SUVs vs MPVs

If you need practical family transport, you may be struggling to decide between SUVs and people carriers. Here are the pros and cons of each

Matt Rigby
Sep 27, 2021

In recent years, high-riding SUVs have become very on-trend and have often replaced people carriers - sometimes referred to as 'MPVs' - in driver’s minds when they're on the lookout for sensible transport for a growing family.

Yet while SUVs offer many of the same advantages as people carriers - good forward visibility for driver and passengers, a raised seating position and an airy-feeling interior - they do present some compromises compared with equivalent people carriers.

For example, the packaging of an SUV is often less space-efficient than with a people carrier of the same size. This is because the high seating position and four-wheel-drive underpinnings fitted to many SUVs mean that the interior floor is higher and there are additional mechanical parts below the cabin floor. In fact, even SUVs that are two-wheel drive can be less space-efficient due to the high ground clearance and big wheels associated with many SUVs.

As a result of this, a typical SUV is likely to take up more space on the road than a people carrier with equivalent interior space. And because SUVs are generally priced higher than MPVs, this exaggerates this difference still further.

For example, the entry-level price of a brand new seven-seat Peugeot Rifter people carrier is around £26,000, which is less than the smaller, less practical five-seat 3008 SUV. To get a seven-seat Peugeot SUV equivalent in size to the Rifter, you’d have to pay £30,000 for an entry-level 5008.

Having said that, while SUVs are often more expensive in outright cash terms, they can be available with comparatively low monthly payments if you opt for Personal Contract Purchase (PCP) finance. This is because they tend to hold their value better than people carriers as they get older and, as monthly payments in a PCP finance deal cover the difference in value between the car's initial price and what it's expected to be worth at the end of the contract, this can lead to low monthly instalments.

Just remember that it also means that SUVs are likely to have a high optional final payment; this is the figure which you must pay at the end of the contract if you want to keep the car. Consequently, while you may benefit from low monthly payments with an SUV on PCP finance, you'd still have paid a high cost overall if you made the optional final payment to buy it at the end of the contract.

Crossovers: SUVs with a hint of MPV

Relatively compact SUVs that are designed to be closer in size and shape to family hatchbacks are known as crossovers. The idea with these models is to combine the appealing styling and high driving position of an off-roader SUV with the lower costs, improved fuel economy and ease of driving that you get with a ‘normal’ family car.

While some of these, such as the Nissan Qashqai and Ford Puma are much closer to conventional hatchback models, others are more closely related to the MPV bodystyle. Examples of these include the most recent Renault Scenic and the Vauxhall Crossland. Both of these cars replaced conventional small MPVs (the original Scenic in the case of the Renault and the Meriva in the case of the Vauxhall) with much more SUV-esque designs, although the people carrier origins are still evident in both cars.

The trend towards turning MPV models into SUVs is more extreme in models like the Peugeot 3008. The original model was a medium-sized five-seat MPV. Its replacement, launched in 2016 was styled as an SUV.

What is an SUV?

Broadly speaking, an SUV is any passenger vehicle with a tall, chunky body and high ride height. You can use it to describe everything from jacked-up small hatchbacks based on city cars to large seven-seat family vehicles.

Traditionally, SUVs have been four-wheel-drive for greater off-road ability, and so were known interchangeably as SUVs, 4x4s or off-roaders. However, in recent years two-wheel-drive SUVs have become increasingly popular. This is because these two-wheel-drive models are lighter and more fuel-efficient, while still offering the high seating position and chunky looks of a ‘proper’ 4x4.

Pros and cons of an SUV

Good visibility and feeling of security from high-up driving position
There are lots of options so you’ll have plenty to choose from
You can tackle muddy, rutted lanes and off-road tracks with 4x4 models
Good residual values mean low PCP monthly payments despite high list prices

Potential for higher fuel bills than in an MPV due to greater size and weight
Body style is more expensive to buy than equivalent people carrier or estate
Higher floor than in an MPV, so passenger space and boot space can feel compromised
SUVs can be large and cumbersome to drive, particularly when it comes to parking

What is an MPV?

Also known as people carriers, MPVs are family cars designed to absolutely maximise interior space for passengers while minimising the size of the car itself. These can be relatively small five-seaters based on small hatchbacks but with a taller body, or they can be larger vehicles often based on vans. Seating configurations include five, six, seven and even eight seats.

Van-based MPVs tend to be the most spacious, being derived from boxy commercial vehicles, but these are also the most basic and least luxurious. Models designed to be a car from the outset, such as the Volkswagen Sharan and the Ford S-Max offer more comfort and a more car-like driving experience.

Pros and cons of an MPV

More passenger space per pound than other types of vehicle - especially van-derived models
Third-row seats in larger models more comfortable than equivalent seven-seat SUVs
 Used car prices can be particularly affordable as MPVs are seen as less desirable than SUVs

Not particularly glamorous, so not the vehicle to go for if you want to improve your street cred
Recent dip in popularity means fewer options available - many have been replaced with crossovers
Van-based models can feel rather basic to drive and ride in compared with other family cars

SUVs and MPVs for £150 per month

Vauxhall Meriva

Used deals from £6,145
Monthly finance from £0*

Citroen C3 Picasso

Used deals from £6,990
Monthly finance from £0*

Dacia Duster

Used deals from £8,000
Monthly finance from £219*

SUVs and MPVs for £200 per month

Nissan Juke

Used deals from £5,895
Monthly finance from £305*

Peugeot 2008

Used deals from £6,350
Monthly finance from £168*

Ford C-Max front three quarters view

Ford C-Max

Used deals from £6,295
Monthly finance from £0*

SUVs and MPVs for £250 per month

Citroen C4 Picasso

Used deals from £9,398
Monthly finance from £0*

Ford Tourneo Courier

Used deals Limited stock

Nissan Qashqai front three quarters view

Nissan Qashqai

Used deals from £7,590
Monthly finance from £208*

*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.


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