People carriers or MPVs (multi-purpose vehicles) are designed with families in mind. When an estate car just can’t cut it anymore, families turn to people carriers to solve all their spacing dilemmas. These vehicles are built for practicality with all the best models offering superior legroom, improved boot space and a third row of seats. They’re also expected to include additional features such as clever folding seats, hidden storage options and the choice between diesel and petrol, among other family-friendly features that promise to keep the kids happy during long journeys. Here’s our selection of the best people carriers for families in 2016:
With the Ford S-MAX you don’t have to compromise between practicality and driver enjoyment. This sporty model is one of the best-handling people carriers on the market. Although it doesn’t have the sliding doors of the SEAT Alhambra, it’s still a great choice as a family car. The middle row has three individual seats which is great if you want to have three child seats side-by-side, as well as two smaller seats in the back.
There’s ample storage and the third row even gets cupholders, probably an attempt to reduce spillages from the kids in the back. The bootspace, while not huge with all seven seats in use, is still sufficient for most circumstances.
The S-MAX also has a choice between four diesel and two petrol engines, as well as manual and automatic gearboxes, and two or four-wheel drive. On top of all of this, there are additional features included such as Ford’s new SYNC 2 infotainment system, parking sensors and keyless go. If you’re willing to pay extra, there’s also the option of a built-in sat-nav and USB connectivity.
Citroen Grand C4 Picasso
The big brother to the Citroen C4 Picasso, the Grand C4 Picasso manages to unite style and practicality, a combination often eluded by large MPVs. It boasts a distinctive look with narrow headlights, a panoramic windscreen that extends into the car’s roof and a clutter free dashboard. The addition of two further entirely folding back seats means that the Grand can cater for larger families or groups and the simple mechanism means it’ll be able to handle all your requirements without the usual stress. Again, you have the option of diesel or petrol engines; we’d recommend the diesel options which offer a great blend of power and economy. Add to this that some models have a low enough CO2 emission that they are exempt from road tax. Exclusive models also have the option of luxuries like a sat-nav, a reversing camera and keyless entry. The driving experience might not be the most exciting but the Grand still ticks most boxes.
Renault Grand Scenic
The Renault Grand Scenic while not a stylish option or a thrilling drive is one of the best value people carriers. Renault has always had a strong reputation for safety so it’s not surprising the Grand Scenic comes out on top as one of the highest scoring cars in safety tests.
Its stop-start technology introduced in 2013 has made the latest model 15 per cent more efficient as well. Beside this it includes all the normal features, hidden storage in the floor of passenger footwells, versatile seating options and decent headroom.
A bonus is the optional sliding centre console that moves back and forward to allow for variety of situations. It might not be as sporty as its rivals, but it doesn’t drive like a typical MPV either. Recent updates to the car have kept it competitive in a busy market and it’s fair to say the Renault Grand Scenic is still a great choice.
One glance at the SEAT Alhambra and you know it’s not a cool-looking car. Other parents might not initially envy your choice of car but when they realise just how practical it is they might begin to reconsider. The boxy exterior allows for an impressive amount of space inside that comfortably seats seven people (not just kids) as well as a good amount of boot space. The sliding rear doors make it really east to get in and out of the back and the three individual seats in the second row give you the option for extra child seats. Although very similar to the Volkswagen Sharan, its lower price and greater standard equipment makes it a better choice in our eyes. While not super cheap, the running costs are in line with most cars of this size.
Are there any great family cars or people carriers you think we’ve missed? Have we chosen one of your favourites? Let us know in the comments section below or on Twitter (@WeWantAnyCar).