The car-buying world might be shifting towards SUVs but, if you want to carry a lot of people and their luggage, you can’t beat a people carrier (also known as MPV - multi-purpose vehicle).
They range in size from small five-seaters like the Volkswagen Golf SV to the huge seven-seaters like the SEAT Alhambra but one thing they all have in common is impressive practicality.
The good news is that, no matter what size of people carrier you want, they don’t need to cost the earth. In fact, they’re often considerably more affordable than the equivalent SUV, which means you get a lot of car for the money. Our experts have picked out 10 of the cheapest new MPVs on the market today.
Year launched: 2013
If you aspire to own a fashionable Fiat 500 but need an extra dose of practicality, the 500L is the car for you. Not only is it one of the most affordable people carriers on sale, it’s also a quirky and interesting choice.
There are three different Fiat 500L models available: the 500L Urban, City Cross and Cross. The Urban is the most affordable, starting in the region of £18,000, but even the top-spec Cross is only a smidgen over £20,000. Standard equipment on the Urban trim includes a seven-inch media system, cruise control and air conditioning.
Kids will love the 500L’s bold design, while there’s loads of room inside. It’s only a five-seater, but there’s plenty of head and legroom in the back, and a usefully square boot. Things like a three-level boot and a front passenger seat which folds back will make family life that little bit easier.
Year launched: 2018
Buyers looking for outright practicality should consider one of the many van-based people carriers on the market. It makes a lot of sense when you think about it… what’s better for carrying a lot of people and their belongings than a van with some extra seats, side windows and a few car-like comforts? The Citroen Berlingo’s been doing this very well for years.
The latest model arrived in 2018, available in two sizes: the Berlingo M and Berlingo XL. Buyers also get the choice of diesel and petrol engines, as well as three trim levels: Feel, Flair and the rugged XTR.
It’s the Berlingo Feel that’s most affordable, priced in the region of £21,500. This does without some of the luxuries of higher-spec models (no alloy wheels or navigation here), but it has the basics covered: an eight-inch media system and a Safety Pack loaded with driver-assistance tech are both included.
Year launched: 2018
If you think a Citroen Berlingo ticks all the boxes for you, a Peugeot Rifter should also be on your shortlist. It’s essentially the same car - not quite as quirky in appearance as the Berlingo, but with the same incredible levels of practicality.
You get Peugeot’s now-trademark compact steering wheel, while the sliding rear doors help with access to the rear. There’s a huge boot, with a large opening and no lip of note (perfect for hoisting in bulky objects or encouraging your dog to jump in).
The Rifter’s as its most affordable in Active trim with the 1.2-litre PureTech petrol engine and manual gearbox. This comes with 16-inch steel wheels, air conditioning and cloth seat trim, with a starting price of around £22,000. You’ll need to splash out an extra £2000 or so for the bigger Rifter Long.
Volkswagen Golf SV
Year launched: 2014
The Volkswagen Golf is the answer to a lot of car buying dilemmas, but did you know you can also get a more practical version badged the Volkswagen Golf SV?
It’s almost as good to drive as the standard car, while a raised seating position aids access and helps visibility. Of course, one of its most desirable features is the extra space in the back - adults will be comfortable in the rear seats, while the boot can carry an extra 210 litres of luggage compared to the Golf hatchback. That’s a significant amount if you’re looking for a practical family car.
Around £22,500 will get you an S model with the eager 1.0-litre TSI petrol engine and six-speed manual gearbox. Standard features include an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system, manual air conditioning and a myriad of driver assistance features (including a radar-controlled emergency braking system).
Ford Tourneo Connect
Year launched: 2014
The Ford Tourneo Connect is another van-based people carrier. But what better van to base a car on than the award-winning Transit Connect? It looks surprisingly classy, comes with a wide range of engines and - most impressive of all - has a huge amount of interior space.
The five-seat Tourneo Connect provides an incredible 2410 litres of space behind the front seats, while buyers needing seven seats can buy a Grand Tourneo Connect with 2620 litres of space and a third row of seats.
Prices for the standard Ford Tourneo Connect start in the region of £23,000 for the 100PS diesel engine, while the high spec Titanium model will set you back around £1500 more.
Vauxhall Combo Life
Year launched: 2018
Vauxhall no longer sells the Vauxhall Zafira, so if you want a Griffin-badged people carrier, you’ll need to look at the Vauxhall Combo Life. It’s born from Vauxhall’s partnership with Citroen and Peugeot, meaning it’s very similar to the Citroen Berlingo and Peugeot Rifter.
Like its peers, it’s available as a standard model or a long-wheelbase seven-seater badged the XL. Both models come with three Isofix points on the second row so you can fit three full-size car seats. The sliding side doors help make getting in and out easy. Both offer a whopping amount of boot space, too, even with the seats up: 597 and 850 litres for the standard and XL models respectively.
Prices start from a little over £22,000 in entry-level Design trim, with standard equipment including cruise control and air conditioning.
