Best people carriers 2023
Looking for the most space for your money? Check out our pick of the best people carriers for larger families
It’s easy to be drawn in to buying a car based on sporty looks and heart-pounding performance, but whether your family is big or you regularly ferry people around, you might find a large boot, substantial passenger space, safety features and generous interior storage more appealing. This is where a people carrier or ‘Multi-Purpose Vehicle’ (MPV) comes in.
Enormous, bulky SUVs may be popular at the moment, but they can be expensive to buy and run given their sheer weight and its effect on fuel economy. Its for these reasons there’s still demand for practical and adaptable people carriers, many of which come at affordable prices compared to SUVs and can seat up to nine people.
You might expect to be greeted with a range of dull and boxy options when looking for the best MPVs, but some MPVs come with a style, comfort and luxury, which can keep things interesting. The focus for some people carriers like the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso and Renault Grand Scenic is style and comfort, while the Ford S-Max sits on the sportier side.
The best people carriers for sale are those which offer good visibility, loads of storage space for the kids’ things, versatile seats that tip, fold and slide and plenty of safety equipment to protect your family. Here’s our list of the 10 best MPVs offering great value and practicality.
Best people carriers
The Ford S-Max is a practical seven-seater with plenty of room for five adults in the first two rows and a slightly tighter 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 have a lot of luggage, because there’s little space in the boot when all seats are in use. There’s still plenty of storage space, though, including compartments in the floor.
Children are also well catered for, with Isofix mounts for three child seats included, but you may need to do something with the lid for the underfloor storage to fit your child seat safely if it has an extra leg that goes on the floor and holds it securely in place.
It be might be more expensive than rivals such as the Citroen C4 Picasso, but the S-Max is very well equipped in comparison - front and rear parking sensors are standard. The ride is comfortable and smooth, too, while precise steering makes driving the S-Max more satisfying to drive than most of the other cars on this list.
With sculpted bodywork and thin LED lights at the front, the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso is proof that people carriers can offer flair. The theme continues inside too, with 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 crash safety rating 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 much more practical when the third-row seats are folded flat. It’s comfortable to drive, with a good range of petrol and diesel engines.
If you're looking to cut the costs, go for a Grand C4 Picasso. Not an awful lot changed when Citroen changed the name of its seven-seater MPV.
Yes, you may look like a minicab driver with one of these, but the one key advantage of buying a Ford Galaxy over smaller seven–seat rivals such as the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso is that you can fit seven adults comfortably. It’s big - really big.
While many on this list struggle to provide useful luggage space behind the third row of seats, 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 2,339 litres of space, just ahead of the Seat Alhambra.
Apart from its sheer size, the Galaxy is easy to live with, with good visibility 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.
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 an average size when all the seats are in use. Fold the rear seats down, 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 safely fit child seats that require a floor-mounted leg to secure themselves.
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 when new, 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 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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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. A bigger selling point, however, could be the seven-year warranty. This means that even if you buy a model that is four or five years old, you still have plenty of manufacturer warranty left - unlike with most rivals.
Renault invented the people-carrier with the Espace of the 1980s and then came the Megane Scenic a decade later, so it knows a thing or two about the breed. The 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 forward visibility is good and economy reasonable.
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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. The cabin also feels that bit more upmarket with high-quality materials and a solid feel.
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 new, though much better value used options make more sense here.
Not to be confused with the new C4 SpaceTourer, the Citroen SpaceTourer has a closer resemblance to a van than 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, a 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 practically 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.
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The 500L is second only to the Citroen C4 Picasso for distinctive styling (which is good or bad depending on your taste). It's nowhere near as cute as the 500 city car, with which it shares most of its name, but it doesn't look like a van either. In fact, it looks more like a deep sea fish than anything...
The boot size of 400 litres is reasonable, but the weedy engines make it slow and the ride can be bouncy. But it earns its place here, as huge discounts on some Fiat 500L deals make the car great value. If you're shopping for a used car, however, there are better options above in terms of practicality, style and desirability.
*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:
48 monthly payments of £192
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
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.