The best MPVs for 2020

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Growing families in the 1980s and 1990s couldn't get enough of multi-purpose vehicles, or MPVs for short. These large and spacious people carriers offered so much more room and flexibility than contemporary saloons and estates - and in no time at all, names such as the Ford Galaxy, Renault Espace and Volkswagen Sharan became very familiar to car buyers.

Despite their popularity with those who understood exactly how practical they were, some considered them too big - interestingly, the original Galaxy was shorter than Mondeos sold at the time - or dismissed them as crude vans with windows.

Manufacturers quickly got around the size factor by introducing smaller MPVs from the late-1990s and early-2000s. Within a few years, most mainstream brands offered a suite of flexible people carriers from bijou supermini-sized ones, all the way up to gargantuan seven- and eight-seaters.

Beige 2019 Citroen Berlingo MPV front three-quarter

In truth, while some were van-based - if you can remember the Toyota Model-F Space Cruiser, you'll know what we mean - most used similar underpinnings to hatchbacks and estates already in the model portfolio, but with taller, roomier bodywork.

Ironically, most of the MPVs that remain on sale are now based on vans, but that also reflects how much more sophisticated commercial vehicles have become in recent years.

Sadly, MPVs aren't as popular as they once were, so much so that most companies have stopped selling them in Britain. Instead, buyers flock towards SUVs in greater number, trading-in spaciousness and practicality for rugged styling and a modicum of off-road ability.

What makes a good MPV?

Space, space and space. 

One advantage of basing much of the current crop of MPVs on compact- and medium-sized vans is that those vehicles' more perpendicular shapes lend themselves well to maximising the space available, while sliding doors into the rear of the passenger compartment are a boon in compact car parking spaces.

And don't worry, they don't feel like miniature trucks to drive. Most modern vans are based on similar structures as cars, so they drive in a way that feels entirely conventional.

Other MPV virtues? After capaciousness, chief among them has to be the flexibility of the seats, with many having individual chairs that can be slid back and forth, reclined and even removed when you need to haul massive loads instead of people. 

Ever tried fitting three Isofix child seats side by side in a regular hatchback or SUV? The majority can't, yet most MPVs can manage it easily.

There's life in the MPV yet and we've rounded up our favourite people carriers on sale in 2020. Click the links below to take you straight to your favourite model or scroll down to read the full list.

The best MPVs for 2020


Citroen Berlingo 

Beige 2019 Citroen Berlingo MPV front three-quarter

At Parkers, we're huge fans of the Citroen Berlingo - as well as its Peugeot Rifter and Vauxhall Combo Life sister cars. So much so we voted the trio as our Medium Family Cars of the Year for 2020

Self-evidently from its styling, you can see that the third-generation Berlingo is once again van-based, but this time it's a bit taller and wider, plus longer if you opt for the seven-seater XL version. Not only that, it shares much of its underpinnings with other well-regarded cars from the corporate stable such as the Citroen C5 Aircross and Peugeot 508.

So is it sporty to drive? Not at all, but it's comfy and there are few vices in the way it handles, meaning your passengers - all with individual seats - remain comfy in the light, airy cabin. We've been running a long-term Berlingo and it continues to impress with its all-round abilites.

Sliding rear doors ease acccess to and from the spacious interior, while useful features such as the opening tailgate glass and Modutop ceiling-mounted storage solutions add to the vast number of cubbies and lockers that the Berlingo already boasts.

Petrol and diesel Berlingos are currently available in a range topped by the Flair XTR trim with its pseudo SUV styling cues. We also expect a fully electric e-Berlingo to go on sale from 2021, with no reduction in its space or practicality. 

Price new: From £21,195
Lease this car: From £247 per month
Find a used Citroen Berlingo for sale on Parkers

Mercedes-Benz V-Class 

Grey 2020 Mercedes-Benz V-Class front three-quarter

Another van-based MPV - this time an indulgently plush version of Mercedes' Vito - and another Parkers award winner, being our 2020 Seven-Seater of the Year. In fact, there's much more to the V-Class than that as its various configurations allow you to specify it as a six-, seven- or eight-seater, in three different lengths and with the option of a full camper conversion with the V-Class Marco Polo.

