Best MPVs and people carriers for 2019
By Daljinder Nagra
Article 10 of 16
The best MPVs offer comfort, practicality and bags of interior space. These people carriers should also achieve low running costs and be reliable in the long term
The best MPVs (multi-purpose vehicles) and people carriers are the ideal choice for anyone who needs to transport a lot of people and luggage. They are perfect for large families (and minicab drivers).
The Renault Espace was the first people carrier to hit the mainstream in the early 1980s, but MPVs are now available in a range of sizes from most of the big brands.
Popular models include the Renault Scénic, Citroën C3 Picasso and C4 Picasso, Ford C-Max and S-Max. There's even a premium offering in the shape of the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer.
You'll find our top recommendations for the best new and used MPVs and people carriers in the tables below. Plus we reveal some models that aren't worth your money.
Alternatively, you can jump straight to our in-depth MPVs and people carrier buying tips:
Best new MPVs
Our highest-scoring Best Buy MPV, and with good reason. This model’s breadth of ability is impressive: it’s hugely spacious and comfortable, has a range of engines to suit most tastes, and has an upmarket, high-quality feel. It’s pricey, but you won’t feel short changed.
This full-size people carrier is immensely practical, with space for seven adults. It also feels built to last, with excellent construction quality. The engine range is frugal, too, but opt for a more powerful version, as lower powered models can feel sluggish. It's also somewhat van-like to drive.
Best used MPVs
This dinky MPV excels in the city. Despite its compact dimensions, it offers a decent amount of interior space and is backed up by a rock-solid brand reliability rating. It’s as easy to drive as a small hatchback too - just don’t expect to get seven people in it.
Masses of passenger space and a flexible interior layout make this full-size MPV a decent people mover. There's not much luggage space with all seven seats in place, and some of the lower powered engines feel sluggish. However, it’s easily good enough to be worthy of consideration.
Not seen the car for you? Browse all our MPV reviews.
MPVs and people carriers to avoid
MPVs are designed to be versatile, spacious family cars. There should be plenty of space for the biggest and smallest family members, and room in the boot for a fortnightly food shop. The image of MPVs as the perfect family drive makes it all the more alarming that some are woefully unsafe.
We report on the cars' Euro NCAP safety results. We also consider the safety equipment each car comes with.
Electronic stability control (ESC) is all but essential for keeping high-ride cars stable while cornering. MPVs and people carriers that don't have ESC can be tricky to manoeuvre in emergency situations. This means you’ll need to work harder to keep the car in lane, and any last-minute turns could result in skidding and complete loss of control.
We’ve tested models where ESC is optional, or not available at all, and you’ll find most of those cars among the models we recommend you steer clear off.
Chances are you and your family will be spending a fair amount of time in your MPV, which is why we look at how much comfort and space you get in every seat in the vehicle. We use dummies to measure the exact head and legroom, so if your kids have shot up over the last few months, you know they won’t be hunched in the back.
We’ve found cars that compromise on quality and comfort. These have drab, poorly thought-out interiors that aren’t going to keep anyone happy during a long drive.
Below are the cars we've made Don't Buys. Poor safety records and reliability ratings as well as dull interiors put them bottom of the heap when it comes to buying a new or used MPV.
MPVs to avoid
This van-based model offers maximum space for minimal outlay and could prove tempting for families on a budget. We’d avoid it, though. It can be thirsty and it’s not the most pleasant to drive. However, it is its poor crash safety rating that has rendered it a Don’t Buy model.
This model was an impressive MPV when launched. Not only was it as spacious and practical as you'd expect from a seven-seat MPV, it also offered an engaging driving experience, which few rivals could match. However, as safety tests have become more stringent, this model has started to show its age. A poor safety rating in official crash tests means we now can’t recommend it.
Good value practicality is the key to this MPV’s appeal. Its size not only means you can fit in plenty of people and kit, but it’s also very easy to get in and out of. Unfortunately it’s noisy, uncomfortable and difficult to see out of. A below-par crash safety rating seals its fate as a model to avoid.
