In Depth

Best seven-seaters of 2016: Top MPVs and SUVs on sale

MPVs and SUVs from Citroen, Volvo and Ford make for some of the best options

It wasn't too long ago that the only seven-seat vehicles on sale resembled minivans. Large MPVs such as the Renault Espace were the last word in big-car practicality, but now the market has a whole lot more choice.

Cleverly packaged small MPVs and SUVs – some of which can now be equipped with a third row of seats in the boot - offer a tempting a desirable way to ferry around a large number of people.

Here are some of the critics' choices of seven-seaters big and small.

Citroen C4 Grand Picasso

If you need to maximise space and practicality but don't want to drive an unstylish car, the seven-seater Citroen is a brilliant choice.

With its "futuristic looks and a space-age interior", the C4 Grand Picasso "proves a practical and spacious MPV doesn't have to look dull", says CarBuyer [1]. Going up against the likes of the Kia Carens, Ford S-Max and Renault Grand Scenic, it's the website's go-to MPV.

The third row of seats in the boot doesn't come with quite as much space as you'd get in a full-size MPV, but it's sufficient for children and adults on shorter journeys. Folding the row down opens up 537 litres' of space while collapsing all the rear seats flat creates a 1,851-litre loading space.

Citroen has updated the Grand Picasso with one or two styling tweaks and a new, easier-to-use infotainment system and it's available with economical diesel engines.

Prices kick off at £21,935.

Range Rover Sport

Standard cars come with five seats, but there's an option to have two extra seats for £1500, which is why both Auto Express and What Car? place the Range Rover Sport (with the extra seats) among their respective choices when it comes to the best seven seaters.

The two optional seats in the car's boot fold out at the touch of a button. They are small and best suited to short trips, according to Auto Express. Still, the addition of a third row in the boot makes Land Rover's posh, fast SUV "even more versatile than before". 

With that third row in place, this must be one of the most luxurious ways to carry seven people. The car has a plush, high quality interior, tall seating positions and plenty of space for the five passengers who sit in the largest part of the cabin. 

The car is also unmatched in its class in terms of off-road ability, while its on-road dynamics are "truly superb" thanks to bags of grip and minimal body roll. 

Running costs aren't low and nor is the overall cost of the car – the starting price for the Range Rover Sport is £59,700. 

Volvo XC90

At £46,850, Volvo's XC90 is a cheaper SUV than the Range Rover Sport, but it's still a very stylish and high quality seven seater.

The cool and minimalist design is popular with the critics and continues on the inside, with a slick and handsome interior made from premium-build materials and packed with tech options. It's seriously practical, too – the two seats in the boot are big enough for adults to use comfortably and boot space is still 314 litres with them folded upright and in place.

Three engine options are available, all of them four-cylinder units. The D5 diesel is the entry level choice, although a more powerful T6 petrol is also offered. Range-topping T8s make use of a hybrid powertrain but at a serious premium – all of them cost more than £60,000.

"Spacious, high-quality, comfortable, efficient and very safe," the XC90 ticks all the right family SUV boxes, CarBuyer says.

Volkswagen Touran

The Touran sits on Volkswagen's MBQ platform which also underpins the Golf, so driving one shouldn't feel too dissimilar to using the firm's family hatchback.

It might not be the most exciting MPV out there, but Carwow says it's the most sensible, with its interior being the main selling point. It's well designed and made from high quality materials, besting many of its direct rivals. It's also practical – every seat can move and fold independently and with the two seats in the back folded down, boot space comes in at 1,040 litres.

Prices start from £22,270 for cars in entry level S trim, with standard features including a five-inch touchscreen, air conditioning and park assist. Engines are plucked from VW's usual roster, with a 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol kicking things off, although more powerful options to haul the 3,417lb Touran are available, including another petrol engine and three diesel choices.

Seat Alhambra

Seat's Alhambra MPV is one of the largest seven-seaters you can buy and at £24,885, it's almost £2,000 cheaper than the mechanically identical Volkswagen Sharan it sits alongside in the Volkswagen group stable.

Its size means the rearmost seats are big enough for adults and easy to access, the sliding rear door and middle pew eliminating any need for awkward climbing and squeezing. With every seat in place, boot space comes in at 267 litres, although folding them flat makes way for a huge 2,267 carrying capacity.

There are three engine options: a 1.4-litre turbo, the sole petrol entrant, and two 2.0-litre diesels with either 148bhp or 181bhp.

Ford S-Max

The S-Max is one to consider if driving dynamics are high on your list of priorities, with Auto Express saying that Ford's MPV "proves that you don't need to sacrifice driving enjoyment when you outgrow a family saloon" and that it's the finest handling MPV on the market. It's also one of the best-looking, too.

