We've put together a list of the ten best MPV cars and people carriers – cars with lots of space for both passengers and their luggage, plus seating you can adapt to suit your needs. Most vehicles of this type are MPV cars, but there are some SUVs (4x4-style cars) which do very well as people carriers, thanks to the addition of two extra seats, boosting their versatility. Here's our pick of the best – you can click through for more photos and details, including safety and reliablity.
The Citroen C3 Picasso is a compact MPV that combines style with practicality, including a boot that's big enough for a slim three-wheeler pram and a quite a bit of luggage on top; sliding rear seats mean you can adjust the seat/boot bias as required, too. The tall, square side windows give little ones in the back a good view out, and the whole cabin feels very airy. The Citroen C3 Picasso feels solid and secure to drive, and it's very comfortable to ride in, while the flat rear end make it easy to park in town. Running costs are affordable, too. Our pick of the range is the Citroen C3 Picasso 1.4 VTi 95 VTR+.
The Nissan Note MPV has much in common with the Citroen C3 Picasso – it's small but has a surprisingly spacious interior including a decent-size boot, plus the option to slide the rear seats back and forth to create space where you need it most. The Nissan feels slightly more agile to drive than the Citroen, with a firmer ride and better body control (good news for sufferers of motion sickness), though it's still very comfortable to travel in. The 1.4-litre petrol engine is plucky and efficient; choose Acenta trim for the best range of equipment for the money. Used Notes tend to be very good value, and prices are likely to drop even more with the imminent arrival of an all-new model.
The Ford S-Max offers more fun behind the wheel than any other seven-seat MPV, thanks to its agile handling and plucky engines. It's still very practical, though. The three full-size middle-row seats all have Isofix, and can slide and recline individually. The two rearmost seats, which fold up from the boot, are smaller than those in the bigger Ford Galaxy MPV and are quite low-set, so they're best for kids or just occasional use by adults. However, the S-Max is quite a lot cheaper to buy than the Galaxy, and only a little smaller. We'd choose the Ford S-Max 2.0 TDCi 140 Zetec model, which offers a strong, smooth, efficient engine and plenty of equipment, at a reasonable price. The current S-Max has been on sale for several years now, which means there are plenty of low-priced used models available, making it a great used buy.
The Peugeot 5008 is a great seven-seat MPV: it's spacious, practical, stylish and good to drive. Each of the three full-size middle-row seats slide and reclines individually, and has Isofix. The pair of seats that fold up from the boot are a bit small, however, so they're best suited to children, but otherwise the 5008 is very easy to live with. Even with all the seats in place there's space for a few bags of shopping, and there are various additional storage areas, including cubbies under the floor. Our pick of the range is the 1.6 HDi 112 Active – it has a strong engine that will happily haul seven and their luggage without drinking too much fuel, and comes with plenty of standard equipment, all at a reasonable price.
The Seat Alhambra has space for seven adults to sit in genuine comfort on long journeys, and even with all the seats in use the boot is a good size – it's short but it's also very tall so you can pile it high. It's one of the few cars to offer Isofix on all five rear seats, and the seats across the middle-row are virtually identical in size. Every Alhambra model is brisk enough and smooth. It's priced lower than the almost-identical Volkswagen Sharan, with fairly reasonable running costs. Our favourite is the 2.0 TDI 140 Ecomotive S, which has the best engine in the range and comes with plenty of equipment for the money.
The Volkswagen Sharan is VW's version of the Seat Alhambra, and there's not much to tell them apart other than some styling details – and cost. The Sharan comes in at over £2500 more than the Alhambra for the same engine and similar specification. Like the Alhambra, the Sharan is extremely roomy and versatile, and includes sliding doors, three full-size middle-row seats with Isofix, plus rearmost seats that are comfortable for adults, and good boot space. The 2.0 TDI 140 SE is the best buy, with its strong engine and decent equipment list.
The Ford Galaxy is more enjoyable to drive than most MPVs its size, thanks to its responsive steering, neat body control and comfortable ride, while the 140bhp 2.0 diesel has plenty of oomph even when the car is fully loaded. Like the Seat Alhambra and Volkswagen Sharan, the Ford Galaxy has enough room for seven adults to sit very comfortably, with a tall boot that can quite take a lot of stuff if you're happy to stack it. The Galaxy is more expensive than the smaller Ford S-Max MPV (also a seven-seater) but it's also slightly bigger and has full-size rearmost seats. Zetec models offer the best amount of kit for the money. Like the S-Max, the Galaxy makes a good used buy as there are plenty of second-hand models on the market to choose from.
The BMX X5 can be specified as a seven-seater (a pair of extra seats that pop up from the boot floor are available as a cost option), which turns it into a sort of premium 4x4 people carrier. It's also terrific to drive. Despite its size, it's extremely agile and refined, and most engine combine strong performance with good economy. The car's sporty feel comes with a slightly firm ride, but the cabin is very comfortable and the car's well controlled body movements will be a welcome feature for those with motion sickness. Bear in mind that the optional rearmost seats are pretty small, so they'll need to be reserved for children. The BMX X5 is expensive but the xDrive30d SE is a good choice as it offers plenty of equipment as standard and a good balance between engine performance and economy.
The Hyundai Santa Fe is a practical, smart and well-equipped SUV – opt for the seven-seat version and you have a spacious people-carrier that can also be ordered with four-wheel-drive which cuts in automatically when you need it (making the car more efficient than vehicles with full-time 4x4). The extra pair of seats in the back are a bit tight, so they're best suited to children and shorter adults, but they're still handy to have on board. The Santa Fe's 2.2-litre diesel engine makes it both swift and economica. We'd go for the entry-level Style trim, which includes air-con, Bluetooth, alloy wheels and rear parking sensors.
Not only is the Land Rover Discovery ideal for families who regularly need to drive off-road (it's quite brilliant in the rough), it's also fabulous to drive on normal roads – it's powerful, smooth and allows you to take corners with confidence. It can also seat seven adults in comfort, and as the two rows of rear seats are set increasingly high up, each set of passengers gets a great view out of the large side windows The Discovery isn't cheap to run but it is packed full of standard equipment, including a variety of electronic systems to give it go-anywhere ability. We'd go for the 3.0 SDV6 255 XS, which includes leather upholstery and sat nav as standard.