GRR

The seven best MPVs on sale

21st June 2021
Dan Trent

Pity the poor MPV. In that dim and distant age before SUVs and crossovers ruled the roads these spacious, practical cars were the perfect family vehicle, with multiple rows of seating, big boots and endlessly adaptable interiors. Some of them even handled pretty well and, for all the ‘giving up on life’ stigma, many were actually better to drive, more efficient and genuinely useful than any aspirational SUV. A few die-hards remain and while fashion has moved on the actual demand for MPV versatility hasn’t gone away. Arguably they are indeed re-entering the motoring landscape, some under the cover of new and more fashionable branding.

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Ford S-Max

In a world where even legendary sporting models have been repurposed into SUVs and crossovers (looking at you Puma and Mustang Mach-E) you may be surprised to learn Ford still has two ‘proper’ MPVs in its line-up, alongside domesticated Tourneo versions of its Transit Connect and Custom you could consider people carriers by another name. Given the S-Max and Galaxy are both built on the same Mondeo platform and look pretty similar you might be politely confused as to why they are sold alongside each other. The best a Ford PR contact could offer was a vague shrug, the Galaxy seemingly the choice of taxi and other private hire operators while the S-Max is the more stylish and dynamic option for consumers. It may seem a relic of the pre-SUV age but remains a stylish interpretation of MPV norms and a sharper steer than you’d credit of a car of this type. And a canny anti-fashion statement.

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Citroën Grand C4 Spacetourer

The French arguably popularised the MPV as a mainstream choice, making it more the pity the Renault Espace is no longer sold here. It lives on as a curious MPV/crossover mash-up in left-hand drive markets and is (whisper it) cool in its way but it falls to Citroën to carry the French flag for this once-proud automotive tradition over here. And the Grand C4 Spacetourer proves there is life in the old format yet, the flash of chrome around the windowline and sleek nose putting a sexier spin on MPV functionality. Mega value for money, refined on long journeys, adaptable and spacious, cars like this make you wonder why on earth people clamber over each other to squeeze into dynamically and practically compromised SUVs. Vive la MPV.

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BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer

There’s a degree of rolleyes resignation at the sight of the German premium brands who arguably worked so hard to kill off the MPV rebrand high-riding hatchbacks under new, sexier sounding buzzwords. But here stands the BMW 2 Series, promising to ‘make the city your personal playground’ (really) in an attempt to distance itself from the supposed shame of admitting your prioritise practicality. The fact a brand whose legend was built on sporting saloons now also sells boxy, front-driven hatchbacks could be seen as a moral victory for the MPV, albeit a hollow one. Available in five-seat Active Tourer or seven-seat Gran Tourer form make no bones about it – this is your classic MPV, reinvented as a premium vehicle. The Active Tourer gets a wider choice of engines, including a PHEV option, while the Gran Tourer maximises space and extra seating.

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Peugeot Rifter

That the most expensive version of the Peugeot Rifter costs pretty much the same as the absolute entry level model in the brand’s 3008 line-up puts into numbers the fashion tax you pay for a more fashionable crossover style vehicle. With its boxy, utilitarian shape and sliding rear doors there is absolutely no hiding the Rifter’s van roots but, hey, boxy vehicles are great for carrying lots of stuff, be that commercial cargo or kids and their associated clobber. And if you need even more room there’s a long-wheelbase, seven-seat option too. Van-derived or not, that top-spec GT trim really does have all the bells, whistles and gizmos you could ask for in a modern car and an honest, utilitarian charm that makes the massive cost saving over an SUV or crossover all the sweeter.

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Mercedes-Benz V-Class

Believe it or not Mercedes actually has an MPV section on its website, offering a socially acceptable way for the growing number of ‘van curious’ car buyers to take their first steps into the commercial vehicle world without leaving too many of the home comforts behind. True, you run the risk of being mistaken for an airport taxi. But from the driver’s seat the V-Class has the tech you’d expect in any Mercedes and all the leather and wood you’d crave in an S-Class, not a converted van. Rails in the floor also mean you can configure your various seating options to suit your passenger and load carrying needs and there’s even the factory Marco Polo camper version. It’s not a cheap vehicle in any of its guises. But it’s posh enough to make even the Volkswagen Transporter crowd turn a little green with envy and drives really well.

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Volkswagen Sharan

Like the S-Max, it may come as a surprise to hear a mainstream brand like Volkswagen actually still sells MPVs. But it does, the Touran remains in the pricelist alongside the Sharan, the latter a genuinely massive and practical people carrier in the traditional mould. Sliding rear doors, three Isofix points across the middle row of seats (a godsend for anyone with more than two children) and an additional row you can deploy or fold away as required it’s a wonder this type of car has more or less dropped off the radar of family buyers. With only one trim level and a single engine choice there’s no complicated range structure to get lost in, which kind of fits with the fit for purpose image of a car intended to fit effortlessly into a busy domestic life. Determinedly unsexy. But the way it frees up time – and money – for more interesting things is cool in its way.

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Tesla Model X

Gimmicks like ludicrous launch control, daft ‘Falcon’ rear doors and supposed SUV posturing arguably doth protest too much about what the Model X really identifies as. Because from its one-box shape to its tall roofline and cavernous interior space it’s clear the Model X is really an MPV in all but name. But if that’s what it takes to make people carriers cool again then so be it, Tesla’s modernist minimalism and the way the all-electric architecture liberates interior space to be celebrated rather than mocked. With over 1,020PS (750kW) in its latest ‘Plaid’ trim, acceleration to make a mockery of everything from supercars to quarter-mile heroes and the added attractions of onboard gaming and streaming services the Model X truly is the MPV reinvented for the electrified age.

  • List

  • BMW

  • 2 Series

  • Citroen

  • Grand C4 Spacetourer

  • Ford

  • S-Max

  • Peugeot

  • Rifter

  • Volkswagen

  • Sharan

  • Mercedes

  • V-Class

  • Tesla

  • Model-X

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