Big vehicles are very popular. Automakers are ditching smaller vehicles and building bigger ones every year. Case in point, Chevy has gotten rid of the Spark, Ford killed off the Focus and Fiesta, Dodge ended the Dart, and Toyota no longer makes the Yaris. But vehicles like the three-row BMW X7, the large Toyota Grand Highlander, and even the new Kia EV9 three-row EV. There's good reason for vehicles such as these. Gallup polls shows that 28 percent of U.S. families have two kids, 15 percent have three, and 7 percent have four. With all of those family members, you need something bigger, but should it be a minivan or a large SUV? We weigh in.

What Do Big Families Need in a Vehicle?

If you have more than one kid, you know that space is a commodity. You can't exactly cram a family of five into a hatchback. If you have two kids or more, it's imperative to have at least two, if not three, roomy rows for people and gear. There's no question that it's tough to transport a large family in a medium-sized sedan, much less a compact car. Car buyers need to take quite a bit into account when it comes to their next new vehicle. So, what are the things you should look for?

Think about headroom, shoulder room, and legroom, especially in the second and third rows. There are very few large vehicles that don't have sizeable front rows, but you have to take a look the interior dimensions for the other rows. Less than 30 inches of legroom makes things very challenging for car seats and growing kids. If you take road trips or do sports of any kind, you need room for luggage and gear, as well. A vehicle with good cargo space that has a flat load floor and a low load height (the distance between the ground and the load surface) are important. It's also vital to have in-car technology that's not too distracting (kids are distracting enough if you know what we mean). You also need excellent safety ratings that ensure that your loved ones can survive in a car crash, as well as have ideal driver assistance technology, easy-to-clean surfaces, as well as good visibility.

The Case for the Minivan

Minivans exploded in the '80s with the arrival of the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager. They were roomy, had front-wheel drive, were easy to maneuver, and didn't cost an arm and a leg. It was a revolutionary segment that birthed other minivans such as the Toyota Previa, Chrysler Town & Country, Pontiac Trans Sport, Oldsmobile Silhouette, Ford Aerostar, and the Kia Sedona. Modern versions have come a long way, namely the Honda Odyssey, Kia Carnival, Toyota Sienna, and the Chrysler Pacifica. While minivan sales aren't as robust as they once were, they now have much more to offer: all-wheel drive, hybrid power, intercoms, and fold flat seats, in addition to features like heated/cooled seats, wireless charging, touchscreen infotainment, and rear seat entertainment systems, make the minivan a truly attractive segment for big families.

They're also better to drive than ever before. Get behind the wheel of a Toyota Sienna XSE Hybrid with all-wheel drive, and you'll be rewarded with good steering, respectable handling, and a very smooth ride. Minivans are also far more luxurious than ever before. You can typically get leather upholstery, premium audio systems, digital touchscreens and instrument panels, as well as some of the most innovative storage options anywhere. With the addition of hybrid power in some models, you also get tremendous efficiency. Optional all-wheel drive makes them almost as good as many SUVs while still offering good gas mileage. Minivans also offer something that SUVs don't have, sliding rear doors that simplify ingress and egress for the back two rows. When it comes to cargo space, most SUVs can't compete with minivans. Even the smallest one, the Toyota Sienna, has over 100 square feet of cargo space. The Honda Odyssey offers over 140 square feet. You have to get the massive (and expensive) Chevy Suburban SUV to get something similarly sizeable. What's more important to many car buyers is the fact that minivans, overall, cost less than SUVs. That alone might be reason to stick with one.

Finally, you have to consider the cons of minivans. They tend to be less rewarding to drive, more boring to look at, and they can't come close to the towing capacity of many SUVs. These are important factors to consider. But when it comes to true practicality and space, it's hard to beat a minivan.

The Case for the Large SUV

So, what if you don't want a minivan? Well, we don't blame you because some folks still have trouble with the notion of looking like a “soccer mom”. Some minivan buyers ditch the minivan when their kids get older. Minivans impart a certain image that's very suburban, despite their extreme practicality. SUVs have also improved to be better than ever before, providing excellent features that make them more attractive as family vehicles.

First of all, most large SUVs are no longer body-on-frame (like a truck), instead taking on unibody construction (like a car). They're smoother on the road, easier to drive, and have better efficiency and safety, as a result. Many automakers make three-row SUV models that offer more seating choices than standard two-row setups. This means a family of 6 to 8 can fit reasonably comfortably, and automakers are even creating versions with more spacious third rows, something big families crave. For example. Mazda upsized its largest three-row by creating the CX-90, which replaced the smaller CX-9 three-row. The Kia Telluride and the Hyundai Palisade are the brands' largest three-row SUVs, and they've found wild success with consumers.

SUV designs tend to look better than minivans with their more varied designs. SUVs are available in a wider range of styles (put the boxy Jeep Wrangler Unlimited next to sleek Land Rover Velar, and you'll see the difference). You can get something that looks off-road rugged, or you can opt for a sexier more svelte SUV that points to a sophisticated lifestyle.

SUVs also tend to have standard or available all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. This means they're better when it comes to inclement weather and handling. There are only two minivans that offer all-wheel drive, the Toyota Sienna and the Chrysler Pacifica. If it's important for you to have that feature, you might want to consider an SUV over a minivan. Also, SUVs tend to provide more ground clearance and better visibility due to the higher ride height. SUVs can also tow far more than minivans. The best minivan for towing is the Chrysler Pacifica at 3,600 pounds. That pales in comparison to even a basic Kia Telluride that can tow over 5,000 pounds.

In terms of cons, SUVs tend to cost more than minivans. They also tend to be less safe in crash tests overall. SUVs don't have sliding doors, making ingress and egress tougher for third-row passengers, and they also don't have the same cargo space capacity. When it comes to family features, SUVs generally don't have the same level of passenger small item storage, number of charging ports, or even entertainment or communication options. If these features are vital for your family, then you might want to consider a minivan.