The ten best seven-seat cars for 2010

There’s a time and a place for downsizing. Large families or people who need more space for luggage and equipment need a car with practicality, space and more often than not seven seats.

The seven-seater isn’t just a large behemoth with the handling of a small bus and ugly, box-like exteriors. There are more seven-seat cars than ever on the road in a variety of guises, from compact MPVs to luxury 4x4s. They can offer good engines, low running costs, flexibility, stylish looks and the all-important ability to seat seven people.

So, if you’re a growing family, or you just need a bit of extra space, we’ve rounded up some of the best seven-seat cars on the market – with a range of prices and body styles to suit every need.

Fiat Doblo

Unsurprisingly, from the makers of the Fiat 500, the Italian manufacturer has created a compact, uniquely-styled MPV capable of seating seven thanks to the flexible and roomy exterior layout.

Perfect for load carrying or seating seven (although leg room will be limited for adults in the third row), the Fiat Doblo offers a tall roof to give plenty of head room or the ability to pile boxes higher than you would expect.

For a compact MPV, 3,000-litres of space in the back with the rear two rows of seats folded is exceptional, and even with the seats up there is an impressive 750-litres of room.

The Fiat Doblo is one of the cheapest seven-seat MPVs available to buy, with prices starting below £12,000. The handling is surprisingly good and running costs from Fiat’s excellent engines remain low.

The Fiat Doblo is a van-like MPV perfect for load carrying and driving on a budget.

Seat Alhambra

The Seat Alhambra, released as a competitor to the previous generation Ford Galaxy, was in need of an update to bring it into line with newer rivals, and the Spanish manufacturer has done just that.

The new Seat Alhambra, available from the end of summer 2010, boasts sleek, simple lines and a deceptively spacious interior. What’s more, while many manufacturers are making smaller and smaller MPVs, the Alhambra has enough space to comfortably seat seven adults with ease.

Built on the same platform as the Volkswagen Sharan but the Alhambra undercuts its sister model in price while still delivering the same impressive amount of equipment.

The flexible seating system means the back two rows can be folded away if necessary and there are rear sliding doors to allow easier access at the back.

It has a range of gadgets to allow easier manoeuvring in tight traffic such as ESP, ABS and a park/steer assistant. Prices haven’t been announced, but it will be much closer to the budget end of the MPV segment.

Kia Sorento

Family saloon level prices, ultra-low running costs and four-wheel drive to aid traction and save on fuel, the Kia Sorento is the king of the budget SUV sector.

Prices start from around £20,000 and as with all Kia cars it comes with the superb seven-year warranty which is transferred with ownership if you want to upgrade within the seven year period.

It’s extremely spacious inside and boasts a flexible second and third row of seats capable of folding to create even more room.

The Kia Sorento offers good fuel economy figures of around 44mpg for the most efficient engines, and the huge interior coupled with low price is ideal for somebody wishing to spend less on a car but keep the dimensions of a roomy MPV.

Ford S-Max

You will have seen the new television adverts for the latest Ford S-Max, released earlier this year. The advert for the sporty MPV featured a number of extreme sports shown in the reflection of the S-Max.

The latest facelift includes new, sportier exterior styling and higher equipment levels than previous versions. However, it also means higher prices as well, with entry-level models slightly more expensive than the previous version at £20,645.

As expected with a Ford MPV, the S-Max drives like a smaller, more nimble car and the interior quality and improved equipment levels are a big bonus.

Equipment includes a clever fuelling system which prevents using the wrong time of fuel, a panoramic sunroof and a premium sound system.

The seven-seat system is flexible and practical and boasts a ‘fold-flat’ system for the second and third rows of seats to create more luggage space, making it an ideal, top-quality choice for any need.

Citroen Grand C4 Picasso

The Citroen Grand C4 Picasso is not a driving car in the style of the Ford S-Max, but it blows the blue oval contender out of the water for sheer size and practicality.

