Best MPVs and people carriers for 2021
The best MPVs (multi-purpose vehicles) and people carriers are the ideal choice for anyone who regularly 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.
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 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.
What to avoid when buying MPVs and people carriers
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 and people carriers to avoid
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.
What sizes do MPVs come in?
- 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 . 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 and .
How adjustable are the seating positions and layouts?
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.
Folding seats and boot space – what should I look out for?
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 .
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.
How many child car seats fit in an MPV?
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.
For more information, read our in-depth guides to child car seats in five-seat MPVs and child car seats in seven-seat MPVs.
Are sliding doors a good idea?
MPVs have become increasingly clever in terms of passenger access. Sliding doors are a real boon, especially in tight parking spots.
Should I buy a van-based people carrier?
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, 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.