The market may be going towards SUVs, but the best way to haul people and their stuff at the same time is still with an MPV. These are the best ones currently on sale
29 January 2018

The MPV segment is under attack; SUV sales are skyrocketing and making a dent in the people carrier class.

But MPVs remain the more practical option, offering better value for money in more functional packages. Some can even be both handsome and fun to drive, meaning there’s still life in the segment yet. Below, we run through 10 of the best to demonstrate this. 

1. Volkswagen Sharan

The Sharan is not the most nimble in its class; that title goes to the Ford Galaxy, which remains the MPV benchmark.

However, buyers will love the Sharan’s better-quality feel, its ease of use and the badge kudos it holds – helped by a familiar design language that makes the Sharan look a bit like an oversized Golf.

A wise optional specification is DCC adaptive chassis control, which offers a wider breadth of talents and, when set to Comfort, makes the car the best-riding in its class.

The Sharan remains a serious contender in the seven-seat MPV market and a smart buy for anyone with a need for serious practicality.

2. BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer

The 2 Series Gran Tourer looks expensive, but that's compensated by the fact that it is so well equipped, is of such high quality inside and features engines that are clean and frugal.

Its rivals come in the form of range-topping variants of the Ford Grand C-Max and Renault Grand Scenic, but the 2 Series Gran Tourer will attract a different type of buyer – one who prioritises look and image above maximising practicality.

The 2 Series Gran Tourer is an impressive steer for a seven-seater, but it isn’t one that stands out in an overall impressive class. The VW Sharan is a smarter choice when value for money is concerned, but this car can’t be beaten for desirability

3. Volkswagen Touran

The Touran feels like a car created from the very core of the MPV textbook, having been born to deliver great occupant space from a fairly compact footprint.

It can’t come close to the BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer for premium-brand allure or driver appeal, while it also lacks charm and its design is bland.

That said, the Touran scores no less than eight out of 10 in every department, making it a strong all-rounder that does exactly what it says on the tin with fantastic consistency.

4. Ford S-Max

The new S-Max doesn’t appeal in quite the same way as the previous one in the driving sense.

On performance, ride and handling, Ford barely moves the bar forward, and that has cost it dearly in a class where rivals have taken strides. That said, the finished product is still a respectable, competitive and generally pleasing-to-drive family car' it’s just that it lacks the unique selling point the old car offered.

In its defense, the S-Max’s design is more interesting than other MPVs and, even with little improvement, it’s still good to drive. It’s just a shame that it's now a good car rather than a great one. 

5. Seat Alhambra

The Alhambra is not a fun car, but it is a very effective one. It serves its purpose very well and provides occupants with comfortable, roomy transport.

It’s as refined as a Volkswagen Golf and has more practical access than rivals such as the Ford S-Max or Galaxy, thanks to its wide-opening sliding doors. If you want a car that’s more enjoyable to drive, you’d be better off considering one of the aforementioned Fords; but in terms of value for money, nothing can beat the Alhambra.

The sharper-looking S-Max probably just has the edge for overall desirability, though. 

6. Citroën C4 Picasso

This latest Citroën C4 Picasso is far more rounded than its predecessor, but it retains all the quirkiness that made that car such an attractive proposition in a segment many would assume to be entirely dull.

It has a classy, well-designed and functional interior, although it isn’t up there with the very best for fit and finish. To drive, the C4 Picasso lacks the shine of Ford’s S-Max, but it is far from bad on the road and comes with a good range of powertrains.

As far as MPVs go, this is a highly talented – albeit not perfect – example. 

7. Vauxhall Zafira Tourer

The Zafira Tourer is a good-handling MPV that comes with torquey engines and good looks.

The 163bhp CDTi version is particularly impressive, although the unit isn’t the most refined of the oil burners. To steer, the Zafira Tourer only just falls short of the Ford S-Max, and it rides comfortably to make carrying a heavy load of passengers easy work. What hinders its chances most, however, is a relatively high asking price, leaving it vulnerable to attack from premium offerings.

The Zafira Tourer stands strong, but it does mean some buyers will likely be tempted to look elsewhere. 

8. Renault Scenic

The Scenic mixes the practicality of an MPV with the stance of an SUV. This is a deliberate ply by designers to appeal to buyers of both segments – and it works, giving the car a flair without compromising on its functionality.

The interior is well finished but the infotainment system isn’t brilliantly integrated into its design. Ride is also subpar and leaves the Scenic feeling of lower standard than some of its well-polished rivals.

But when it comes to desirability, the Scenic is up there with the very best and, as such, is a fashionable addition to the world of MPV.

9. Ford Grand C-Max

The Ford Grand C-Max is a good-handling, good-looking option with a wide range of engine options. It isn’t quite as dynamically engaging as the S-Max but it is very practical, with side sliding doors enabling easy access to the rear.

Standard kit is generous and makes the car even more versatile, while a good selection of design features help to give it style and presence.

On the road, there’s little beyond the slightly more relaxed ride to choose between the Grand C-Max and the smaller C-Max. They feel identical in steering precision and cornering grip, and you’re barely aware of its extra size and weight.

10. Toyota Verso

The Toyota Verso is well finished and as practical as they come. It’s also handsome and features a well-thought-out interior.

It’s not going to appeal to lovers of driving, offering little in the way of the dynamism on offer in the Ford S-Max. But it rides comfortably and with confidence – something many buyers will consider more important in the MPV segment.

Overall, this is a good car, although it doesn’t stand out among its rivals. It sits in the middle of the MPV table and, as such, remains a not particularly memorable buy.

Our Verdict

Volkswagen Sharan

The Volkswagen Sharan is a refined, flexible and spacious seven-seat MPV, albeit one that is more expensive than its Seat Alhambra sister car

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week