At a glance:

  • Multi-purpose vehicles are known for having lots of functions – including sliding doors and moving chairs, secret compartments, cup holders and seat trays. And it’s for this very reason they’re known as the perfect family car
  • MPVS come in a range of shapes and sizes and certain models can house up to an impressive nine people
  • They can depreciate in value quite quickly, meaning you should be able to find a great deal on a used MPV
  • Read on to discover our favourite MPVs, and things to look for when buying a used MPV

MPVs (multi-purpose vehicles), also known as people carriers, are large cars designed to transport a high number of passengers and their belongings. From tents, equipment, luggage to shopping bags, you name it, they can hold it. They’re practical, spacious and come with a multitude of functions and features. So, if you’re looking for a car that can carry everyone comfortably, plus all the extras a family often comes with, then a multi-purpose vehicle could be just what you’re looking for. Join us as we explore everything you need to know about MPVs.

What does MPV stand for?

MPV stands for ‘multi-purpose vehicle’. The moniker is a nod to the fact that these types of vehicles have several functions. Not only can they be used as people carriers, but with the back seats down they often rival a van for carrying capacity. And that’s not to mention all the extra features they come with, such as tray tables, folding seats and hidden storage compartments. 

You might also hear people referring to MPVs as people carriers. That’s very common – the terms can be used interchangeably.

What are the defining features of an MPV?

MPVs gained popularity in the 1980s, thanks to their raised roofs, higher seating and huge windows. These vehicles are spacious enough to comfortably transport at least five to seven people, though some can manage nine. For this reason alone, no other car type can compete with them in terms of space or practicality. 

MPVs, in light of their boxy shape that favours practicality over styling, can offer passengers in all rows a lot more space than their seven-seat SUV counterparts can. They may not come with the off-roading abilities or the sleek style of sports utility vehicles (SUVs), but what they lack here they make up for in size, practicality and function. And that’s what makes the MPV the natural choice for those looking for a people carrier. 

Want to know more about the different car types? From coupes to crossovers, our helpful blog covers each car body style in more detail. 

The defining features of an MPV include: 

  • Long and square-shaped body, with space for a boot and five to nine seats. They often look a bit like a van, and are longer than a hatchback with a higher ceiling
  • Plenty of headroom for passengers
  • Various configurations of folding seats
  • Simple exterior bodywork
  • Neat storage compartments, including some hidden floor storage
  • Multiple power outlets dotted around the interior 
  • Folding seat trays and cup holders 
  • Some MPVs also have sliding doors as opposed to outward opening ones

How many seats are in an MPV?

As we touched on earlier, MPVs will normally have five to seven seats, though some models have up to nine. How is that even possible, we hear you ask? Well, MPVs are renowned for making the most of their space. The seating arrangements for people carriers can follow a few formats, including: 

  • Two in the front – two in the middle – two in the boot – making six seats in total
  • Two in the front – three in the middle – two in the boot – making seven seats in total 
  • Two in the front – three in the middle – three in the boot – making eight seats in total 
  • Three in the front – three in the middle – three in the boot – making nine seats in total 

Nine is the maximum seats you’ll find in a multi-purpose vehicle, as anything upwards of that requires the driver to take out a commercial vehicle licence. 

How practical is an MPV? 

Multi-purpose vehicles are arguably one of the most practical cars on the road. They’ve always appealed to those of us who value practicality, space and comfort over speed, performance or style. This is what makes them the ideal family car. 

Their features lend themselves perfectly to carrying families, especially if you’ve got younger children or dogs. With the ability to fit up to a whopping five ISOFIX seats, multiple charging points, flip out tables and storage units, taking your children on a long car journey or road trip has never been easier. That’s not forgetting the raised seating and sliding doors which make getting in and out of an MPV an absolute breeze. 

That being said, if you’re looking for a car that can squeeze into those tight spaces, drive a little faster or off-road, then an MPV might not be for you.

