Even though they’re not quite as family focused as today’s minivans, three-row SUVs are the iconic family car of today. And the totally redesigned 2016 Honda Pilot is the family-friendliest midsize SUV in existence.

All-Star Accommodations

The 2016 Honda Pilot’s third row isn’t just the segment’s roomiest, it’s also among the most easily accessible thanks to second-row seats that very cleverly spring forward with the push of a button (on Pilot EX-L and higher). And while most three-row midsize SUVs max out at seven seat belts, the Pilot’s way-back can accommodate two adults comfortably or three soccer teammates easily, bringing max capacity to eight. A sliding second row provides the flexibility to maximize legroom, cargo room, or find the perfect balance of both.

The cargo area behind the third-row seat might also be the segment’s best. A cargo well adds volume and keeps groceries from spilling out when the tailgate is opened, but it can also be covered to create a hidden storage area and a flat load floor. The cleverest bit is that the cover stows neatly at the bottom of the well when not in use. And with the third row folded down, the Pilot offered both the longest and widest cargo area of the four midsize SUVs we invited to our family cars test.

Professional Driver

A good family car should also be easy to drive and comfortable, and that’s another test the Pilot passes with flying colors. While the top-line Touring and Elite models offer a 9-speed automatic transmission, we actually prefer the 6-speed versions that offer more seamless acceleration, especially in the stop and go of city driving. Honda puts a particular emphasis on the subtleties of how a vehicle goes, turns and stops, and that focus makes the Honda Pilot one of the most pleasant, most satisfying SUVs on the road.

The Pilot also offers the most sophisticated suite of available driving technologies in the category. For instance, the Lane Keeping Assist System actually reduces driving effort and fatigue by helping the driver make the small, constant steering corrections required to keep a vehicle going straight down the highway. Combined with comfortable seats and a smooth highway ride, the Pilot is as pleasant as it is accommodating.

Whether your family is active and adventurous or just plain busy around town, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an SUV with a more compelling, more family-oriented combination of value, practicality and appeal than the 2016 Honda Pilot. That’s why we also named it our Midsize SUV Best Buy of 2016.

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