wrangler is probably the most capable off-road vehicle available from the factory. The Wranglers off-road focus does come with some drawbacks. Road noise permeates the cabin, and the solid front axle delivers less precision and a rougher ride than modern crossovers. Still, this is the most comfortable and gadget filled Wrangler ever, meaning it can be outfitted from space to near luxury.

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The standard powertrain for the Wrangler is a 3.6-liter making 285 horsepower paired with a six-speed manual transmission, or an optional eight-speed automatic. Optional engines include a 270 horsepower 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder, and turbo diesel V6 making 260 horsepower. New for the 2021 model year are a plug-in hybrid, and the previously mentioned Wrangler 392 with a 470 horsepower V8 engine. V6 wranglers receive EPA estimated fuel economy of 23 mpg highway and 18 city, and even in the most economical configuration with the EcoDiesel engine, the best case scenario is 29 mpg highway and 22 city. Base Sport trim Wranglers start at $30,070 and the Rubicon 392 has a shocking sticker price of $74,995.

Browse Jeep Wrangler listings here.


Honda Passport

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The Passport has a high-quality, ergonomic interior with plenty of storage space. It also delivers a comfortable and confident ride without crossing the line toward sporty. In top trims, the interior is luxurious, without being over the top. In all trims, an 8.0-inch touchscreen runs the infotainment, which includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Standard safety features include automatics emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control.

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Every Passport gets a 3.5-liter V6 making 280 horsepower, paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel-drive is standard with all-wheel-drive optional. The Passport delivers fuel economy of 25 mpg city and 20 highway in FWD trim, while AWD brings those numbers down to 24 mpg highway and 19 city. Pricing for the Passport starts at $33,965 in base Sport trim, with the luxurious Elite trim topping the range at $45,355.

Browse Honda Passport listings here.


Kia Sorento

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The Kia Sorento's exterior styling borrows from its bigger sibling the Telluride, without being redundant. Overall, the look works, and won't get lost in today’s world of egg-shaped crossovers. Inside the interior also mirrors the Telluride, offering upscale trimmings usually reserved for pricier models. Though the Sorento is small, it does offer a minuscule backseat, which may come in handy for occasional passengers or smaller children. The ride and steering are satisfactory. Standard tech includes an 8.0-inch touchscreen and a larger 10.3-inch is optional. Safety features include automatic emergency braking and lane-keeping assist, while blind-spot monitoring is optional.

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The Sorento comes standard with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder making 191 horsepower, and an optional turbocharged version of the same engine makes 281 horsepower. Both engines make use of an eight-speed automatic, and front-wheel-drive is standard with all-wheel-drive available. A hybrid powertrain is also available with 227 combined horsepower from a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine and electric motor. Fuel economy is rated at 29 mpg highway and 24 city for the base engine, while the turbocharged motor gets 29 highway and 22 city. The Hybrid stretches those numbers to 35 highway and 39 city. The Kia Sorento starts at an MSRP of $30,565 in base LX trim and top-tier SX Prestige X-Line trim will cost you at least $43,765.

Browse Kia Sorento listings here.


Kia Telluride

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Kia's largest offering is also one of the best vehicles available in the midsize SUV class. The exterior styling is great, with blocky upright features that make clear this is no minivan. Inside, the Telluride offers materials and build quality rivaling many luxury brands. Driving dynamics lack communication of the best models, and the engine offers just enough power, but is definitely not quick. Base models offer an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Higher trims get a 10.3-inch screen, and top SX trim includes a premium Harmon Kardon Sound system. Standard safety tech includes automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, and blind-spot monitoring.

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All Tellurides are motivated by a 3.8-liter V6 making 291 horsepower paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel-drive is standard, with all-wheel-drive available. Front-drive models get an EPA estimated 26 mpg highway and 20 city, while AWD drops those numbers to 24 and 19 respectively. Pricing for the 2021 Telluride starts at $33,415 in base LX trim, and top-tier SX trim starts at $43,715.

Browse Kia Telluride listings here.


Mazda CX-9

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Even as a three-row SUV, the Mazda CX-9 offers the most exciting driving characteristics on this list. Somehow Mazda has managed to include a little zoom-zoom in their largest vehicle. Styling is handsome and understated. The interior is premium, and doesn't just approach luxury in higher trims, it competes. That said, the sporty styling does limit space for both cargo and passenger, particularly in the third row. Standard tech includes a 10.3-inch touchscreen across all trim levels, with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Active safety features like automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control are also included.