Passenger space isn't the S-Max's strong point, however. The site says that rear space is "tight for all except short journeys" and that most families will use it as a five-seater with a spacious boot capable of carry seven from time to time. Luggage space isn't bad, though. With every seat in place, you'll get 285 litres and flattening them makes room for 2,020 litres.

As standard, the S-Max will come equipped with 17ins alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors, an 8ins touchscreen with Ford's SYNC 2 smartphone compatibility – although sat nav is an extra – and keyless start and powerfolding mirrors. The entry-level car gets a 1.5-litre petrol engine and there are more petrol and diesel options to choose from. Priced from £25,145..

Kia Sorento

The Sorento is Kia's full size seven seater SUV. Compared to other cars in its class, it offers brilliant value with prices starting at just £28,795. Well designed and spacious, the Sorento boasts excellent practicality credentials and comes with simple engine options – there's only one to choose from.

Buy a new Sorento and you can expect a 2.2-litre 197bhp diesel engine and four-wheel drive as standard, though there are four different trim levels to choose from. Plucking for a mid-range car may be your best bet – range topping KX-4 trim starts at £41,000, which is a lot for a Kia. 

CarBuyer says that the Sorento is "arguably more practical than all but the biggest MPVs" and that there's plenty of passenger space, though the rearmost two seats in the boot are slightly cramped for adults.

With all seven seats in place, there are 142 litres of bootspace. But folding the back two flat opens this up to 605 litres and with every seat down, 1,662 litres are on offer. 

KX-2 trim is CarBuyer's pick of the range. On top of the LED lights, reversing sensors and alloy wheels you'll get with the already decently equipped entry level car, sat nav, dual-zone air con, heated leather seats and a reversing camera have been added.

Nissan X-Trail

Nissan's largest crossover SUV is actually a five-seater, but for a £1,000 outlay, you can get a pair of folding seats fitted in the boot.

You'll have to avoid the entry-level Visia trim in order to spec the seats, however, but it's still relatively inexpensive and means you can buy a genuine, spacious seven-seat SUV for around £25,000 – a cheaper alternative to the Land Rover Discovery Sport.

It's worth the outlay, says Auto Express, as the X-Trail is a particularly spacious car and has the most leg-room of its class. The seating arrangement is well thought out too, adds the mag, and comes theatre-style, with the three rows on different levels, rising towards the back.

With the seats up, boot space comes in at 550 litres, besting many of its rivals, and folding everything flat opens up an impressive 1,982-litre cargo bay.

There are a couple of downsides, however, continues Auto Express: engine options are limited to just two choices – a diesel and a petrol – and neither of them are particularly punchy, while the driving experience "isn't designed to thrill either".

Kia Carens 

Before you venture into the van-like MPV market and settle for a Citroen Berlingo or a Ford Tourneo Connect, it's worth looking at the Kia Carens. This is a car that represents one of the best value seven seaters on the market, with a starting price of just £18,195. 

The car on sale now is the third generation Carens and reflects Kia's efforts to move upmarket. It's noticeably more stylish than the firm's older MPVs, and Auto Express says that its fresh looking design and decent standard equipment levels make it an "interesting alternative" for MPV buyers. Considering the car's excellent crash test scores and Kia's reputation for reliability, as well as the firm's seven year warranty, the magazine says it's a sensible option for families on a budget. 

For the entry level price, you get a 1.6-litre petrol engine with 133bhp, though economy isn't great at a claimed 44mpg. Instead Auto Express reckons you should spend a little extra and go for the more frugal 1.7-litre diesel that starts at £20,690. The Carens 2 trim costs a little more at £20,995 but gives you all the standard equipment like air conditioning, cruise control and daytime LED lights, alongside other extras like powerfolding mirrors, rain sensing wiper, and parking sensors. Notching things up to a Carens 3 trim bags you an infotainment system with sat nav. 

The car isn't as good to drive as many of its rivals, but it nonetheless represents a low-key, low-cost entry into the large MPV market.

Audi Q7

In its most recent rundown of the best brand new seven seaters you can buy, What Car gives Audi's Q7 the nod, declaring it one of the best premium, luxury seven seaters you can buy - largely thanks to the high quality of its cabin and its generous interior proportions.

The Q7 is a large full-size SUV with plenty of space in the cabin, with ample room in the second row of seats, as well as in the boot. However what really makes the Q7 a standout choice is that it delivers "a healthy dose of luxury" with its brilliant interior.

Audi's most recent cars are building a reputation for the quality of their cabins, and the Q7 is no exception. It is packed with high quality materials, real metal trims, and wooden veneers. It all feels "incredibly well screwed together," and there's brilliant infotainment on board too.

One option to go for is Audi's virtual cockpit – an expensive second display but one that sits behind the steering wheel, replacing the instrument cluster. Not only does it digitalise your binnacles, you can throw the sat nav onto it for huge, clear directions right in front of you.

The Q7 isn't a cheap option though, kicking off at £48,455 for the car in its most basic guise.

 

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