Okay families, the 2012 models have been on the road for a few months now, and many of the consumer reviews are in. Of course the experts have weighed in with their opinions, too; an expert on anything is also an expert on opinions. We’ve researched both consumers and the experts at Consumer Reports, Edmunds, Motor Trend, Car and Driver, and J.D. Power & Associates, to find the best 2012 SUVs with third-row seating. If you’re a family driver, carpool driver, or anyone else with the third-row need, this is the list you’ll want to check out before shopping.

1. 2012 Mazda CX-9        New Model MSRP: $29,725

The CX-9 could easily top the list of best 2012 SUVs with or without a third-row seat. It features a flashy design with a well-appointed interior and plenty of standard features. The 2012 Mazda CX-9 features a cabin that’s stylish and elegant, with a look that’s more high-end than that of many others in this segment.” Headroom can get to be a little tight in the third row of seating, but not too many tall people end up in third rows if they can help it anyway.

2. 2012 Buick Enclave        New Model MSRP: $36,965

The adult-sized third-row seat is what puts the Enclave on the map at Number 2 on this list. An improved brake override system and hill-hold top the list of new features for the 2012 model. The Enclave is not only one of the more upscale models on this list, it is also one of the most versatile, coming in both 7-passenger and 8-passenger model. It is not the third-row seat that makes the occupancy change; it is the second-row bench seat/Captain’s chairs option.

3. 2012 GMC Acadia        New Model MSRP: $32,685

The third-row seat is actually the odd part of the Acadia. Most midsize SUVs offer a third-row seat that is neither adult-friendly nor convenient. However, reviewers rave about the comfortable space available for adult passengers. It received an overall crash test safety rating of five out of five stars by the NHTSA, and is rated as an IIHS Top Safety pick. The performance aspect is what leaves it trailing behind competitors, not to mention the highly-priced Denali model.

4. 2012 Ford Flex        New Model MSRP: $29,465

The Flex is definitely unique in terms of exterior style, but it’s the interior space which results from that styling that will attract most buyers. “The 2012 Ford Flex has the space, the versatility, the features and the driving dynamics to make it a top choice among large family crossovers.” The standard six-cylinder engine is plenty powerful, but the EcoBoost V6 adds a bit of sport to the driving experience. The third-row seating is some of the best you’ll find anywhere – thanks to that boxy exterior styling.

5. 2012 Acura MDX        New Model MSRP: $42,930

Some people may think that it’s the cost that brings the MDX to the bottom of this list, but the MSRP actually makes the MDX quite affordable when compared to other luxury SUVs. Not to mention the fact that it provides one of the most rewarding driving experiences of any SUV on the market. It performs well in safety scores, engine performance, interior design, and technology. Unfortunately, it is the non-adult-friendly third-row seat that brings it to the bottom. “The MDX is pretty spacious for a three-row midsize luxury crossover SUV. An adult can fit in the third row for a short journey, although the rearmost seats are better suited for kids.”

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