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What is the best: a 7 seater car, an SUV or an MPV?

What’s the best way to carry seven people in a car? It’s not a trick question. We’ve got some thoughts for car buyers who need that big, practical vehicle.

There used to be just one way of carrying seven people in a car: a people carrier A.K.A an MPV (Multi-Purpose Vehicle). But there are many more options today, including large SUVs (Sports Utility Vehicles) and van-based passenger carriers. But which one’s right for you?

What is a people carrier?

Until recently, people carriers have traditionally been the choice of families with three or more children. They’ve also proved popular with anyone who has to regularly ferry kids around. 

The appeal has always been seven seats. The usual layout for these is to have two seats up front (driver and passenger), a bench of three seats behind, with two more (which can usually fold flat) at the back. 

The seats at the very back don’t have a lot of leg room, mind but they’re fine for small children.

However, some buyers didn’t find these cars particularly sexy.

Car manufacturers responded by paying more attention to the design of these 7 seater cars and the likes of the Ford S-Max showed that an MPV could actually look cool. Now there are quite a few stunners on the block, such as the Citroën Grand C4 Space Tourer and Renault Grand Scenic.

However, people carriers have become less popular over recent years due to the rise of seven-seater SUVs.

The rise of the SUV 

SUVs are now hugely popular among car buyers, especially as they are available in all sizes, from compact to large – with the large ones often having seven seats. This means that if you want seven seats, you don't have to buy a ‘boring’ people carrier: you can have a rugged, tough-looking SUV instead.

There are now numerous 7 seater SUVs, from the Volvo XC90, Land Rover Discovery, Range Rover Sport, Audi Q7 and Mercedes-Benz GLS at the more expensive, premium end of the market, to the more affordable Kia Sorento, Hyundai Santa Fe, Škoda Kodiaq and Seat Tarraco.

It’s worth knowing that the term 4x4 is often used for an SUV, but they’re not necessarily the same thing.  

(A 4x4 is a car that is fitted with four-wheel drive, all of which can pull the car forward, if one or more than them can’t grip the surface beneath because, say, it’s muddy or icy. Traditionally, these cars have been SUVs, but now many cars are fitted with all-wheel-drive systems.)

8 Seater Cars

The drawback with both 7 seater SUVs and people carriers is that when all seven seats are being used, there’s not much space in the boot for carrying luggage, kitbags, golden Labradors or whatever else you transport in your boot. 

If you need at least seven seats and luggage space, consider an 8 seater car. 

There are a number of these on the market that are even more practical than a people carrier. Not only do they have more space for luggage, but they can also carry eight older children or even adults in comfort. 

Many of them have different length options, different seating combinations (up to nine seats) and different trims, offering everything from basic equipment to a more executive-style levels.

These vehicles are all based on vans, so they’re perhaps not exactly exciting, but they can’t be beaten for practicality.

The likes of the Ford Tourneo Custom (based on the Transit), Vauxhall Vivaro Combi, Hyundai i800 and Citroën Space Tourer are all worth a look. 

And if you have a bit more to spend, the Volkswagen Transporter Shuttle and Mercedes-Benz Vito Tourer (or the more luxurious Volkswagen Caravelle or Mercedes-Benz V-Class) add more premium touches.

How to choose the best car for you
  • If you want to make the right choice for you, ask yourself the following questions:
  • How many people will I carry?
  • Will I need seven or eight seats frequently?
  • Am I going to be carrying young children, older teens or adults?
  • If it’s young children, will I need to upgrade to something bigger soon?
  • Will I need luggage space as well as seven/eight seats?
  • Do I need to drive on slippery roads, or in icy conditions, often? 

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