Once upon a time MPV’s were fuel-guzzling, CO2-emitting behemoths. Not so now.
MPVs are cleaner, more efficient, more compact and practical for families and people who need a bit more storage space. Class leaders like the Citroen C3 Picasso and Ford S-Max have redefined the market, which ranges from compact five seat models to spacious seven seat people carriers.
We look at the ten best MPVs in 2010 – both big and small - to help you decide which is the right MPV for you.
Price: £22-£28,000 (expected – on sale in December 2010)
The Seat Alhambra shares a platform with the Volkswagen Sharan. However, the Spanish offering is expected to be a lower price, and therefore better value than its sister MPV.
The new Alhambra, due in the UK in December, is slightly larger than the outgoing version to offer more storage and leg room. The seats are versatile and can be folded to create two, five, six or seven seat configurations.
Designed with smooth, simple lines, the Alhambra is understated and sleek. The ‘Spanish Alfa’ has developed a winning style, matched with practicality and the big bonus – excellent value.
The compact Mazda5 is a great choice for a family car. Seven seats and rear sliding doors make it a versatile and practical prospect.
The next generation Mazda5 reduces CO2 emissions by up to 15 per cent over older models and ridges across the sides of the car reduce drag and improve fuel efficiency.
Although small, the Mazda5 is an affordable, stylish MPV using the Nagare design language – which translates as ‘flow’.
Mazda cars are well-known for good handling and smooth drive and despite being an MPV, the Mazda5 offers car-like handling.
Price: £15,495 - £21,255
The most striking feature of the new Vauxhall Meriva is the innovative Flexdoor system, previously seen on Rolls Royce models.
The rear doors open towards the rear of the car, creating a ‘safe’ area when all side doors are open. This is particularly beneficial when helping children in and out of the car.
If you’re worried about safety, the Meriva employs technology to stop the doors opening at all if the car is moving. Warning lights and audio notify the driver if the doors are not closed properly. Vauxhall says the Meriva is expected to gain a maximum five star rating in passenger safety in the EuroNCAP safety tests.
The larger, four or five seat MPV is practical with plenty of storage space supplied via a unique FlexRail system of cubby holes.
Price: £20,645 - £27,995
Judges of the Best MPV award at Fleet News described the S-Max as having 'good design, practicality, high quality, flexibility and driver appeal'. The car has picked up a number of awards, including European Car of the Year in 2007.
The S-Max is another MPV to be given new engines to cut CO2 and improve fuel economy. There is also a nifty EasyFuel system to prevent putting diesel into a petrol engine accidently.
The second and third row of seats in the seven-seater can be folded using the Ford Fold Flat System and the S-Max boasts a host of innovative equipment such as the Blind Spot Information System.
The Ford S-Max offers a superb drive, good handling and generous equipment levels.
Citroen C3 Picasso
Price: £14,295 - £16,545
The multi award-winning C3 Picasso is a supermini MPV with stunning environmental credentials. The cleanest versions of the Picasso can achieve less than 120g/km – meaning cheaper road tax rates for the driver.
Nominated for five awards in the eight months after its launch, the C3 Picasso has picked up plaudits for a quality, economy and performance.
Ideal for somebody looking for a small MPV whose boxy shape retains plenty of storage space, the C3 Picasso is nimble and perfectly suited to city driving.
The most notable feature of the C3 Picasso is the raised seating position and wrap around windscreen offering increased visibility.
Renault Scenic\Grand Scenic
Price: Scenic £15,520 - £23,716, Grand Scenic £16,970 - £25,270
The Scenic – formally the Megane Scenic – invented the MPV segment during the 90s and remains one of the more impressive models around.
Cost-conscious families will appreciate the level of equipment, quality of build and versatility of the Scenic and the larger Grand Scenic.
Newer models of the seven-seat Grand Scenic and five-seat Scenic are cheaper than the models they replaced – by as much as £2,000, making the Scenic range excellent value for money.
There are 28 derivatives across the Scenic range along, including a sub-130g/km model and four trim levels. Storage and seating is spacious – particularly in the Grand Scenic – and the drive is controlled and responsive.
Price: £11,495 - £16,155
The stylishly designed Kia Soul is much more of an urban crossover with SUV looks aimed at young families, couples and singles.
It boasts five seats, five doors and due to the box-shaped rear end, it feels very spacious inside. The rear seats can be folded completely flat to create more storage space.
Like all Kia models, the Soul benefits from the exceptional seven year warranty and the compact MPV recorded a top five-star EuroNCAP safety rating.
It is excellent value too – standard equipment includes power windows, air conditioning, ESP and USB connectivity.
Price: £16,695 - £22,795
The Peugeot 3008 is a hatch-crossover with a mix of 4x4-style high driving position and practicality of an MPV all in the body of a compact family hatchback.
It manages to combine the best of all three styles, with MPV storage space, the handling of a smaller family car and the front wheel drive gives it a more efficient drivetrain than a 4X4.
This led to the Peugeot 3008 being awarded the prestigious What Car? MPV of the Year award in 2010.
The five-door 3008 can seat five and the three rear seats can be folded for extra storage space. It looks great and handles well on the roads. Throw in the roomy dimensions and quality of the interior and the Peugeot 3008 establishes itself as one of the best MPVs in the segment.
Price: £14,995 - £26,095
The seven-seat Zafira is one of the roomiest MPVs available today. Surprisingly, however, it also drives extremely well, with good body control and strong grip.
Based on the Astra platform, the Zafira offers seven seats, but five of them can be folded to create a vast amount of space.
The model is slightly older than the others listed here, but it was given a facelift in 2008 to update the exterior and refine the engines.
The Zafira is well-known for its reliability and safety, perfect for a family with children who need plenty of load space.
Price: £12,370 - £17,145
The Fiat Doblo is one of the larger MPVs on the market. It boasts seven seats and a box-like rear offering vast a vast load capacity and plenty of leg and head room for passengers.
Where the Doblo really stands out is price. An entry level model costs under £10,000, making it one of the most affordable and best value seven-seat MPVs in the segment.
Sliding doors and a spacious boot offer practicality and versatility – which is unsurprising considering it is based on the panel van version. It also handles much better than its dimensions suggest and has excellent safety credentials.
Fiat has sold over a million units of the Doblo since it was launched in 2000 and a completely new model released in 2010 keeps the range fresh and up-to-date.