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A 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder making 250 horsepower is the loan engine option. The loan engine is paired with a snappy six-speed automatic driving the front wheels in standard trim, or with optional all-wheel-drive. Fuel economy is rated at 26 mpg highway and 23 city. The Mazda CX-9 starts at $35,335 in base Sport trim and luxury signature trim pricing begins at $47,980.

Browse Mazda CX-9 listings here.


Subaru Ascent

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The Subaru Ascent delivers on the company's ethos of functional, practical transport, with a spacious interior and standard all-wheel-drive. Exterior styling is pure Subaru, and from a distance, you would be forgiven for confusing the Ascent with an Outback wagon. Interior seating is available for seven or eight passengers, with plenty of storage cubbies and space for personal items. Driving dynamics are plush, but less communicative than smaller Subarus. The Ascent's infotainment system is not the most user-friendly, but does include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Ascent earns Top Safety Pick+ accolades from the IIHS, and includes standard emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control.

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All Ascents are powered by a 2.5-liter turbocharged boxer four-cylinder engine making 260-horsepower paired with a continuously variable transmission. As previously mentioned, all Ascents include AWD. The EPA estimates fuel economy of 27 highway and 21 city. Pricing starts at an MSRP of $33,345 in base trim, while feature-packed touring trim starts at $46,495.

Browse Subaru Ascent listings here.


Toyota 4Runner

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The Toyota 4Runner is not right for everyone. Like the Jeep Wrangler, the 4Runner is geared to the off-road crowd, but unlike the Jeep, the 4runner rides on the same basic construction and uses the same engine as when it debuted over a decade ago. That age shows in interior appointments and ride quality. Where the 4Runner shines is when it is asked to do truck duties. Towing up to 5,000 pounds, and available in TRD Pro off-road spec, the 4Runner is excellent at what it is built to do. Some luxuries are standard like an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Also standard, are active safety features like automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control.

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The 4Runner is powered by a 4.0-liter V6 engine paired with a five-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel-drive is standard, but most higher trims add four-wheel-drive. That brute engine and ancient transmission do not help the 4Runner in the fuel economy department; the 4Runner gets an estimated 19 mpg highway and 16 mpg city. Pricing starts at $37,440 in base SR5 trim, while off-road-oriented TRD Pro models will set you back at least $51,920.

Browse Toyota 4Runner listings here.


Toyota Highlander

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The 4Runner's on-road counterpart delivers a much more refined ride and upscale interior. Exterior styling is aggressive with body-lines mimicking the Supra sports car. Inside the Highlander seats seven or eight people in relative comfort, though the third-row seat is best for smaller children. Lower trims get an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and in top trims, the screen grows to 12.3 inches. The Highlander also has ample safety features including automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and adaptive cruise control included as standard.

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The Highlander's standard powertrain is a 3.5-liter V6 making 295 horsepower, paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel-drive is standard with all-wheel-drive optional. A hybrid powertrain combines a 2.5-liter four-cylinder and electric motor for 243 total horsepower. Hybrid models are also available with FWD or optional AWD. The best traditional configuration gets fuel economy of 29 highway and 21 city mpg, while the hybrid delivers up to 35 highway and 36 city mpg. Pricing starts at $36,260 in base L trim, and extends to $48,415 for Platinum trim models.

Browse Toyota Highlander listings here.


Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport

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The Atlas Cross Sport is a good-looking crossover that offers two-rows of comfortable seating, and excellent cargo space, despite its sloping rear roofline. Driving dynamics are stable and communicative, but the suspension is a little firm for a comfortable ride. Interior quality is as expected from Volkswagen with good build quality, and simple design. A standard 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system includes Android Auto and Apple Carplay, and higher trims get an 8.0-inch screen. Automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring are standard, but adaptive cruise control is optional equipment.

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The base engine in the Cross Sport is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 235 horsepower, while a 276-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 is available. Both engines are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission with front-wheel-drive standard, and all-wheel-drive optional. Fuel economy is best in the FWD four-cylinder with up to 24 mpg highway and 21 city. The V6 with AWD gets an estimated 22 mpg highway and 16 city. Pricing for the Atlas Cross Sport starts at $32,050 in base S trim, with top of the range SEL Premium R-Line models starting at $51,220.

Browse Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport listings here.