How big is an MPV’s boot?

Well, it completely depends on how many seats you have in use. For example, if you’re only using five seats, the two in the front and three in the middle, and have the back ones down, then you’ll have a pretty generous amount of boot space. Ideal if you have a dog or need the boot for luggage, pushchairs and scooters.

Whereas if all seats are in use then you will have considerably less storage space – although this space is generally still on par with most family hatchbacks. On the plus side, lots of the seats in MPVS, particularly the middle and back ones, can be folded, moved and even completely removed, independently. 

With an MPV, you can adapt your boot size to meet your needs. What’s more, if you do find yourself with less boot space than you anticipated, then lots of people carriers come with metal bars on the roof that you can attach roof rails and roof boxes too. See – they don’t call them multi-purpose vehicles for nothing! 

If you want to take a deeper dive into MPV boot sizes, our MPV boot review takes a look at the boot size of several well-known multi-purpose vehicles, so you can make the best choice for you.

Is an MPV a car or a van? 

The answer to this depends on the model of MPV you have. Pretty much all MPVs are built on a car derived platform, and so are therefore cars. However, there is a subsection of van-derived MPVs, such as the Citroen Berlingo or the Peugeot Rifter. Other models, such as the Mercedes-Benz Vito or the VW Caravelle are essentially converted vans too. Both van type MPVs have a boxier look and more spartan-like feel than their car-derived counterparts.

The pros and cons of an MPV 

We’ve touched on just some of the amazing features an MPV has to offer, but nothing beats a good pros and cons list, especially if you’re weighing up your options or comparing an MPV with another style of car.

Pros - what are the advantages of an MPV?:

There are enough seats for larger families - seven seater MPVs are the most common but you can find some with up to eight or nine-seats, such as the Volkswagen Transporter Caravelle.
Comfortable and spacious interiors
Good fuel economy when compared with similar-sized SUVs
MPVs are generally more affordable than comparably sized SUVs, too
The raised seating makes it easier to get young children in and out of the car
ISOFIX points for up to five child seats - this is extremely useful for families with multiple young children under five
Hidden storage sections mean you can pack more into your car
Smaller MPVs are relatively easy to use around town

Cons - are there any drawbacks to an MPV? :

MPVs are not known for their style - you won’t be driving the trendiest car on the road
You can also expect a less sporty drive thanks to their low-powered engines
The additional seats can eat into your boot space when raised
MPVs aren’t the most popular car either - meaning they will depreciate faster than their more desirable counterpart - the SUV. However, this does mean you can normally bag a great deal on a used MPV
Larger MPVs can be difficult to manoeuvre sometimes - especially in cities


Some of these drawbacks might not be an issue for you. It’s about weighing up the pros and cons and coming to a decision that’s right for you. As we mentioned earlier, MPVs aren’t chosen for their style. But what they lack in style they certainly make up for in substance. As a result, some of the above drawbacks are just a small price to pay if you value the practicality and function that come in abundance with an MPV.

What to look for when buying an MPV

If you’re buying an MPV to use as your family car, there are a few things you’ll need to look out for, including 

  • ISOFIX points – if you’re using an ISOFIX system to fit your child’s car seat then you’ll need these. Most MPVs will have three, four or even five ISOFIX points. Make sure you check it’s got as many as you need. Our ISOFIX guide contains more information on this feature
  • Storage space – whether you’re carrying the whole family or a group of friends, storage space is going to come in super handy. MPVs tend to have big door bins, multiple glove boxes and even secret floor storage compartments. Just think of all the toys and games you can pack with all that extra storage space
  • Boot space – find out how much space you’ll have in the boot, especially if you’re buying a seven-seater as some MPV carmakers will quote the space with the third row of seats down while others will quote with the seats up. If it’s not enough, you can try to find a bigger MPV or get a model with roof bars on for a roof box
  • Folding and sliding seats – most people carriers come with seats that fold completely flat. These are very useful if you want to use the MPV to carry bigger loads at some point. On top of that, look for seats that can slide forwards and backwards to change the distribution of legroom and luggage space. This can be really handy depending on what you’re carrying and how many people you’re shuttling
  • Sliding doors – sliding doors can be really useful too. They remove the chance of rear passengers banging car doors against other vehicles once you’ve parked. And they make getting in and out a total breeze
  • Towing capacity – if you own a caravan that you need to take with you on holiday then make sure you check the towing capacity of the vehicle

