The Car and Driving Guide to Buying a People Carrier


Despite the rise and fall of the SUV, a People Carrying MPV is still the most sensible option for family folk needing ultimate practicality and cabin space. If you’re shopping in this market, you might find it useful to have an expert’s starting point to what’s available. So we’ve picked out a few of the segment’s front runners here. 

Compact Van-Based – Citroen Berlingo

It’s probable that the average Citroen Berlingo owner doesn’t have much time for the stylised SUVs that family buyers seem to love so much at present. If he or she were to be typically French, you could imagine such a person taking one look at a fashion-led Crossover, then dismissing it with a puzzled Gallic shrug as they turned away in a waft of Gauloises smoke. You buy a family car to suit family needs mais non? So why would it not be proudly bluff and squarical – like this one?

It’s easy to buy into that principle in theory, then be quickly put off it by the grim, grey utilitarian demeanour that tends to typically characterise LCV-derived models in this segment. After all, no one really wants to be pigeonholed as a delivery driver on the school run. With this one, we don’t think you will be.

This time round in this segment, Citroen is offering buyers not only a standard 4.4m ‘M’-designated standard body shape but also an alternative 4.75m ‘XL’ body style which is intended to deliver a lot more space for those wanting to get their Berlingo fitted out with a third seating row.

Whatever way you specify this Berlingo, its cargo area will be vast. The standard ‘M’-length model has 775-litres of boot space to the window line - or up to 3,000-litres if you were to fold the rear bench and load to the ceiling. The top-spec variant gets a fold-flat front passenger seat too. Activate that on a long wheelbase model and you could be looking at as much as 4,000-litres of total carriage capacity. And enough loading length to accommodate something as long as a kayak inside. If you just need the boot area, a nice touch is the way that the parcel shelf just mentioned can be positioned at two heights and can take a reasonable amount of weight. Enough so as you could put the family dog on top of it, with your shopping safe below.

Engine-wise, there’s a choice. Things kick off with a 1.2-litre three cylinder Puretech petrol unit with 110hp - there's also an auto transmission 130hp version of this unit. The combustion alternative is a 1.5-litre BlueHDi diesel (with 100 or 130hp). Or you can go full-electric with the e-Berlingo, which uses a 50kWh 100kW EV powerplant with a 170 mile range. Prices range in the £22,000-£28,000 bracket for combustion model - the all-electric e-Berlingo starts at around £30,000 after subtraction of the available government Plug-in car Grant.

Large – Ford S-MAX

The Ford S-MAX has long delivered engaging handling with family seven-seat practicality. And it’s that practicality which really sells this MPV to family buyers. There are no fewer than 32 different seating and load space combinations on offer.

Take the middle seating row for instance. Here, you’ll find that the three individual seats provided slide back and forth and recline for greater comfort on longer journeys. We likeFord’s preference for ‘stadium-style’ seat positioning that enables you to better see forward through into the front, though this approach could compromise ultimate headroom a little for really tall people, especially in a car fitted with the optional huge optional glass Panorama roof. The pay-off though, is the commanding, airy feel that this model provides.

Move to the third row and you’ll find chairs that can properly be used by adults – provided the journey isn’t going to be excessively long. It’s a bit annoying though, that neither of the rearmost pews get ISOFIX child seat fastenings (these are only fitted to the chairs in the middle row). As for boot space, well, with the two rearmost chairs retracted, a 965-litre space is freed up. For ultimate carriage capacity, you can of course fold the individual middle row chairs. They push down flat into the floor, either manually - or electrically if you’ve got the ‘Power Easy Entry’ option fitted. That frees up 2,020-litres of space.

Engine-wise, there’s a choice between either a 2.5-litre 190PS Duratec self-charging petrol Hybrid engine. Or an EcoBlue 2.0-litre turbodiesel unit, offered in 150 and 190PS outputs. Prices start from around £33,000.

Large EV – Mercedes EQV

The Mercedes EQV was the first full-electric model in the super-large MPV segment, claiming to be the People Carrier of the future, with zero emissions and a 213 mile WLTP-rated range. There are few practical compromises with the battery installation and quality levels are way higher than you'd expect from a van-derived product. Inevitably, you pay handsomely for that but if you’re able to, then – for the time being anyway – in terms of drive range, size and quality, there’s nothing to touch this Mercedes in its sector. Which is just as well because prices start at around £70,000.

Space-wise, the EQV is difficult to better, the standard electric sliding doors you get on both sides of the vehicle gliding back to reveal an enormous rear seating area which, impressively, hasn’t been at all compromised by the under-floor need to accommodate an enormous 90kWh battery. There are only two individual middle row seats but three individual chairs are provided in the third row – and they’re fully usable by adults.

As for luggage room, well because the EQV is based on the largest ‘Extra Long’ V-Class body shape, the cargo area isn’t very much compromised by the positioning of the third seating row. With the rear-most bench normally positioned, there’s a massive 1,410-litres of carriage space. Of course, if you’reable to take the second and third row chairs out, you basically get yourself a removal van. With all the second and third row seats out, an EQV offers up to 5,010-litres of space.

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