Best MPVs and people carriers for 2020
By Daljinder Nagra
Article 11 of 16
The best MPVs offer comfort, practicality and bags of interior space. The best people carriers should also deliver great fuel economy and long-term reliability.
The best MPVs (multi-purpose vehicles) and people carriers are the ideal choice for anyone who needs to transport lots of people and luggage. They are perfect for large families (and minicab drivers).
The Renault Espace arguably pioneered the idea of the people carrier in Europe in the 1980s, but MPVs are now a staple of manufacturer model ranges, even though their popularity has waned in recent years, with families tending to be drawn to more fashionable SUVs.
That said, MPVs remain a solid choice for family transport, and newer models put more of an emphasis on driver enjoyment and premium tech. Popular models we've reviewed span the price spectrum, from the mainstream Renault Scénic and Ford S-Max, to more upmarket offerings such as 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:
Only Which? members can view our reviews in the tables below.
The best new MPV cars
Find the top-scoring, exceptionally practical and great-to-drive MPVs and people carriers from our expert lab tests in the table below.
Best new MPVs
This really is the complete MPV package, with space for seven adults, a comfortable ride and plenty of technology to keep you relaxed and safe. It's among our highest-scoring MPVs and its owners clearly rate it highly, although it was denied Best Buy status after our tests uncovered a flaw.
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.
The best used MPV cars
Get more for your money and minimise the potential for buying a money pit, with our top-scoring MPVs available to buy used.
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 need to be more than versatile and spacious family cars. They need to safely accommodate both the biggest and smallest family members, and there's no excuse for omissions in safety kit. Unfortunately, some MPVs we've tested are unsafe.
We report the Euro NCAP safety results on all cars. We also consider the safety equipment each car comes with as part of our scores, in line with increasingly stringent safety standards.
Chances are you and your family may spend 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 past 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 models we don't recommend, due to poor safety levels, or a lack of overall practicality or reliability.
MPVs to avoid
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.
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 it’s age. A poor safety rating means we now can’t recommend it.
How to buy the best MPV and people carrier
Whether you're considering a small or large MPV, need a versatile seating layout or just the most passenger space, here are our top tips and features to look out for when buying a people carrier.
Already know what you're looking for? See all of our expert MPV car reviews.
MPVs are available in three distinct size categories: small, such as the Volkswagen Golf SV, medium (Ford C-Max) and large (Volkswagen Sharan). They're all very different in terms of their target market.
- Small MPVs are not geared around maximising space for people – they will be five seaters. But they offer adaptable, practical cabins, with higher roof-lines than conventional hatchbacks 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, although usually the rear-most seats are only really suitable for children. However, they generally occupy little more road space than a regular large car, so they're typically 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-sized MPVs such as 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 are a surprisingly wide variety of ways to design 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. Cars with this feature can often fit three child car seats abreast.
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. This 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 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 such as 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 rooftop 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.
It's worth checking the rearmost fold-up seats in seven-seaters, too, as not all are suitable for accommodating child car 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.
There are examples across the price spectrum. These range from good-value offerings, such as the Vauxhall Combo Life and Hyundai ix20, to more premium models, like the Volkswagen Caravelle and Mercedes V-class.
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 annual Which? Car Survey, using it to generate detailed reliability ratings for the cars we test.
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