The interior is packed full of clever storage boxes and cubby holes and the versatile three-row seating arrangement is flexible and spacious. The panoramic windscreen offers increased visibility in tight city traffic.

Handling and comfort are the compromise for the vast interior space, however. But it is extremely stylish – a rarity for a car of this size, and is arguably one of the best-looking models in its class.

It’s won numerous awards since its launch in 2007, and the £17,500 entry-level price is a bargain for such a well-equipped, spacious and attractive MPV.

Renault Grand Scenic

The Renault Grand Scenic ticks all the boxes necessary for a seven-seat MPV. It’s spacious inside and can seat seven with minimum fuss, the build quality and interior materials are impressive and it is a good to drive.

The seats may not be as versatile as other, similar sized MPVs (the middle row can be removed instead of folding) but there is enough room inside to make the Grand Scenic a practical alternative whether you are looking for a family-sized people carrier or a load-lugger.

On the road, it is refined and smooth – and more importantly is capable of dealing with the UK’s pothole-strewn roads with the minimum of fuss.

Residual values are high and running costs fairly low, making the Renault Grand Scenic an excellent all-rounder in the seven-seat market.

Land Rover Discovery

The Land Rover Discovery offers something a little bit different than the standard seven-seat MPV. The luxury SUV is equally impressive off-road as it is on thanks to the clever Terrain Response system.

It’s also incredibly luxurious, with comfort and equipment approaching Range Rover levels. The seven seat version features two foldable seats capable of comfortably carrying adults – another rarity in the world of seven-seaters.

As expected from such a capable off-roader, the engines are superb, the ‘Disco’ is responsive and the air suspension makes light work of on and off-road driving.

It is slightly more expensive than a seven-seat MPV, but the luxury SUV is much cheaper than the Range Rover at just £27,000.

Peugeot 5008

The Peugeot 5008 is the French marque’s answer to the Grand Scenic – seen as one of the class-leading seven-seat MPVs.

It has been a tremendous success and was named 2010 Car of the Year by Diesel Car magazine and Best MPV 2010 by What Car? magazine.

The compact people carrier boasts three rows of seats, the second of which can fold flat and the third can fold entirely into the floor. Storage space can be as much as 2,505 litres with all of the seats folded and an impressive 823 litres with the seats up.

It boasts a smooth and silent ride and the interior is roomy and airy enough to remain pleasant even if you’re taking the kids on a long holiday drive.

The Peugeot 5008 is a straightforward, good quality people carrier with spacious, versatile seats and enough equipment on the instrument panel to suggest you get plenty of MPV for the money. It also boasts the clever heads up display first seen in the 3008.

Ford Galaxy

The Ford Galaxy is big, practical, and has excellent environmental credentials for such a large MPV. Seven-seater diesel versions emit less than 160g/km of CO2, making it one of the best performing vehicles in its class.

As expected with a Ford model, residuals are high and running costs are low thanks to the widely available spare parts and good build quality.

It is also one of the biggest people carriers on the market – bigger than the similar Ford S-Max – and has plenty of room for all passengers in the three rows of seats.

The Ford Galaxy is designed for comfort both inside and during the ride through the suspension, and it achieves both with style. It’s not too bad on the eyes either.

It does however, cost slightly more than the S-Max, with prices starting from around £22,000.

Peugeot Partner Tepee

The Peugeot Partner Tepee makes use of its similarity to the Partner panel van. Despite being barely larger than a hatchback the Peugeot Partner Tepee makes excellent use of the space.

The seven seats are flexible and the box-like rear offers a large amount of boot space. The vehicle as a whole is practical and robust, with chunky, modern exterior styling and good quality interior materials.

As expected with such a compact car, the additional third row of seats are quite small and useful only for children, but the 640 litres of space in the five seat configuration is useful and can be expanded to create a cavernous 2,800 litres of space.

The Peugeot Partner Tepee is a rebadged version of the Citroen Berlingo – so you can take your pick depending on personal preference.