MPVs and car seats 

An ISOFIX system allows you to attach your child’s car seat to the car easily and securely. There are three parts to them; an ISOFIX point that is located in the car’s seat, an ISOFIX attachment leg that you’ll need to purchase separately, and of course, your child’s car seat. 

As we mentioned earlier, MPVs can accommodate up to an impressive five ISOFIX points and it’s from these points you attach the ISOFIX leg or ‘finger’. However, it’s important to be aware of the potential storage conditions when fitting these. If the leg of the ISOFIX system rests on top of a storage spot on the floor, then for safety reasons, the storage compartment might need to be filled with polystyrene cubes. These are available from either the car’s manufacturer or can be sourced independently. 

If you need more information about this you can visit RoSPA, a government-recommended website dedicated to child car seat fitting and compatibility. 

What’s the difference between an MPV and an SUV?

The main difference between an SUV and an MPV is that many SUVs have off-roading capabilities thanks to their greater ground clearance and four-wheel drive systems. That’s not to say that all SUVs are four-wheel drive and all MPVs are two. Whilst it’s true that most MPVs are designed for typical family life so offer two-wheel drive for better fuel economy, some MPVs, such as the Ford S-Max, offer four-wheel drive. This doesn’t equate to off-road ability though. Due to the low-slung nature of the cars, four-wheel drive in an MPV is more for use in slippery conditions. So if you need to do even mild off-roading, you’ll be better off in an SUV. 

That’s not to say these cars have no similarities at all. SUVs are often bracketed with MPVs because they also have the capacity to carry large numbers of people. Plus, depending on the make and model of the cars, MPVs and SUVs can come in similar sizes. Both models fall under the large car category.

Do MPVs come in different sizes?

Yes, like SUVs, multi-purpose vehicles come in a range of sizes too. There are smaller MPVs with five seats that are very practical, such as the Citroen C4 Picasso or the Ford C-Max – these are often supersized versions of family hatchbacks. 

Then you have models such as the Volkswagen Touran or the Seat Alhambra, that were designed in a seven-seat form from the get-go. The bigger MPVs often come with sliding doors that are perfect for those narrow spaces. Whereas with five-seater MVPs you can generally still expect standard doors. 

Below, we’ve shortlisted the best small and the best large multi-purpose vehicles, as chosen by our experts. By small, we mean five seats and by large we mean anything at seven seats or above.

Best small MPVs

If you want to buy small, here are our top five MPVs. These models are perfect for your family’s day-to-day needs. 

  1. Renault Scenic – the Renault Scenic has everything a busy family could need. It’s got acres of space, low running costs and a hard-wearing interior that’ll stand up well to daily duties
  2. Vauxhall Combo Life – the Combo Life brings space for up to seven people, making it a great choice for larger groups or expanding families. It’s efficient, too, so can help bring down fuel bills – win win!
  3. BMW 2 Series Active Tourer – the 2  Series Active Tourer takes some of the sportier look and feel from BMW’s other cars and transfers it into a practical MPV. It’s got a well-made interior that’ll hold up against family life, as well as a good range of engines to suit all budgets
  4. Kia Carens – the Kia Carens is a great smaller MPV option as it packs a lot of space into a compact footprint. That means you’ve still got plenty of interior room, but it’s not going to prove a pain to park
  5. Volkswagen Touran – the Touran brings seven seats so it’s great for bigger families, yet it still remains compact and easy to live with so you won’t feel stressed when navigating a tight multi-storey car park

Best large MPVs

Whether you need to transport the whole family, or you’re ferrying around friends and grandparents, here’s our top ten selection of large multi-purpose vehicles. They come with heaps of space, lots of comfort and plenty of practical features.

