Fashion and function are not always the happiest bedfellows - you only need to look at most MPVs to see that. Despite being some of the most versatile and practical machines on the road (MPV means ‘Multi-Purpose Vehicle’ after all), people carriers have had an unhappy lot recently. With SUVs continuing to surge ahead in the sales charts, worthy people carriers are falling by the wayside as buyers clamour for street cred and a little ‘lifestyle’ sparkle instead.
Yet despite becoming marginalized, the MPV hasn’t slipped into obscurity just yet. Moreover, for many large families with busy schedules, there’s still no substitute for these rational and thoughtfully designed machines that put people and practicality at the heart of what they do. Thanks to an extremely efficient use of space they usually offer more space for people and things than vehicles with a similar footprint, plus tend to be packed with surprise-and-delight features that take the stress out of transporting families.
Traditionally MPVs are seen as seven-seaters, but the sector also includes five-seat models - perfect for those who never need to carry extra passengers but do want the space and thoughtful design. Increasingly, the class is seeing the arrival of van-based models, their boxy bodies and no-nonsense engineering making them the ultimate utilitarian family holdalls.
So, here’s our 10 favourite people movers.
1. Dacia Jogger
The cost of living crisis isn’t getting any easier for families, which is why the existence of the Dacia Jogger is great news for buyers on a budget. A genuine seven-seat family car you can buy for less than £15,000, the Romanian people carrier truly is a car for our times. Yet there’s so much more to this versatile machine than its bargain basement price.
Sure the Jogger isn't the biggest, cleverest or most versatile car in its class, but once you get down to brass tacks you’ll discover that it’s arguably all the car your growing brood really needs. It offers five decent-sized seats and a couple of more kiddy-sized ones in the boot, but the latter can easily be lifted out entirely when you've got big loads to carry. Others are more glamorous, faster and offer greater technological geegaws, yet drive the Jogger and you’ll realise that you don’t need any of these extras. In fact, you’re arguably better off without them.
The Jogger shares its model platform with the Dacia Sandero supermini (which in turn is based on the latest Renault Clio) as well as its 1.0-litre, 109bhp petrol engine. Outright performance is pretty modest, but also more than adequate, the thrummy three-cylinder delivering reasonable torque for mid-range hauling, while a tall top gear serves-up economical long-distance driving. Its bubbly energy takes a hit when you’re seven-up and fully loaded, but you’ll always be able to keep up with the flow.
There’s also now the option of the 1.6-litre petrol-electric hybrid (essentially the Renault E-TECH system), which delivers 138bhp and some eye-catching fuel economy figures. Performance is a little stronger (but not much), while the automatic-only gearbox option will appeal to many. However, in the real world it is barely any faster or more frugal than the 1.0-litre, so unless you must have a hybrid then we’d stick to the standard car.