BMW 2 Series Active Tourer
Year launched: 2014
Proving you don’t need to spend a fortune on a premium people carrier, the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer is an alternative to the Volkswagen Golf SV. It feels every bit a BMW, with impressive comfort levels and a smart interior featuring top-quality materials.
It’s also great to drive, sharing a chassis and certain engines within the MINI range. Even the entry-level 1.5-litre petrol (badged the 218i) feels very punchy, and it won’t cost a great deal to fuel.
Prices for the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer start in the region of £26,500 for the SE model, with standard kit including LED headlights, 16-inch alloy wheels and BMW navigation (with Apple CarPlay smartphone connectivity).
Year launched: 2019
The Mercedes-Benz B-Class is very similar to the excellent new A-Class, albeit with a greater amount of space and that desirable high seating position.
Because of its target audience (and A-Class ancestry), it’s loaded with useful technology. We particularly like its clever augmented-reality navigation system and built-in ‘Hey Mercedes’ personal assistant. It’s also great to drive, with efficient petrol and diesel engines on offer.
Prices start in the region of £27,500 for a B 180 in Sport trim, while a diesel B 180 d starts close to £29,000.
Year launched: 2012
Car buyers looking for a practical hybrid model that’ll be cheap to run and extremely reliable should look at the Toyota Prius+. It’s loved by private hire drivers and for good reason.
There are seven seats available, although the Prius+ is best used as a five-seater with a big boot. It’s perfect for town use, with the petrol engine cutting out entirely at low speeds and the car running on electric power. Not only does this help with fuel economy, it also means it’s exceptionally refined.
You can pick up a new Toyota Prius+ in Excel trim for around £30,000. Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, Intelligent Parking Assist, heated seats and privacy glass.
Year launched: 2015
The Volkswagen Touran is based on the same platform as the Volkswagen Golf, yet it’s larger than the more affordable Golf SV. It’s a versatile people carrier, using a flexible seating system which lets you slide forward and fold each seat individually. All of the seats fold into the floor to offer a flat 1857-litre load space, which means the Touran is more practical than the likes of the BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer.
Most buyers are well catered for with the 2.0 TDI engine, which produces between 115 and 150PS, while returning around 50mpg in official WLTP fuel economy tests.
Prices start in the region of £31,000 for an SE-spec model, which boasts highlights including parking sensors, tinted windows and roof rails.
MPV stands for ‘multi-purpose vehicle’. They’re more commonly known as ‘people carriers’. They range in size from small hatchback-based MPVs (like the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer) to large van-based people carriers (like the Citroen Berlingo). While the MPV market is in decline (everyone wants an SUV these days), they still make a lot of sense for family buyers in need of practicality.
You don’t need a special licence to drive an MPV and most people will find them easy enough to drive day-to-day. They usually offer excellent forward visibility thanks to a high seating position and large windscreen with big mirrors. Like all cars, MPVs are increasingly offered with driver-assistance technology to make your life easier.
The best people carrier depends on your priorities. We rate the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer and Gran Tourer as they feel like premium choices that are good to drive, but if you’re on a budget and need a huge amount of space you’d be better looking at a van-based people carrier like the Citroen Berlingo.
1.5 Bluehdi 130 Allure 5Dr Eat8
- 20,085 miles
- Pentagon Subaru Lincoln
- Lincolnshire, LN24LD
Representative example: Contract Length: 36 months, 35 Monthly Payments: £220.89, Customer Deposit: £2,019.00, Total Deposit: £2,019.60, Optional Final Payment: £5,972.25, Total Charge For Credit: £2,259.00, Total Amount Payable: £15,723.00, Representative APR: 8.9%, Interest Rate (Fixed): 4.36%, Excess Mileage Charge: 6.8ppm, Mileage Per Annum: 10,000
1.2 PureTech Allure 5dr
- 7,665 miles
- Stoneacre Mazda, Peugeot Harrogate
- Yorkshire, HG27NY
Representative example: Contract Length: 36 months, 35 Monthly Payments: £261.91, Customer Deposit: £2,174.00, Total Deposit: £2,174.25, Optional Final Payment: £6,177.56, Total Charge For Credit: £3,023.66, Total Amount Payable: £17,518.66, Representative APR: 11.3%, Interest Rate (Fixed): 5.81%, Excess Mileage Charge: 3.93ppm, Mileage Per Annum: 10,000
1.5 BlueHDi 130 Active [7 Seats] 5dr EAT8
- 14,999 miles
- Pentagon SEAT Scunthorpe
- Lincolnshire, DN163RL
Representative example: Contract Length: 36 months, 35 Monthly Payments: £483.26, Customer Deposit: £2,699.00, Total Deposit: £2,699.25, Total Charge For Credit: £2,102.61, Total Amount Payable: £20,097.61, Representative APR: 8.9%, Interest Rate (Fixed): 4.58%