MPV buying guide
All you need to know before buying an MPV

MPVs are among the most practical cars on the market and are designed with families in mind. MPV stands for ‘multi purpose vehicle’ and they are popular for their family friendly features. If you are new to the MPV market and buying your first MPV, this guide contains practical MPV buying tips that will come in useful when you’re browsing the brochures and cruising the showrooms.

1) Number of seats

Some compact MPVs are sold with just five seats, but larger ones may have seven. Seven seaters usually work by having five seats permanently in place with two fold away seats in the very back. For very large families, an eight seater might be the only MPV that will do, and there are some of these on the market, though they tend to be derived from vans so you lose some of the car-like driving character of a smaller MPV. Some MPVs squeeze in seven seats within a reasonable small footprint but the extra seats may only be suitable for children. There are larger seven seaters on the market that will be more suitable for carrying adults regularly.

2) Size

The larger the MPV, the more cumbersome it’s going to be to drive in tight situations like through town and around car parks, which if you’re a parent you’re likely going to spend a lot of time doing, so think hard about much space and how many seats you really need. On larger MPVs, it’s worth checking the spec to see if equipment like parking sensors, reversing cameras and even autonomous parking systems are included, and if not it makes a lot of sense to add these as options if the budget allows.

MPV Buying Guide
Buying an MPV? Think about how many seats you need and what convenience features you should opt for

3) Flexibility

Check the seats for flexibility. Some MPVs feature seats in row 2 that can slide forward or back, and also recline. See how easy it is to fold the seats down and if they will fold down flat. Some MPVs even have a front passenger seat that can fold completely flat!

4) Access

Check how easy it is to get in and out of the MPV. MPVs naturally sit a bit higher than a standard hatchback but some may have additional features to make getting in and out easier. For example, there are a few MPVs on the market with sliding doors and though they don’t look very dynamic or sexy on a car, they are extremely practical for getting children and car seats in and out, especially in car parks where space is limited. If there are three rows of seats, check how easy is it to get into row 3.

5) Storage

MPVs generally have lots of cubby holes but check to see if they are all in logical places and if they are genuinely useful.

6) Convenience features

Some MPVs will have pull down picnic tables on the back of the front seats but these may be optional on some or limited to higher trims. The children might appreciate 12-volt power sockets and USB sockets to plug in their devices – some MPVs will have these, some won’t. It’s important that the driver is happy too so if you do a lot of driving think about features like cruise control and even an automatic gearbox that will make sitting in traffic on the school run less draining. Other features worth considering: pull down blinds on the rear windows, electric windows, a panoramic sunroof, power tailgate, and climate control (some cars will have separate controls for rear passengers).

6) Child seats and Isofix fixtures

Some MPVs will have three individual seats in the middle row. The number of Isofix child seat fixtures can vary from car to car. Bring the children and child seats to the dealer and see if everyone will fit comfortably before you buy!

7) Boot space

This is so important in a family car so check out the boot for yourself and bring the buggies and other paraphernalia you regularly carry to see if the shape and size will work for you. Some of the more compact seven seaters will be severely compromised on boot space when the two extra seats are in place, but in a five seat configuration they will have huge boots that can be easily stacked to the roof. Some larger seven seaters will be less impacted in this regard and may be more suitable if your regularly carry seven people.

MPV Buying Guide
Buying an MPV? Better check that boot is big enough

8) Safety

Check that the car has a full complement of airbags and check the Euro NCAP safety rating. Other safety equipment like driver fatigue alert, city emergency brake, lane departure warning, blind spot monitor and forward collision alert may be standard or optional on some models.

9) Engine power and driving fun

Bring the car for a test drive and see how it performs on the road. Is there adequate power? Consider how the car might perform with a full family onboard and their luggage. And yes you can have fun driving an MPV. Some are better than others so take a proper test drive and see does the car adapt well to your driving style.

10) Economy

Check the running costs for the vehicle, specifically the miles per gallon and annual motor tax.

Browse some MPV reviews here.

Caroline Kidd