  1. Citroen Grand C4 SpaceTourer – the Citroen Grand C4 SpaceTourer is a seven-seater MPV with a real trick up its sleeve – it’s got a huge boot on offer. So while other cars with seven seats might compromise on boot space, the Grand C4 SpaceTourer offers the best of both worlds
  2. Renault Grand Scenicthe Renault Grand Scenic is a great option for those that want to stand out from the crowd, as its bold styling makes it look like few other cars on the road today. It backs up these looks with a really spacious interior and seven seats, however
  3. Seat Alhambra – ease-of-use is the name of the game with Seat’s Alhambra, as its sliding doors help to make entering and exiting the car even easier. Plus, it avoids the chance of any door dings when you’re parked in tighter spots (we know, we’ve been there!)
  4. Volkswagen Sharan -Volkswagen’s Sharan is the sister car to the Alhambra – they’re both based on the same platform and both get the same handy sliding door system
  5. Ford Tourneo Connect – the Tourneo Connect is actually based on a van, which allows it to offer loads of interior space and a big boot. Plus, you can get it in two sizes, either in the standard Tourneo Connect or the Grand Tourneo Connect – the latter offering even more interior space
  6. Ford Galaxy – Ford’s Galaxy might be a firm favourite with taxi firms, but it’s also a great option for families. It’s comfortable, quiet and packed with features, while all seats inside offer loads of room to stretch out
  7. Mercedes V-Class – the V-Class is a great choice for those who want a quiet and refined MPV. It’s a superb choice if you are often doing long distances, as it’s really hushed on the motorway – those road trips will breeze by!
  8. Ford S-Max – the S-Max is an MPV which feels more like a standard car, both in terms of how it looks and how it drives. Equipped with bill-busting engines, the S-Max is a reliable and comfortable everyday MPV
  9. SsangYong Turismo – the quirky-looking SsangYong Turismo brings a big boot and loads of interior space to the table, while its comfortable suspension can take much of the backache out of longer trips
  10. Toyota Proace Verso – the Proace Verso is another van-based MPV, which means it’s got loads of space inside and a big boot. Plus, it’s available with a choice of seven, eight and nine-seater configurations

Our favourite MPVs

As well as shortlisting the best small and large MPVs, we’ve created a list of our all-time favourites too. There’s an abundance of great multi-purpose vehicles out there, but sometimes too much choice can be overwhelming and it’s hard to know where to begin. Luckily, we’re here to help…