Commerical origins it may have, but once you're inside the V-Class, it feels luxurious and refined in typical Mercedes fashion, with a high level of on-board technology and driver aids, superbly comfortable leather seats, electrically sliding rear doors and tailgate, as well as clever touches to boost practicality such as an optional pop-up table in the rear compartment and a luggage cover over the boot area that includes fold-out storage trays.

As we discovered when we ran a long-term V-Class, the primary advantage of its larger size is that you can install the middle-row seats so that they face rearwards, creating a very social traveling experience for those in the back.

It's a diesel-only engine range for the V-Class, topped by the impressively punchy V 300 d all with automatic transmission, but if you fancy all of this in a more eco-friendly package then keep an eye out for the fully electric version, badged EQV, that's due before the end of 2020.

Price new: From £53,205
Lease this car: From £555 per month
Find a used Mercedes-Benz V-Class for sale on Parkers

Ford S-Max 

White 2020 Ford S-Max front three-quarter

When MPVs were deservedly more popular, Ford offered a suite of 'Max' models, ranging from the diddy B-Max, through the C-Max up to the larger, sportier S-Max. Now, only the S-Max remains, along with its taller Galaxy twin - so what's the secret of its enduring appeal?

It's fine handling is the key. Using Mondeo-based underpinnings, while the Galaxy was focused on carrying seven adults in comfort, the S-Max's brief was to appeal more to buyers who wouldn't ordinarily consider an MPV. It's agile, looks rakish - relatively speaking - and that tapering roofline means that the third-row pair of seats are smaller, more designed for kids than grown-ups.

While those factors remain true in this second-generation S-Max, the fastest - petrol-engined - versions have long-disappeared, but the diesel-only line-up still offers fine performance, and the option of all-wheel drive (AWD) if you need it.

No sliding doors here, but they are wide to ease access and although the back five seats can't be removed they do fold completely flat into the floor for convenience.

A quartet of trim levels ensures there's an S-Max to suit most budgets, topped by the leather-lined Vignale - wisely, Ford's stopped offering that with a pale cream leather interior.

Price new: From £31,150
Lease this car: From £338 per month
Find a used Ford S-Max for sale on Parkers

Volkswagen Caravelle 

Copper 2020 Volkswagen Caravelle front three-quarter

Directly rivalling the V-Class is VW's Caravelle, which is similar in concept, but is offered at a slightly lower price and with fewer body and trim permutations.

With its angular, upright styling, there's again no mistaking this for anything but a van-based MPV, in this case using the structure and mechanical gubbins of the Volkswagen Transporter van. There's also a dedicated - and popular - range of camper conversions, all sold as the VW California.

Recently facelifted and sometimes called the Caravelle 6.1, the number doesn't relate to an engine size, but references that this is the sixth-generation of VW's van-based people carrier, with its first major upgrade. That upgrade largely consisted of a much more attractive - and car-like - dashboard, a facelifted nose with a deeper interpretation of the corporate grille and tweaked tail lamps.

As standard the Caravelle is a seven-seater, but the three-seater rear bench can be swapped for a pair of individual reclining chairs, while the middle-row pair can be spun around without removing and reinstalling them to face the rear. Electric side doors, tailgate and a pop-up table for rear passengers are also available.

Only two lengths of Caravelle are offered in Britain, and unusually the more expensive Executive model is only available in the shorter body. There are two choices of 2.0-litre diesel engines, and all new Caravelles have a seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox as standard, with 4Motion four-wheel drive avalable on the range-topping version.

Flexible, extremely comfortable with the optional adaptive suspension package, the desirability of the Caravelle is further heightened by a range of two-tone paintwork options - just be prepared to pay almost £3,000 for that privilege, though.

Price new: From £49,305
Lease this car: From £689 per month
Find a used Volkswagen Caravelle for sale on Parkers

Further reading:

>> We rate the best seven-seater SUVs

>> Looking for a coupe? These are our favourites

>> Find out how much your car's worth with a Parkers valuation