Think of an MPV People Carrier and it’s the larger ones you tend to picture – which is as it should be. Supermini and Family Hatchback-based mini-MPVs are all very clever but when it comes down to it, they can’t actually carry much more than your average family five-door. In most cases, they can’t even carry any more people – and wasn’t that what the MPV People Carrying concept was supposed to be about when Chrysler first invented it back in the Seventies?
All right, so large MPVs are a little van-like (OK, very van-like), but if you're a parent with two or three children and probably a dog in tow, then their charms are hard to ignore, especially when you consider that stack of paraphernalia you tend to have to carry on almost every journey. The large end of this sector has changed quite a bit in recent years. It was Renault’s Espace that pioneered People Carriers in Europe, following its launch in 1985 (12 years before the Chrysler Voyager made it over here from the States). Amazingly, it took the company’s mainstream European rivals a full ten years to catch up, by which time Renault had moved the game on once again with the Scenic mini-MPV.
Prior to the mini-MPV revolution, Large MPVs like the Espace had to be all things to all people, spanning the cheapest to the most expensive market sectors. From the later Nineties onwards however, Scenic-style mini-MPVs took over the bottom end of the market and supermini MPVs like Vauxhall’s Meriva appeared below these, leaving larger People Carriers to push upmarket in search of better-heeled buyers. This is reflected by used prices that may be higher than you expect.
At least you should be pleasantly surprised by the driving experience on offer, especially if you opt for Ford’s Galaxy or its VW Sharan or SEAT Alhambra clones. The AutoEuropa engineers really did achieve the virtually impossible with this MPV by making it handle almost like a car: some rivals still haven’t caught up. Others, like the Peugeot 807/Fiat Ulysse and Citroen C8 trio have opted for design flair to appeal to buyers.
It’s amazing how many people buy large MPVs and forget that travelling six or seven-up, there’s very little luggage space. In the last few years, longer wheelbase versions of contenders like Renault’s Espace and Chrysler’s Voyager have helped a little in this regard but fully laden with people, the problem can still be acute as you end up swapping one set of problems for another. One solution is to invest in a roof box – or better still, try and get the seller (who may well already have one) or the garage (who will probably sell them) to throw one in as part of the deal. Another option is to turn to one of the true van-based MPVs like VW’s Caravelle or Mercedes’ V-Class/Viano. These massive vehicles have 8 seats and room for luggage.