The best MPVs

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6 of the best seven-seater MPVs for £8,000
If you have a large family, or just want the flexibility to carry extra passengers and luggage from time-to-time, a seven-seater MPV is a great choice. A budget of £8,000 gives you wide choice of up-to-date models that are streets ahead of the old van-derived people carriers of the 80s and 90s. Auto Express magazine’s Stephen Errity picks out some top choices.
Citroen Grand C4 Picasso
Citroen Grand C4 Picasso ('07-'13)
eBay loves: Big, bright and airy cabin
Watch out for: Semi-auto box isn’t great

French brand Citroen has become a real star in the family market in recent years, and its Grand C4 Picasso is one of the cleverest and most practical MPVs you can buy. Like all cars in this round-up, it gets a third row of seats, although they’re only really suitable for younger children. There are also useful built-in gadgets like a cooler box and torch, while some examples will feature the optional DVD system with screens in the back of the headrests. Engine-wise, you have a choice of 1.6-litre petrol or diesels, but we prefer the meatier 2.0-litre diesel, as it feels more at home powering a large car like this.
Vauxhall Zafira
Vauxhall Zafira (2005-present)
eBay loves: Clever seating and affordable to buy
Watch out for: Dull compared to some rivals

A familiar sight on UK roads, the Vauxhall Zafira has won over many family buyers with its clever Flex7 seating system, affordable purchase price and reasonable running costs. It’s perhaps not the most stylish or desirable car in this class, but there’s no denying it does the job well. There’s a wide choice of engines, with the familiar 1.9-litre diesel by far the most common, and you can also get a powerful turbocharged petrol model if you want to put some zip in your family motoring. Well equipped Design and SRi models are the best option when buying used.
Renault Grand Scenic
Renault Grand Scenic (2009-present)
eBay loves: Very spacious for passengers and luggage
Watch out for: Potential electrical niggles and damaged trim

Renault invented the MPV with the boxy Espace back in the 80s and has continued to be a major player in this class. The Grand Scenic manages to pack seven seats into a comparatively small body, so will definitely appeal to those who spend a lot of time in city centres or busy car parks. Renault’s dCi diesel engines are very economical, but watch out for slightly poor quality cabin trim, which doesn’t always hold up well to the rough and tumble of family life. On the plus side, the Grand Scenic has a huge amount of storage space in the cabin for odds and ends, in addition to the seven seats, so you should never feel overwhelmed by family clutter.
Mazda 5
Mazda 5 (2005-2010)
eBay loves: The most car-like MPV you can get
Watch out for: Boot and middle rearmost seat are quite small

Many drivers think that when the time comes to buy an MPV, the days of enjoyable motoring are over. This isn’t the case with the sleek Mazda 5, as it offers perhaps the most car-like driving experience of any large family MPV, drawing inspiration from Mazda’s MX-5 sports car. You also get the high levels of standard equipment and excellent reliability that Mazdas are renowned for. The only thing to note is that the 5 is not as massively spacious as some rivals - in particular it suffers from the old MPV problem of limited luggage space with all three rows of seats in place. Look for a 2.0-litre diesel version in Sport specification and you’ll have the pick of the range.
Kia Carens
Kia Carens (2006-2011)
eBay loves: Lots of equipment for the money
Watch out for: Looks a bit frumpy

A real value-for-money winner, the Kia Carens represents a lot of car for the money, especially when bought used. Like all Kia’s cars, it’s better equipped than equivalent European rivals and should be just as safe and reliable to own. Drivers probably won’t love it as much as a Ford S-MAX or Mazda 5, and there won’t be many admiring glances from the neighbours, but passengers will be happy in the bright, spacious and comfortable cabin. And remember, if you buy a January 2010 car or later, it will still be covered by the balance of Kia’s industry-leading seven-year or 100,000-mile manufacturer warranty.
Ford S-MAX
Ford S-MAX (2006-present)
eBay loves: Very spacious but also nice to drive
Watch out for: Size can be a problem in tight car parks

The imposing Ford S-MAX has lot to offer family buyers, with stylish looks, a great driving experience, superb engines and masses of interior space all counting in its favour. This was a pretty expensive car when new, and used values have remained strong, but you’re definitely paying for a good product. Very high-spec Titanium and Titanium X cars are perhaps not worth the extra, so look for the mid-range Zetec models, which have family motoring essentials such as climate control and rear electric windows, plus nice touches like a leather trimmed steering wheel. All the engines are impressive, although the petrol options are quite thirsty, so the TDCi diesels (available as 1.8, 2.0 and 2.2 litres) are the ones to go for.
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