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Family of 8 needs a great SUV - what should they buy?

2013 Nissan Pathfinder


Hi Michael and Jeremy: I would like to hear your advice on what I should get to replace my 2004 Honda Pilot. There were not many competitors back then, but the field is now crowded with similar vehicles. Here's what I want: a vehicle for eight that fits in a standard-size garage; all- or four-wheel-drive; and ground clearance for our family adventures. I am also looking for good towing capacity for the family RV trailer. – Rob from Hamilton, Ont.

Cato: I know you grind your teeth, Vaughan, when I drag out facts and statistics, so to enrich your dentist – and entertain me – here's a number: 500,000. Canadians can be expected to buy 500,000 crossovers and SUVs a year – rigs like Rob's Pilot and others, says DesRosiers Automotive Consultant.

Big, small, basic, elaborate, rugged and not so much – in a market of 1.6-million to 1.7-million new vehicles sold annually, nearly a third of the new vehicles will be crossovers and SUVs by 2016. Lots will have three rows of seating like the Pilot, though seven-passenger seating is the norm, not eight.

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In other words, if it's seating for seven he wants, Rob has a richness of choice here.

Vaughan: There's an easy solution to that.

Rob, simply choose the child you like least and always leave that one at home while the rest of you go off in your new seven-passenger SUV.

Cato: Your parents may have left you home alone for weeks at a time, and for obvious reasons, but try a little sensitivity here.

I wonder if Rob really needs seating for eight. Because if he can do with space for seven, the 2013 Pathfinder should be on his test drive list. I mean, a four-wheel version starts at $31,998.

This remade Pathfinder is roomy, rugged enough for modest trailblazing and, even though the V-6 is rated at 260 horsepower, fuel economy is relatively good. And the new car-based construction means the ride is comfy.

The Pathfinder is no longer a lumpy-riding truck. I like this remade one quite a bit.

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Vaughan: Agreed on the Pathfinder, and maybe the leftover kid could go on the roof like Romney's dog.

However, in the interest of family unity, and if you must take your least favourite along on road trips, then the answer might be to just go out and buy a new Pilot.

It got some significant styling improvements in 2012, along with a better interior.

The Pilot still features the tried-and-true 3.5-litre V-6, 250-hp engine. Now it has cylinder deactivation for saving fuel under light loads. A five-speed automatic is standard and all-wheel-drive is an option.

Cato: Well, you can get a Pathfinder with only front-wheel drive, too – for less than $30,000. Now speaking of pricing, here's the challenge with the Pilot: the least-expensive version with AWD starts at $37,990. That's for the 2013 model.

I want Rob to go looking for a leftover 2012, however. Through the end of this month, my research shows that Honda Canada has slapped a $5,500 discount on the roof of the 2012 Pilot.

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That brings the 2012 Pilot in line with the 2013 Pathfinder, price-wise.

2012 Hyundai Veracruz Hyundai Hyundai  

Vaughan: Being wisely frugal, I love discounts. Rob surely will land a hefty one if he nails down a 2012 Hyundai Veracruz. It's been the largest vehicle in Hyundai's lineup and they're dropping it next year to offer a stretched Santa Fe. So Hyundai and its dealers want to sell off any last ones remaining.

Here, only one engine is available – a 3.8-litre, 260-hp V-6 with a six-speed automatic. It's a great highway cruiser and a Top Safety Pick by the U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Gets decent fuel economy for a big vehicle and Mr. Frugal likes the fact it burns regular gas, not premium.

Cato: Mr. Frugal? Okay, listen up, Scrooge: Hyundai Canada has slapped a $6,000 factory discount on a $35,499 Veracruz. And Rob can combine it with 2.99 per cent financing.

He can wait for the long-wheelbase Santa Fe replacement, or get a perfectly decent Veracruz – dated but decent.

Vaughan: I remember we drove the short-wheelbase Santa Fe and were impressed; maybe if it's stretched, it will wander all over the road. Doubtful I admit, but ...

Here's a last suggestion, though: Rob and his gang should try out the updated 2013 Buick Enclave (I don't know where they find these names. Vatican City is an enclave, but a Buick?).

Anyway, this Enclave recently got "refreshed." It has a much better interior and some suspension improvements.

Cato: The Enclave is nice, but it also lists for $53,370. So we'll drop it. For me, the most modern and best-priced option for Rob is the 2013 Pathfinder.

Vaughan: Go for the deeply discounted Veracruz, if you can find one, Rob. Otherwise, I think you might as well sign up for another Pilot.

2012 Honda Pilot LX Honda Honda




2012 Hyundai Veracruz2012 Honda Pilot LX 4x42013 Nissan Pathfinder S 4x4

Wheelbase (mm)


Length (mm)


Width (mm)


Track, front (mm)



3.6-litre V-63.5-litre V-63.5-litre V-6

Output (horsepower/torque)

260/257 lb-ft250/253 lb-ft260/240 lb-ft

Drive system

Automatic full-time four-wheel driveAutomatic full-time four-wheel drivePart- and full-time four-wheel drive


Six-speed automaticFive-speed automaticTwo-speed CVT

Curb weight (kg)


Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

13.2 city/8.9 highway12.3 city/8.2 highway9.5 combined

Base price (MSRP)


Source: car manufacturers

Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.


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About the Author
Senior writer, Globe Drive

In 25 years of covering the auto industry, Jeremy Cato has won more than two-dozen awards, including three times being named automotive journalist of the year. Jeremy was born in Montreal and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. More


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