It’s rare for a compact SUV to have a third row, and there’s a good reason for that: Few humans can actually fit in such a tiny space. And sure, there are obviously kids, but they usually require some sort of child seat that’s not fitting back there, either.
In other words, the use case is as tiny as the seats themselves. No wonder, then, that there are only two three-row compact SUVs: the 2022 Volkswagen Tiguan and the 2022 Mitsubishi Outlander. While I have yet to witness the Tiguan, the above photo is the result of fitting a 6-foot-3 automotive editor into the Outlander’s third row. It ain’t pretty. And that’s with the middle row pushed all the way forward. Also note that it’s just not a matter of legroom — headroom is terrible, too.
Obviously, this is an extreme and ridiculous test. In the end, the need to accommodate the third row almost certainly allows the Outlander to have more cargo space than average (and the mechanically related Nissan Rogue) even if it’s presence is also likely the reason it doesn’t have as much room as the CR-V, RAV4 and Tucson (more on that coming soon in a luggage test). It’s basically a bonus feature, and if you can in fact use it, great!
It’s also exponentially better than the original Outlander third row. Specifically, the second-generation model that had a shockingly flimsy design that would’ve been rickety for the 1980s let alone the late 2000s. It consisted of a mesh fabric pulled over a tube steel ring. It was more like a beach chair than something that belonged in a moving vehicle.
Here are two period videos of me demonstrating it in a 2010 Outlander. In the first, I raise the seat, showing how difficult it was to do and how rickety it was once in place. The second video shows the mesh seat bottom.