Best buys: MPVs
VW Touran a classic pointy-nosed, high-roof, roomy MVP monobox that fits the bill
Volkswagen Touran: quiet and comfortable, and the boot is vast when the back seats are folded away
The best one: Volkswagen Touran
MPVs are slowly, but surely, falling out of favour and if you don’t believe me, try looking around for next-generation replacements for the likes of the Opel Meriva, Citroen C3 Picasso etc. They’re all morphing into SUVs, simply because that’s the body style that people want and practicality be damned.
Which is, at least partially, why we like the VW Touran as much as we do – it’s just such a rational vehicle. No 4x4-esque styling here, just a classic pointy-nosed, high-roof MPV monobox that stretches the corners of the cabin out as far as it can to create as much room as it can.
Inside, there is vast space in the middle row of three seats (all three of which have ISOFIX child seat anchors) and if the folding third row seats (also fully ISOFIX’d up) are a touch on the tight side for anyone over the age of ten, then that’s just kind of par for the course.
It’s hardly what you’d call dynamic to drive, but the cabin is beautifully stuck together, it’s quiet and comfortable, and the boot is vast when the back seats are folded away. If you don’t need the extra seats, then the five-seat Golf SV (a smaller Touran in all but name) is a chunky €7,000 cheaper.
Best model: 1.2 TSI Comfortline for €31,895
Price range: €29,985 to €40,705. Finance from €299 per month.
Co2 emissions: 112 to 129g/km
Sum up: Boxy but good.
Read our review of the VW Touran
Worthy Contender: Ford S-Max
For more than a decade now, the sleek(ish; sleek is a relative term when you’re talking about MPVs) S-Max has been the go-to choice for those who need the space and the seats, but aren’t quite ready to give in to the soccer-mom-or-airport-taxi styling of boxier MPVs.
Status quo ante, in that case – the S-Max remains one of the few MPVs with a dash of style about it, and it is still a hugely rewarding car to drive. Yes, genuinely. In fact, in some ways (ride quality and build quality, notably) it’s superior to the Mondeo upon whose platform and mechanical package it’s based.
Space in the back is truly impressive, and even the third row seats have (just about) adult-sized room in them. Of course, for ultimate interior space you’d go for the bigger-again Galaxy, but then we’re back into airport taxi mode so perhaps not. Just watch the price; it’s frighteningly easy to end up with a €50,000 S-Max, and that’s not even counting the purposely posh Vignale model.
Best model: Titanium 2.0 TDCI 150hp for €41,535
Price range: €36,010 to €56,585. Finance from Price on application
Co2 emissions: 129 to 149g/km
Sum up: Boy racer meets family man.
Read our review of the S-Max
Worthy Contender: Renault Scenic & Grand Scenic
If a Ford S-Max has a dash of style about it (see supra) then the new Renault Scenic has grabbed the same bottle and doused itself, thoroughly. There’s more than a little substance to the argument that Renault head of design Laurens van den Acker is the company’s single most valuable asset right now, and he has even pulled off the trick of making a seven-seat family bus look genuinely good.
That starts with the gangsta-spec 20-inch wheels which are standard on every Scenic model, but the best bit is the way the seven-seat Grand Scenic apes the styling of the larger, even more gorgeous (but sadly not made in right hand drive) Espace.
Space is decent in the cabin, albeit it doesn’t feel as roomy as in previous generations, and the middle row is now a bench seat, not the more useful three individual chairs. There’s a massive boot though, and Renault has some decent engines on offer, including an incoming mild-hybrid 1.5 diesel. Only average to drive though, and some of the cabin quality could be better.
Best model: Grand Scenic 1.5 dCi Dynamique Nav for €31,500
Price range: €26,000 to €41,700. Finance from €209 per month.
Co2 emissions: 100 to 136g/km
Sum up: Scenic location, family friendly.
Watch our review of the Grand Scenic
Wild Card: Citroen Berlingo
Let’s face it, when it comes to roomy, practical, anti-fashion family cars, the French just have a lock on things. How else can you explain the sheer inexplicable appeal of a small van with windows?
What should be the least-desirable family car ever actually turns out to be a pretty good idea, not least when you consider the combination of running costs and the enormous potential for packing people and chattels in.
Fold down all the seats and you can cram 3,000-litres of whatever it is you enjoy cramming into the Berlingo. It has sliding rear side doors for getting in and out in tight car parks. There are only seats for five, but all five can wear a top hat if they fancy, and there’s stretching-out room for all. Slow and roly-poly in the corners? Yes, but frankly that’s all part of the appeal. Really cheap too – undercuts over five-seat MPVs by as much as €6,000.
Best model: 1.6 BlueHDI Feel for €21,725
Price range: €21,725 to €22,025. Finance from €237 per month.
Co2 emissions: 109 to 113g/km
Sum up: As Gallic as Gauloises.