Best people carriers and MPVs

Last updated: Jan 15, 2014

If family practicality is your priority then an MPV or people carrier should be top of your list. Multi-purpose vehicles (or MPVs) have always offered plenty of space for people and their kit but, while the original people carriers were often based on vans – with poor handling and noisy cabins – many of the latest models are based on cars, meaning they have plenty of space, but are fun to drive and quiet on the move.

Running costs are at the forefront of most people's minds and many MPVs can offer decent mpg figures and qualify for low-cost road tax. MPVs benefit from excellent flexibility allowing you to choose between various seating positions, and varying amounts of boot space, while catering for loose items and electronic items thanks to a plethora of cubbyholes and USB charging points.

Keep reading for our guide to the best MPVs on the market today.

SEAT Alhambra MPV

If you want to carry people and their luggage then the SEAT Alhambra is an excellent choice - even with all seven seats in use, there is still 267 litres of luggage space to play with. The two sliding rear doors mean access to the back is excellent and the second row of seats can slide back and forward, for increased boot space or more rear legroom. With economy of up to 50mpg and CO2 emissions of as little as 146g/km (for road tax of £140) the diesel versions are the best to go for. Read more.

Key points

4.8 / 5
Price 
£25,345 - £33,475

Ford B-MAX mini MPV

The Ford B-MAX is excellent if you only need five seats, but need more flexibility than you would get in a conventional hatchback. Boot space with the rear seats up is 318 litres, but that increases to 1,386 litres with them down. The B-MAX shares many of its parts with the Ford Fiesta so it has a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating, but is also fun to drive, although it does suffer from a little more lean in the corners. The B-MAX's good range of engines offers economy of up to 70.6mpg and emissions as low as 104g/km. Read more.

Key points

4.6 / 5
Price 
£12,995 - £19,095

Renault Grand Scenic MPV

The Renault Espace was one of the world’s first MPVs so it is hardly a surprise that the company’s people carriers are still great today. The Renault Grand Scenic has seven seats and boasts up to 2,063 litres of luggage space, with the third-row of seats removed - although, unlike in the SEAT, there’s nowhere to store them in the car while they are not in use. The Grand Scenic has a five-star safety rating, and offers a good range of engines to choose from, but the 1.5-litre or 1.6-litre dCi diesel are the ones to go for. They offer economy of up to 68.9mpg and emissions as low as 105g/km for road tax of £20 annually. Read more.

Key points

4.5 / 5
Price 
£20,585 - £23,615

Citroen Grand C4 Picasso

The Citroen Grand C4 Picasso manages to combine cool space age looks with a practical cabin, and even boasts a bigger boot than its main rivals. The Citroen also has a good range of engines, with economy of up to 74.3mpg possible and emissions of 98g/km for free road tax. The Citroen isn’t as fun to drive as cars such as the Ford S-MAX, however, thanks to plenty of body lean and a gearshift that isn’t as easy to operate as it could be. Noise is kept to minimum, however, and the seats are very comfortable. Read more.

Key points

4.4 / 5
Price 
£19,205 - £27,855

Ford S-MAX MPV

Like all the cars on this list, the Ford S-MAX is an extremely practical family car. It has five comfortable seats, and spare pair in the boot that are suitable for children. Even with them up, though, there is 285 litres of boot space. What the S-MAX can offer, which a lot of other MPVs cannot, is a fun driving experience. There’s hardly any body lean through the corners, although the pay off is that the S-MAX’s suspension is quite stiff. With a five-star Euro NCAP rating the S-MAX is also very safe. The S-MAX can return economy of up to 50mpg, while emissions are as low as 139g/km for road tax of £125 annually. Read more.

Key points

3.9 / 5
Price 
£23,110 - £32,885

Renault Scenic MPV

The new five-seat Renault Scenic has even more space than the old car, meaning that even with the rear seats up there is 470 litres of boot space. Take the back seats out and that grows to a van-rivalling 1,837 litres. While reliability may not be a Renault strong point, safety is and the Scenic has a five-star rating from Euro NCAP. The diesel engines are much better suited to the Scenic and it can offer economy of up to 68.9mpg and emissions as low as 105g/km for road tax of £20. Fun driving is not where the Scenic excels, but as a comfortable transport for passengers it is excellent. Read more.

Key points

4.3 / 5
Price 
£18,165 - £22,395

Ford Galaxy MPV

As with most Fords, the Ford Galaxy manages to be both comfortable and fun to drive. While some seven-seaters are just suitable for five adults plus two children, the Galaxy can take seven full-grown humans and still has space for 308-litres worth of luggage. Put all the seats down and you get a capacious 2,325 litres. The engines offer a good balance between decent performance and economy, with up to 54mpg possible, with CO2 emissions of 139g/km meaning road tax of £125 annually. Read more.

Key points

4.2 / 5
Price 
£25,470 - £34,135

Kia Carens MPV

The Kia Carens is a seven-seat MPV with a pair of rear seats that can be folded flat into the boot. These spare seats are quite small, however, meaning they are only really suitable for children - though those in the middle row can slide forward for more legroom. The Carens has lots of practical features, including picnic tables that fold from the back of the front seats and plenty of power points. It's got a five-star Euro NCAP safety award, so it’s safe, too, while the firm’s excellent seven-year warranty gives plenty of peace of mind for both new and used car buyers. Read more.

Key points

4.2 / 5
Price 
£17,900 - £24,850

Volkswagen Sharan MPV

The Volkswagen Sharon has excellent access to the rear of its cabin thanks to a pair of sliding doors. Based on the SEAT Alhambra, the Sharon gets the same 375-litre boot with all the seats in use, which comes in handy when you've got a full family and all their luggage to transport. The cabin is quiet and the VW lets the driver choose between three suspension settings for comfort or fun handling. The Sharon also has a strong line-up of engines, which boast up to 50.4mpg economy and emissions of 146g/km for annual road tax of £140. Read more.

Key points

4.0 / 5
Price 
£25,060 - £34,530

Citroen C4 Picasso MPV

Like its bigger brother, the Grand C4 Picasso, the five-seater Citroen C4 Picasso has futuristic looks and a family friendly cabin. The Picasso has 537 litres of boot space and that can be extended to 630 litres if you slide the rear seats forward, while you can fold them down for even more space, too. Although the Picasso could be more fun to drive, it is very comfortable to travel in with soft suspension and a quiet interior. Engines are good, with low emissions and decent fuel economy throughout the range. Read more.

Key points

4.0 / 5
Price 
£17,505 - £25,155

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