  1. Mercedes-Benz V-Class – The Mercedes-Benz V-Class is based on a van but has a seriously high-quality interior and brings the option of six, seven or eight seats depending on specification
  2. Volkswagen Touran – The Volkswagen Touran is a firm favourite among families thanks to its practical interior which incorporates loads of cubby areas to keep the cabin as clutter-free as possible
  3. Citroën Berlingo – The Berlingo is a great option for those on a budget as it has a lower entry cost than many of its rivals. It also has great fuel economy so you can expect fewer trips to the petrol station
  4. Volkswagen Caravelle – The Caravelle is based on the same platform as Volkswagen’s Transporter van, so it’s got bags of interior space and a really large boot. The flexible seating options mean you can remove the rear bench entirely to free up that extra boot space, too
  5. Peugeot Rifter – Peugeot’s Rifter is similar in design to the Citroën Berlingo. It has a really practical cabin that uses plenty of hard-wearing materials, so you can rest assured it can take anything the family throws at it 
  6. Ford S-Max – The Ford S-Max is a sporty MPV that has a great focus on value for money. You can expect lots of extra equipment coming as standard as well as a suite of assistance systems, making this a very appealing option  
  7. Citroen Grand C4 SpaceTourer – The Grand C4 SpaceTourer is an impressively roomy MPV that doesn’t compromise on boot space, despite having room for up to seven people. 
  8. Peugeot Traveller – The Traveller is based on the Peugeot’s panel van, bringing space for up to nine people. Though rivalling the Mercedes-Benz V-Class in terms of space, it’s a good option for those who are looking for a more budget-friendly MPV
  9. Hyundai i800 – If sheer space is what you’re after then the Hyundai i800 is definitely worth checking out. It’s got seating for up to eight people but still provides plenty of boot space when all of those seats are in place
  10. Seat Alhambra – The sister car to the Volkswagen Sharan, the Alhambra is a practical MPV that brings easy access thanks to its sliding doors. Plus, the rows of seats are fitted on rails so can be moved forward or backwards to free up some much-needed boot space or leg room
  11. Volkswagen Sharan – The Sharan has the solid build quality that Volkswagen is known for, while its range of efficient engines makes this an MPV that won’t break the bank to run. 
  12. Mercedes B-Class – The Mercedes B-Class is based on the A-Class hatchback, but thanks to a more upright design and broader dimensions, it offers more headroom and interior space than the A-class model. This makes it a great choice for larger families
  13. BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer – The 2 Series Gran Tourer is a slightly sportier MPV choice that combines a high-quality interior with plenty of added features in order to make everyday driving that bit easier
  14. Ford Tourneo Connect – Based on Ford’s Transit Connect, the Tourneo Connect boasts big, roomy dimensions and is offered with either five or seven-seater configurations 
  15. Ford Galaxy – Ford’s Galaxy has been a mainstay of the UK MPV range for decades, and for good reason. Its popularity stems from its reliability, ease of use and abundance of space

If you’re on the hunt for something a little more sporty, our guide to the best MPVs for sports enthusiasts has some great recommendations.

Buying a used MPV 

At Motors, we specialise in buying and selling used cars. So it wouldn’t be right for us to finish this guide without mentioning the benefits of buying a pre-loved car. 

As we briefly touched on earlier, MPVs aren’t as popular as they once were. This means buying a new one can see your car depreciate in value quite quickly. In other words, if you buy a brand-new MPV and want to sell it later on down the line, you will not get back what you put into it. And in the case of MPVs, you’re likely to lose more than you would with another type of vehicle. 

That’s where buying used can really pay off. Why not take advantage of the fact that multi-purpose vehicles are waning in popularity and bag yourself a deal? You can check out our range of used MPVs for sale here. Or choose a make and model from the top picks in the previous sections. 

If you are thinking of buying a used MPV, make sure you check our complete guide to buying a used car online. It contains everything you need to know about purchasing a pre-loved vehicle, including what to watch out for and how to get the best deal.  

Can I buy an electric MPV? 

Yes, you can. With the UK government aiming for net zero carbon emissions by 2050, electric vehicles are on the rise, and lots of carmakers have taken to bringing out an EV range, including electric people carriers. 

The Citroën ë-SpaceTourer Electric, the Vauxhall Combo-e Life and the Peugeot e-Rifter are just some amongst many electric MPVs. You can also browse our range of used electric MPVs here. 

Looking for some more information on all things EV? We’ve got you covered. From how to charge an electric vehicle to our electric car buying guide – our advice hub is home to an abundance of EV guides.

Let Motors help you find your perfect car 

This brings us to the end of our MPV guide – we hope we’ve answered all your questions surrounding multipurpose vehicles and whether or not they’re right for you. If you are looking to take the plunge into the wonderful world of MPVs, you can browse our range of used people carriers here. 

Don’t think they’re the one for you? No worries. At Motors, we’re all about encouraging you to find the right car for you. That’s why we created our smart search feature. Answer eight simple questions and our smart search will produce a list of ideal cars for your lifestyle. Be sure to check it out. 

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