What does MPV stand for in cars?

MPV stands for ‘multi-purpose vehicle’ and is another name for people carriers. They are typically like a large hatchback created with the needs of families and sports enthusiasts in mind.

Multi-purpose vehicles are designed to be spacious enough to shuttle at least 5 to 7 people in comfort. For that reason, no other body style can compete with their interior space and practicality. They may not come with the off-roading abilities and rugged styling of SUVs but they make up for that with a larger size and a more practical and functional design. For that reason, MPVs are natural people carriers or minivans.

MPVs became quite popular with families in the mid-1980s thanks to their raised roofline, higher seating, huge windows, comfort and practicality. These cars were made to carry big families or groups of people with ease, and they still do that really well.

Sales of people carriers peaked in the 1990s, with most manufacturers launching their own models – think about the Ford Galaxy or the Renault Scenic. However, in more recent times the rise in popularity of SUVs has impacted MPV sales, with customers opting for sportier looks and all-wheel drive (AWD).

If you want to learn more about all the types of cars available in the market, head over to our car bodystyles guide. You’ll find everything there.

What are the defining features of an MPV?

Traditionally MPVs have appealed to drivers that valued practicality, space and comfort over speed, performance and style. And that has impacted everything that makes a multi-purpose vehicle a people carrier.

  • Long and square shaped with space for a large boot and 5 to 7 seats, although some MPVs can seat 8 or more people. They basically look like a hatchback, but are longer and have a higher ceiling whereas estate cars are just longer (same height as a hatchback)
  • Plenty of headroom for passengers
  • Various configurations of folding seats
  • Simple exterior bodywork
  • Neat storage compartments, including some hidden floor storage
  • Because they are built to carry a lot of people in them, they tend to have multiple power outlets dotted around the interior
  • They tend to have folding seat trays, perfect for kids

The new Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo – Exterior, Cavansit blue metallic

Pros and Cons of MPVs

Pros

  • Enough seats for larger families – 7 seats are common and you can find some that have even 8 or more like the Volkswagen Transporter Caravelle.
  • Comfortable and spacious cabins
  • Good fuel economy when compared with similar sized SUVs
  • Cheaper than comparably sized SUVs
  • Good access for child seats
  • Smaller MPVs are easy to use around town

Cons

  • Not the trendiest styling
  • Less sporty drive thanks to low powered engines
  • Sometimes the additional seats can eat up boot space
  • Not the most popular, so they depreciate faster than more desirable SUVs due to lack of interest from most buyers. However, this also means that you can get a great deal on the used car market.
  • Larger MPVs can be more difficult to manoeuvre, especially in cities, because of size

What to look for when buying an MPV?

If you’re thinking about buying an MPV to shuttle your family around there are a few things you need to look for:

  • Isofix points – You’ll need these if you have children. Most MPVs will have three, four or even five Isofix points. Make sure you check it’s got as many as you’ll need. And remember to read our guide on Isofix if you don’t know what that means or why it’s important.
  • Storage space – Whether you’re carrying your family or a group of friends, storage space will come in handy. MPVs tend to have big door bins, multiple glove boxes and even floor storage compartments. Plenty of space for all the toys or entertainment you can think of. If floor storage is important check that your car seats don’t require filling them for safety reasons.
  • 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 it with the third row of seats down. If it’s not enough, you can try and find a bigger MPV or get a car with roof bars 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. It can be handy depending on what you’re carrying and how many people you’re shuttling.
  • Sliding doors – Sliding doors can be really handy. They remove the chance of rear passengers banging car doors against other vehicles once you’ve parked. And they make getting in an out a breeze.
  • Towing capacity – If you own a caravan and you’ll need to tow on your holidays, look for an MPV with decent torque.

MPV sizes

Like SUVs, MPVs come in a wide range of sizes. There are smaller MPVs with five seats and a very practical interior like the Citroen C4 Picasso or the Ford C-Max. Some of these can also come as seven seaters. Others, like the Volkswagen Touran and Seat Alhambra, were designed in a seven-seat form from the start. These bigger ones usually come with sliding side doors, perfect for narrow spaces and for getting children into seats.

Below, we’ve shortlisted our selection of the best small MPVs and best large multi-purpose vehicles.

Best MPV cars

There are a lot of great multi-purpose vehicles out there but to narrow down your search for the perfect MPV, we’ve put together a shortlist with our favourites here. And if you want more information you should check out our Best MPVs article – it’s got all you need.

  1. Mercedes-Benz V-Class
  2. Volkswagen Touran
  3. Citroen Berlingo
  4. Volkswagen Caravelle
  5. Peugeot Rifter
  6. Ford S-Max
  7. Citroen Grand C4 SpaceTourer
  8. Peugeot Traveller
  9. Hyundai i800
  10. Seat Alhambra
  11. Volkswagen Sharan
  12. Mercedes B-Class
  13. BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer
  14. Ford Tourneo Connect
  15. Ford Galaxy
  16. Renault Grand Scenic
  17. Vauxhall Combo Life

Best Small MPVs

If you want to buy a small MPV, here’s our expert choice of five-seater multi-purpose vehicles perfect for your family’s day-to-day needs.

  1. Renault Scenic
  2. Vauxhall Combo Life
  3. BMW 2 Series Active Tourer
  4. Kia Carens
  5. Ford Tourneo Courier

Best large MPVs

Whether you need to transport your big family or you wan to use it as a minivan, here’s our favourite large multi-purpose vehicles. They come with heaps of space, lots of comfort and plenty of practical features.

  1. Citroen Grand C4 SpaceTourer
  2. Renault Grand Scenic
  3. Seat Alhambra
  4. Volkswagen Sharan
  5. Ford Tourneo Connect
  6. Ford Galaxy
  7. Mercedes V-Class
  8. Ford S-Max
  9. SsangYong Turismo
  10. Toyota Proace Verso
  11. Peugeot Traveller

Post-production : Astuce Productions

MPV cars are great people carriers and ideal for bigger families. With comfort and space at their core, they’re popular with anyone who needs to shuttle cup to 7 people easily. Whether you’re looking for an MPV or another car, at Motors.co.uk we’ve got you covered. Use our Smart Search tool and we’ll help you find the right vehicle for your lifestyle.