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Toyota Highlander Limited offers best seating in class

Among the vehicles that are the least expensive

Among the vehicles that are the least expensive to insure is the Toyota Highlander. This is a 2011 model. (Credit: Handout)

Q: Should I buy a Toyota Highlander Limited, Ford Edge Limited or Nissan Murano LE? Which do you recommend and why?

A: Of the three you listed, the Toyota Highlander strikes us as the best of the bunch, though it wouldn't be our first choice. The Highlander seats seven and has a flexible second row with a nifty design that lets you use it as a three-place bench seat or convert it to two captain's chairs with walk-through space to the third row. We also like the Highlander's smooth V-6 and responsive automatic transmission, and it is one of our Best Bets for 2012.

In comparison, the Murano and Edge seat only five yet are in the same price range as the Highlander. In addition, we're not fans of MyFord Touch, which replaces conventional controls with some hard-to-use touch controls in the Edge.

You didn't mention the Honda Pilot, but that would be our first choice. The Pilot won our $37,000 SUV Shootout, topping six other midsize SUVs in a head-to-head comparison. (The Highlander placed fifth in this Shootout.) The Pilot also is Cars.com's Family Car of the Year. The Pilot offers a balance of size and efficiency, and it seats eight in a roomy, versatile interior with second-row seats that slide fore and aft. It also has lots of storage bins, quality materials and a large, easy-to-use display for stereo functions.

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