Our pick: Top 10 used mini-MPVs
Tuesday 03 August 2010
Mini-MPVs combine supermini running costs with the space and practiciality of a much larger family car.
From the great value Hyundai Matrix to the latest Citroen C3 Picasso, here are our pick of the best new and used mini-MPVs on the market.
As the largest car in its class, the Nissan Note offers great interior space for all the family. The rear seat slides and folds to increase either boot space or rear leg room.
It’s easy to drive around town, with light steering, but it’s also good on the motorway. Of the wide selection of petrol and diesel engines, we’d suggest the smallest 1.4-litre unless you regularly travel on the motorway, in which case the larger 1.6 petrol is better. The 1.5-litre diesel is also worth a look but is more expensive to buy and service.
Many owners have complained of electrical problems including seemingly possessed windscreen wipers and fog lights. The good news is that these are easily fixed by Nissan dealers. Check that the rear seat folds and slides as it should and all the doors unlock with the central locking.
Our pick: 1.4 Visia+
Taller than the Fiesta supermini it’s based on, the Ford Fusion offers more passenger and boot space as well as far easier entry and exit thanks to its raised seating position.
Ford missed a trick by not adding the additional storage spaces or clever folding seats of its rivals, so it’s not as versatile as other mini-MPVs.
Running costs should be no greater than those of the Fiesta, with low insurance groups, cheap servicing and a dealership on practically every corner.
Our pick: 1.4 TDCi Style Climate
The Renault Modus is based on the Clio, keeping that car’s chic nature and adding an extra dose of practicality. Interior space is impressive for its size and the longer Grand Modus model features a much more useful boot and limo-like rear space.
The range of petrol and diesel engines are impressively fuel-efficient although the smaller petrol engines can struggle with a full complement of people and luggage. The 1.6-litre and turbocharged 1.2 TCe petrol engines are good, but the 1.5 dCi diesel is our pick, with strong performance and good economy. The Modus was the first small car to be awarded the full five stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests.
There are no major reliability problems with the Modus, but ensure that any recall work has been undertaken. A general lack of market awareness means that there are some great bargains to be had on this stylish and practical little car.
Our pick: Grand Modus 1.5 dCI Dynamique
The Hyundai Matrix was designed by Pininfarina, the Italian design house responsible for many a Ferrari. It’s no super model to look at, but its stepped window line and upright proportions give it much more space and airiness than its small footprint suggests.
They’re cheap, reliability is very good and some later cars still have the balance of their 5-year warranty remaining. Interior trim quality isn’t up to European standards – or those of Hyundai’s newer cars – so expect some rattles and squeaks but everything should still work.
Our pick: 1.8 GSi
The car that started the mini-MPV craze is still one of the best. The Vauxhall Meriva has brilliant FlexSpace rear seats, which all slide and recline separately but the really neat part is that they disappear into the floor when folded rather than having to be manhandled out.
All engines are offer strong performance except the slightly lifeless – but very economical 1.3 CDTi diesel. There’s even a hot, 180bhp VXR version for daddy racers.
Reliability is very good if they are regularly serviced. Make sure that cam belts are changed on schedule, so check the service history.
Our pick: 1.6 Design
Fiat Sedici/Suzuki SX4
The Fiat Sedici and Suzuki SX4 twins are mini-MPVs disguised as off-roaders, with chunky looks, raised suspension and optional four-wheel drive. They’re very capable both on- and off-road although some will find the engines a little noisy.
The interior is well made from robust materials, making it ideal for the rigors of family life although it’s not as clever as more traditional mini-MPVs, with limited storage space and a conventional split-folding rear bench seat.
There are some great newly-new bargains to be had, making the Sedici and SX4 very shrewd used buys.
Our pick: 1.6 2WD
Citroen C3 Picasso
It’s relatively new to the market, but the Citroen C3 Picasso has already made itself a reputation as one of the most stylish and comfortable cars in its class. Its box-like interior is also extremely spacious and practical. It’s a little early to tell, but the interior appears to be relatively well built.
The soft, comfortable ride, great visibility and refined, powerful engines make the C3 Picasso a very relaxed long-distance family car that is also cheap to run.
New prices are at the more expensive end of the scale, but Citroen is renowned for offering attractive deals and there are already plenty to choose from on the used market.
Our pick: 1.6 VTR+
Ahead of its time when launched in 1999, the all-aluminium Audi A2 is still one of the most advanced cars on the road today. Its lightweight construction, superb aerodynamics and small, efficient engines mean that fuel economy is exceptional.
Its interior is beautifully built from classy materials, while equipment levels on the popular SE model are very generous. It’s roomy in the front, with great visibility, while the rear is a little cosier thanks to the sloping and narrowing body. The boot is a good size though.
There have been reports of electrical problems, so make sure that everything works as it should, while crash repairs can be very expensive because of its aluminium structure.
Our pick: 1.4 TDI SE
Designed in two halves, with the ‘driving room’ at the front and ‘living room’ behind, the Skoda Roomster is certainly distinctive with its unusual side window design. The result is a very spacious cabin, especially for those in the back.
Two full-sized rear seats and the slimmer centre pew all fold, slide and can be removed. Taking out the middle seat allows the remaining two to slide into the centre of the car, giving even more elbow room. The high seating position and large doors make it ideal for young families and more senior passengers alike.
Skoda builds quality and reliable cars and there have been no major issues reported.
Our pick: 1.4 16v S
Toyota Yaris Verso
If you can look past the challenging styling, the Toyota Yaris Verso is a very competent little car. Its interior space is remarkable for such a small car, which can be turned into a van with the rear seats folded.
It’s not fun to drive, but that’s hardly the point. It is very easy to drive though, with light controls, good visibility and the popular option of an automatic gearbox. Just make sure that you can rear the unusual digital dashboard display.
Reliability is very good and running costs are low, especially with the 1.4-litre diesel engine.
Our pick: 1.3 GLS
By Owen Ready