Best MPVs to buy in 2021
The humble MPV is facing a fight for survival as family heads are turned by the perceived prestige of an SUV. Buyers are happy to sacrifice space, practicality and versatility in exchange for smarter styling and a stronger image.
As our list of the best MPVs reveals, you shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss the people carrier. Whether you’re after a five or seven-seater, you’ll find that an MPV will slot into family life like a new dog – and it won’t leave a mess on your living room floor or demand a walk on a wet Sunday morning.
Here are the best MPVs you can buy in 2021, with our choices presented in alphabetical order.
BMW 2 Series Active Tourer
The 2 Series Active Tourer might be the least desirable BMW you can buy. Frumpy looks and front-wheel drive are two reasons why you might opt for an X1 or X3. It’s not even as fun to drive as most other BMWs.
You’d be wrong to dismiss it, though, as the 2 Series Active Tourer brings a touch of quality to the compact MPV segment, with upmarket styling and excellent engineering. There’s also plenty of room for rear-seat passengers, a big boot and a great choice of engines, including a new hybrid variant. Opt for the 2 Series Gran Tourer if you require a seven-seater.
We said: “A charmless people carrier that’s not a true BMW, although it is roomy, practical and reasonably entertaining to drive.”
Once you’ve lived with a car with a pair of sliding doors, you’ll wonder how you lived without them. A wide opening to the passenger area, ease of access in tight parking spaces and the feeling that you’re riding in the back of the A-Team van are just some of the benefits of an MPV with sliding access.
The Citroen Berlingo is available as a five-seat M version and a seven-seat XL, with the latter offering up to 4,000 litres of room and a load length of up to three metres. You also get a set of individual rear seats to provide maximum versatility. It drives a little like a van, but it doesn’t look like one.
We said: “In an industry that blurs the lines, there’s something refreshingly honest about the Citroen Berlingo. Put simply, no car at this end of the market is so very useful. Well, apart from the platform-sharing Peugeot Rifter and Vauxhall Combo Life.”
Citroen Grand C4 SpaceTourer
The MPV formerly known as the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso is one of the best seven-seat vehicles you can buy. Despite its advancing years, it still looks fresh today, while the interior has the feel of an aircraft cabin. A budget airliner, but an airliner all the same.
In common with many seven-seat MPVs, space is a bit tight in the third row, but the seats are more useful than those in the majority of seven-seat SUVs. All versions come with a generous level of equipment, the engines deliver excellent economy and it’s pretty comfortable on the move.
We said: “It might not be fashionable, but the big Citroen Grand C4 Spacetourer offers a level of versatility a seven-seat SUV can only aspire to.”
The Ford Galaxy is one of the last of the old breed of seven-seat MPVs. What it lacks in flair, style and panache, it more than makes for in versatility, space and practicality. Little wonder it’s still popular within private hire and airport taxi circles.
It can seat seven adults with ease, and because the rear seats can be folded down or stowed away, you can choose from two, three, four, five, six and seven-seat configurations. It’s also pretty good to drive and surprisingly upmarket inside. A new hybrid version offers fuel economy to rival a diesel and lower emissions.
We said: “It might look uninspiring, but the Galaxy is quiet and composed on the move, loaded with safety equipment and utterly practical. Be warned: it can get rather expensive with some must-have options and it doesn’t corner like a Fiesta ST. But what does?”
For motorists in search of an MPV that’s genuinely fun to drive, there’s always been one choice: the Ford S-Max. It’s the Galaxy’s sportier sibling, so it feels better behind the wheel and the styling is a touch more attractive. The penalty is less space in the third row; the seats are fine for children, but adults will prefer the second row.
Like the Galaxy, the S-Max is available as a hybrid, with the promise of 43.5mpg and CO2 emissions of 147g/km. It’s not a cheap car – the flagship Vignale edges the S-Max over the £40k mark – but this is the best choice if you fancy a little flair to go with the practicality.
We said: “If you’re after a good looking, well-equipped and roomy five-seat MPV, with two extra seats for occasional use, the S-Max is hard to ignore.”
With a starting price tag knocking on the door of £60,000, the Mercedes-Benz V-Class isn’t a cheap option. It’s also a bit long in the tooth, so why does it warrant a place on our list of the best MPVs?
Well, it seats eight, which makes it more practical than most other MPVs. You’ll need the Long or Extra Long versions to seat eight people, because the Standard version comes with seven. Either way, the V-Class is a spacious, upmarket and supremely practical MPV. The badge sets it apart on the school run, but don’t be surprised if other parents ask you for a price for a quick dash to Gatwick.
We said: “The V-Class people carrier might be the least sexy member of the huge Mercedes-Benz range, but it’s also the most practical. Quite simply, the V-Class is big – and it’s clever, too.”
The Rifter is a Citroen Berlingo in a Peugeot suit. Subjectively, it looks more stylish than its French sibling, while the dashboard design makes the Rifter feel more like an SUV than an MPV.
Rear sliding doors, a huge boot and lots of headroom give the Rifter the edge over Peugeot’s range of SUVs, while a good selection of efficient engines should deliver low running costs.
Like the Berlingo, the Rifter is now available as an electric vehicle. It’s significantly more expensive than the petrol and diesel versions, but you should recoup the extra cost over the course of a three-year PCP deal. It offers a claimed 171 miles of range from a full charge.
Vauxhall Combo Life
Stop scoffing at the back, because the Vauxhall Combo Life deserves its place on our list of the best MPVs of 2021. It shares a platform and oily bits with the Peugeot Rifter and Citroen Berlingo, so you can expect low running costs and punchy performance.
It’s arguably the least attractive of the seven-seat trio; order a Combo Life in red and your children will think the postman has turned up every time you arrive home from work. On the plus side, you can fit three child seats in the middle row, which makes this Vauxhall an ideal family car.
All versions come with a generous level of standard equipment, while the Elite model feels positively plush. The new Combo-e Life electric MPV can travel up to 174 miles on a single charge, with an 80 percent charge available in 30 minutes.
The Volkswagen Sharan is living on borrowed time, but while it’s still available to order, we’re happy to include it on our list of the best MPVs. It shares much in common with the excellent Seat Alhambra, which was discontinued in 2020, but both models are excellent if you favour practicality over all else.
Seven independent seats, a massive boot in five-seat mode, decent quality and efficient engines are the highlights of the Sharan. It’s relatively expensive to buy, so be sure to haggle when buying new, and don’t expect the latest array of safety and connectivity tech – the Sharan is a bit of a dinosaur in these departments.
We said: “The Sharan soldiers on as one of the few proper seven-seat MPVs left on sale in the UK. It might be old, but it offers a level of flexibility that a seven-seat SUV cannot hope to achieve.”
Before the SUV arrived to gatecrash the MPV picnic, the Volkswagen Touran was one of Europe’s most popular family cars. It works best as a five-seater with lots of space for luggage, although the seats in the third row are fine for children or occasional use.
The Touran isn’t the least bit exciting. Drab styling, a sombre interior and almost nothing in the way of flair. None of this will matter to the core audience, who will appreciate the choice of engines, array of trim levels and feeling of quality throughout. Your heart says Tiguan, your head wants the Touran.
We said: “The seven-seat Volkswagen Touran is worth considering if you’re after fuss-free family motoring.”