Best people carriers

Giving you the most space for your money: our pick of the best people carriers for the family

BuyaCar team
Jul 25, 2017

Sporty looks and performance are all very well but there comes a time in many motorists’ lives when generous boot and passenger space, safety features and loads of storage options trump everything. We’re talking about people carriers - also known as Multi-Purpose Vehicles (MPVs)

Although tall and rugged-looking sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) are more now more popular, there’s still demand for these practical and versatile vehicles, some of which can accommodate up to nine people

They’re not all boxy behemoths, either. For example, there are sporty ones (Ford S Max), stylish ones (Citroen Grand C4 Picasso and Renault Grand Scenic) and funky ones (Fiat 500L), as well as minibus-like giants such as the Citroen SpaceTourer.

The best offer good visibility, copious storages places, seats that tip, fold and slide, and a good roster of safety equipment. The top ten on sale at the moment are below.

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Best people carriers

Scroll down or click on a car for more details

1 Ford S-Max
2 Citroen Grand C4 Picasso
3 Ford Galaxy
4 Seat Alhambra
5 Volkswagen Touran
6 Kia Carens
7 Renault Grand Scenic
8 BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer
9 Citroen SpaceTourer
10 Fiat 500L MPW

Buying a people carrier: what to look for

Isofix mounts The safest way to fix your child seat (above): some people carriers have enough mounts for up to five child seats to be attached securely.

Power to all the people Power sockets in the back can help keep children’s gadgets charged on long journeys

Boot space Some people carriers can carry lots of passengers or lots of luggage - but not both. Ensure you get enough space.

Moveable seats Slide a middle-row seat forwards and you'll decrease legroom for the passenger, but increase it for anyone behind.

Parking aids In a tall car full of screaming children, it’s easy to miss car park bollards. Parking sensors and reversing cameras come into their own.

1. Ford S-Max

Best people carrier for: smooth ride and driving enjoyment

Boot space seats up/down 285/2020 litres
Isofix 3, Rear power Optional, Parking sensors On most models

Our pick Ford S-Max Zetec 2.0 TDCi 150 Configure a new car

A people carrier doesn’t need to shout to the world that you’ve swapped late-night parties and exotic holidays for 5am feeds. And the Ford S-Max is the people carrier that looks least like a minibus.

It’s still a practical seven-seater with plenty of room for five adults in the first two rows and a tight third row of two seats that’s best left for children. Each of the five seats in the back can be folded flat, and you’ll need to sacrifice at least one if you’ve got a lot of luggage, because there’s little space in the boot when all seats are in use.

There’s plenty of storage space including compartments in the floor. Isofix mounts for three child seats are included, but you may need a filler for the underfloor storage to fit your child seat safely.

The S-Max is more expensive than rivals such as the Citroen Picasso, but very well equipped. For example, front and rear parking sensors are standard fit on all models. The ride is comfortable and smooth, while the steering allows the driver to feel the wheels turning and sense their level of their grip. This makes it easier to steer the car precisely and makes driving more enjoyable.

Read the Ford S-Max buying guide

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2. Citroen Grand C4 Picasso

Best people carrier for: Style and comfort

Boot space seats up/down 130/2125 litres
Isofix 3, Rear power standard, Parking sensors On most models

Our pick Citroen Grand C4 Picasso VTR 1.2 PureTech Configure a new car

With sculpted bodywork and thin LED lights at the front, the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso is proof that people carriers can offer flair and style. The theme continues inside too, where there’s a minimalist dashboard with two central screens that looks more Starship Enterprise than Surbiton school run.

The seven-seat Grand C4 Picasso hasn’t lost sight of its purpose, though. The middle row of seats is spacious enough to accommodate three (friendly) adults, and they each have Isofix points for child seats. A five star safety rating from independent Euro NCAP crash testing is another bonus on the safety front.

The back row of two seats is only really big enough for children and boot space is tiny when they are in use, but the Grand Picasso’s luggage capacity becomes spacious when the second- and third-row seats are folded flat. It’s comfortable to drive, with a good range of petrol and diesel engines. The cars have recently had a minor redesign, but prices are competitive, with new Citroen Grand C4 Picasso deals starting at less than £20,000 and used models considerably cheaper. A five-seat version - the Citroen C4 Picasso - is also available.

Read the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso buying guide

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3. Ford Galaxy

Best people carrier for: seven adults and all of their luggage

Boot space seats up/down 300/2339 litres
Isofix 3, Rear power yes, Parking sensors yes

Our pick Ford Galaxy Zetec 2.0 TDCi 150 Configure a new car

Yes, you may look like a minicab driver but the one key advantage of buying a Galaxy over smaller seven–seat rivals such as the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso is that you can get seven adults comfortably into the Ford. It’s big - really big.

In fact, of all ten MPVs in our list, the Galaxy is the most capacious. While many seven-seaters struggle to provide sensible luggage space behind the third row, the Galaxy is one of few to offer space for a row of suitcases. Fold the five rear seats down, and you might have visions of setting up a removal company, thanks to a class-leading 2339 litres of space, just ahead of the Seat Alhambra.

Apart from its sheer size, the Galaxy is easy to live with, with good vision and a high driving position. The second-row seats can slide back and forth and recline. Each has an Isofix mounting point, so you can securely attach three child seats in a row. It’s not a bargain compared with rivals, but comes well equipped.