How to buy the best MPV and people carrier
From small to large MPVs, seating layouts and passenger space, here are our top car-buying tips and features to look out for when buying an MPV or people carrier.
Already know what you're looking for? See all of our expert MPV car reviews.
- Small MPVs are not geared around maximising space for people – they'll be five seaters. But they offer adaptable, practical cabins, with high roof-lines and useful storage cubbies, at low cost.
- Mid-size MPVs have much more room for luggage and can often be bought in seven-seater form, usually with a stretched wheelbase. Yet they generally occupy little more road space than a regular hatchback or saloon, so they're mostly efficient and practical.
- Large MPVs have declined in popularity recently as buyers increasingly turn to SUVs. But for maximum carrying capacity and the option of transporting seven or more adults plus their luggage, you can't beat full-size MPVs like the Seat Alhambra and Ford Galaxy.
With versatility key to a good people carrier, almost every MPV has something clever to offer in the seating department. However, there is a surprising variety of different ways of designing flexible seating – and some will suit certain families better than others.
- Sliding rear seats can be a real bonus. You can push them back to increase rear legroom, or slide them forwards to improve boot space.
- Reclining rear seats – some cars also offer a small degree of recline, which is a good feature to stop kids’ heads lolling forwards if they fall asleep.
- Three separate rear seats, rather than a single fixed bench is a great feature – especially if the seats are individually removable.
Watch out for seven-seaters that only have a small middle seat on the second row. This means that if you want to carry five people in comfort you'll need to have the third row in place, which will restrict available boot space.
One of the key selling points of MPVs is the flexibility and size of their luggage space. It's handy if the main boot is as big as possible, of course, and we take independent measurements of boot space for every car we test. You can see this in our car reviews.
It's not just about volume, though. Check whether the MPV has a flat load floor with the seats folded, and look to see how low the load height is. Is the boot a boxy, tall shape, so you can fit in large and awkward objects? Is there an extra area under the boot floor to hide valuable items out of sight?
The amount and type of cabin storage is worth considering too, for things like children’s toys. Under-floor storage in the rear footwell might seem useful. But it's not if you’re using an Isofix-mounted child car seat that has a support leg, as these can't be placed on cubby holes.
If you need even more luggage space, look for cars with roof rails as standard. You can typically add up to around 100kg of luggage on rails in roof-top boxes.
If you have three young children, all needing to be seated in child car seats, an MPV may be the only viable option to transport the entire family safely and securely. Many conventional cars can't accommodate three child seats abreast.
A top tip is to check the rearmost fold-up seats in seven-seaters too, as not all can carry child seats.
If you need to fit child car seats, Isofix mounting points make them quicker and easier to install. But make sure these mounting points are easy to access, and take your child car seat along when you view a car to see how easy it is to fit.
MPVs have become increasingly clever in terms of passenger access. Sliding doors are a real boon, especially in tight parking spots.
The largest MPVs are nothing more than commercial vans adapted to become people carriers by adding windows and additional seats. But don't discount them just because of this – vans are built to carry as much as possible at low cost.
Full-sized van-based MPVs are among the most practical cars you can buy in terms of sheer passenger and luggage space, with some models offering room for up to nine people.
We test cars more thoroughly than anyone else
Our tests go further than those carried out by other organisations, and because Which? is independent and doesn't accept advertising or freebies, you can trust our reviews to give you the full, honest and impartial truth about every car we test.
Every car we review is subjected to more than 100 individual tests in a lab, on a test track, and on real roads – and we really clock up the miles, driving around 500 miles in every car we test.
Testing in controlled lab conditions means the results we collect are directly comparable between different cars, helping us determine exactly which models are better and why, and helping you find the perfect car for your needs
And so you know which cars are likely to prove reliable for years to come, we also gather feedback from thousands of UK car owners through the Which? Car Survey, using it to generate detailed reliability ratings for the cars we test.
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