Best Buys MPVs: Ford’s spacious people carrier sees off the Franco-German challenge
Our choice of the people carriers on the market right now
Best One: Ford S-Max
The MPV market is dying on its backside as customers, en masse, make the switch to SUVs. It’s a rare SUV that can actually offer the same interior space and versatility of a really good MPV, though, and that’s why the Ford S-Max is still relevant. If you’re actually looking to carry seven people, plus a little luggage, and still want to do so in some style, then this is the only game in town. Mondeo platform means it’s better to drive than most, while the styling really is genuinely appealing. Cabin looks to cheap in places, but it makes up for that with oodles of space and comfort. Avoid the too-expensive, too-compromised Vignale model, but to be honest this is not a cheap car in any sense. Bigger Galaxy, with its taller roof, is the one to go for if you wish to fit six-footers into the back row of seats.
Best model: 2.0 TDCI Titanium for €41,835 Price range: €39,285 to €57,535. Finance from €POA per month. Co2 emissions: 129 to 149g/km Sum up: Max space, max driving fun (by MPV standards)
The Touran manages to be rather more than the sum of its parts. It’s, in its essentials, a taller, longer Golf with seats for seven, but it does manage to pull of its extra size, space, and boxier body with some dignity. The cabin is well made and very roomy, and the styling (not usually much of a consideration for an MPV) isn’t half bad either - quietly handsome, really. It’s also very decent to drive, retaining the Golf’s sharp steering and supple ride. Not a car to buy for excitement, then, but one to covet for its sheer practicality.
Best model: 1.2 TSI Comfortline for €32,295 Price range: €30,395 to €41,495. Finance from €246 per month. Co2 emissions: 113 to 133g/km Sum up: About as sensible as it gets.
Assuming that an MPV is, in effect, the ultimate box on wheels, then the Alhambra is that box, but with cooler flaps. By fitting those sliding side doors, Seat may have given the Alhambra rather more of a touch of a commercial vehicle than it might have liked too, but the upside is exceptional practicality. You get two massive square holes in the side of your car to make easier loading and unloading, while in tightly-dimensioned car parks, you’ll be laughing when others are struggling to squeeze in and out. Inside, it’s all very practical and not very stylish, but build quality is excellent and it’s hard to beat for space. Not bad to drive, as such, but a touch bus-like compared to the smoother and more agile Ford S-Max. There’s VW Sharan version too, but you do pay (needlessly) extra for the badge.
Best model: 2.0 TDI 115hp SE for €41,770 Price range: €39,370 to €47,015. Finance from €246 per month. Co2 emissions: 132 to 137g/km Sum up: Big bus with big doors. Just what you need.
So, if someone suggests that an MPV can’t look stylish, even a touch sexy, point them this way. The Scenic is, thanks to the efforts of Renault’s chief of design, Laurens van den Acker, genuinely good looking. The standard five-seat version looks pert and coquettish, while the seven-seat Grand Scenic, with its longer, flatter roof and more upright rear, manages to look quasi-futuristic. Both are let down by a cabin that’s too cheap in too many places, but the standard 20-inch wheels look great and it’s relaxing to drive.
Best model: Grand Scenic dCi 130 Dynamique Nav for €33,400 Price range: €26,300 to €42,000. Finance from €209 per month. Co2 emissions: 100 to 129g/km Sum up: Area of outstanding Scenic beauty.
Wild Card: Citroen SpaceTourer
The thing is, if you really need the space and versatility of an MPV then what you’re actually saying is that you need a van with seats and windows. So why not just cut out the middle-mad and actually get that - a van with seats and windows. Like its smaller brother, the Berlingo, the Citroen SpaceTourer gives you the sheer interior volume you need, but without the refinement compromises of some rivals. It’s surprisingly smooth and easy to drive, has space for your family and probably someone else’s family at the same time, still has a big boot behind all the seats, and if it’s a bit plain in the dash department, at least you’re sitting up high and can enjoy the view out.
Best model: MWB BlueHDI 115hp Feel for €40,175 Price range: €34,175 to €49,925. Finance from €388 per month. Co2 emissions: 137 to 155g/km Sum up: Space for everything. Almost literally.
Incoming: BMW 2 Series Active Tourer facelift, Citroen Berlingo Multispace, Peugeot Rifter