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4. Seat Alhambra

Best people carrier for: tight parking spots

Boot space seats up/down 267 / 2297 litres
Isofix 3, Rear power Yes, Parking sensors yes

Our pick Seat Alhambra S 2.0 TDI CR Ecomotive Configure a new car

Seat’s advertising promises Spanish flair, but buyers in the know realise that the brand means Volkswagen quality for a cheaper price: in this case, the Seat Alhambra shares its mechanical parts with the VW Sharan, but costs less.

It’s still not exactly a bargain basement model, but it does offer one stand-out feature: its sliding rear doors. In tight city streets and garages, that could make a really big difference when it comes to loading kids and baggage. If the idea appeals, then you could also consider the Ford Grand C-Max and Ford B-Max, which didn’t quite make it into this list.

The Seat Alhambra has seven seats that will actually accommodate seven adults - like the Ford Galaxy. There’s storage in the floor on more expensive models that will come in handy, as the boot is only average-sized when all the seats are in use. Fold the rear seats up, though, and you’ll struggle to fill the vast space.

The Alhambra has three Isofix points to securely attach child seats, but you may need a filler from Seat for the underfloor compartment to fit some models safely.

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5. Volkswagen Touran

Best people carrier for: five child seats

Boot space seats up/down 137/1857 litres
Isofix 5, Rear power On most models, Parking sensors On most models

Our pick Volkswagen Touran SE 2.0 TDI Configure a new car

The Volkswagen Touran might be best described as the ‘sensible shoes’ option in this group, for buyers who aren’t bothered about the car’s minibus styling. It’s smaller than the Seat Alhambra and VW Sharan - and around £4,000 cheaper too - but is actually quite spacious for up to five passengers in the first two rows of seats. You’re best off leaving the cramped two rear seats for children, though.

The three middle row seats, which slide forwards and backwards, can be folded down individually, helping to boost the size of the tiny boot. And every rear seat - all five - have Isofix mounts to fix child seats securely, making it the automatic car of choice if you’re expecting quintuplets.

A five-star maximum score in independent Euro NCAP crash testing will bring even more reassurance for parents, while the look and feel of the materials inside give a sense of quality.

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6. Kia Carens

★★★★☆ (4.3/5)

Boot space in litres seats up/down 492/1650
Isofix 2, Rear power Yes, Parking sensors On most models

Our pick Kia Carens 2 1.7 CRDi Configure a new car

The seven-seat Carens will tick the boxes for many people carrier buyers, with a versatile interior, where all five rear seats can fold to boost luggage space. There’s little legroom in the rear two seats and only space for two child seats to be fitted with Isofix mounts. A petrol engine is available on the entry-level model, but we’d recommend the frugal and tax-friendly diesel.

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7. Renault Grand Scenic

★★★★☆ (4.2/5)

Our pick Dynamique S Nav 1.6 dCi 130 Configure a new car

Renault invented the people-carrier with the Espace of the 1980s and the Megane Scenic a decade later, so it knows a thing or two about the breed. The new Grand Scenic arrives in very different times, though, with SUVs now the top choice for family buyers. Still, the Renault trumps most of them by having seven seats (only the front passenger seat and outer middle-row seats have Isofix points) and many more imaginative storage solutions, including a sliding centre storage console and secret compartments beneath the floor.

It has aircraft-style picnic tables, too. Tall passengers will find the middle row of seats is a little cramped, while the rearmost chairs are strictly for children. The driving experience isn't outstanding but visibility is good and economy reasonable.

Read the Renault Grand Scenic buying guide

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8. BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer

Boot space seats up/down 560/1820 litres
Isofix 2, Rear power Yes, Parking sensors Yes

Our pick BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer 216d SE

The BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer is a well made, seven-seat alternative for those buyers looking for a bit more upmarket badge than that offered by the likes of Ford or VW. It has all the versatility of its rivals here, and a surprisingly large amount of load space when the second and third row seats are folded flat, almost matching the VW Touran. The BMW badge on the bonnet means that it’s not the cheapest option.

Read the BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer buying guide

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9. Citroen SpaceTourer

Boot space seats up/down 600/2500 litres
Our pick Citroen SpaceTourer BlueHDi 115 Feel M Configure a new car

With up to nine seats there is room for everyone from great granddad to great grandson in this big Citroen which, incidentally, is virtually identical to the Peugeot Traveller and Toyota Proace Verso. There are three body lengths but we've settled for the middle one, called, simply, Medium, or M.

Feel trim is well equipped with features including rear parking sensors, cruise control, Isofix points in the outer middle row seats, DAB digital radio and a sat nav. There are also
sunblinds, seatback trays and power sockets aplenty.

There is ample boot space with the all eight seats in position but with them folded down, you could go into the house-moving business. It is based on a van so don't expect limo-like noise levels but the ride is surprisingly smooth and despite its bulk it is easy to drive, while the BlueHDi 115 engine is sufficiently punchy.

Read the Citroen SpaceTourer buying guide

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10. Fiat 500L MPW

Boot space in litres seats up/down 168/1509
Isofix 2, Parking sensors Standard on most models

Our pick Fiat 500L Pop Star 1.3 Multijet 95 Configure a new car

The seven-seat 500L MPW is second only to the Citroen Picasso for distinctive styling (which is good or bad depending on your taste). As with comparable rivals, the third row of seats is quite cramped. But with the middle row tumbled forward and the rear folded, there’s a generous amount of luggage space. The engines are slow and the ride can be bouncy, but it earns its place here, as huge discounts on some Fiat 500L MPW deals make the car great value.

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