Finding the best £12,000 compact MPV is top of many people’s car buying agenda. Their popularity is down to their versatility; their ability to transform in a matter of moments from being a car that can carry a five-a-side team to a van for a trip to the tip. Over the past decade, the success of the compact MPV has done for some full-size examples such as the Renault Espace. The smaller cars now offer seven seats yet in some cases they ride and handle like a regular hatchback. In the latest of our series of used car buying guides, we take a notional £12,000 and nominate our pick for practicality, best to drive and value for money.
Best £12,000 compact MPV – all round: VW Touran overview
There’s nothing about the Touran that’s particularly exciting. But it’s better than average at ticking a lot of boxes as a used buy: there are multiple models to choose from; there’s a wide range of engines; all cars come with seven seats and it wears a desirable badge. You won’t get much in the way of thrills from the Touran on the road but for most families, that won’t matter. There’s a choice of two petrol and four diesel engines with the latter being the more popular among buyers. The most economical model is the 1.6 turbo diesel; the best performer the 2.0-litre 168bhp model while probably the best compromise is the 138bhp 2.0TDI.
Best £12,000 compact MPV – all round: VW Touran practicality
Although sold as a seven seater, some owners delete the rear-most chairs so check that any used model has them, if you want them, as they fold out of sight into the floor. The middle row of three chairs reclines and slides or can be completely removed. Black marks against the Touran are that unlike some, the second row chairs doesn’t fold into the floor, and its boot is smaller than rivals when the third row of chairs is in place. Trade-off is the high quality VW cabin, comfortable supportive seats, easy controls and forgiving ride.
Best £12,000 compact MPV – all round: VW Touran what’s on offer
There are plenty of Tourans around so don’t be afraid of shopping about for the model that you want. For our budget, we found a 2011 138bhp 2.0TDI wearing a 60-reg that had done 44,000 miles. However, we also found a manufacturer approved 1.6TDI model. This was a 2012 12-reg, had done 38,000 miles and came with a 12-month VW warranty.
Best £12,000 compact MPV – on a budget: Kia Carens overview
Kia has long been renowned for value and the Carens continues that trend. Although a new model, drivers still don’t automatically think of the Korean brand in this sector meaning you can pick up some nearly new versions of the Carens for our money. Completely redesigned compared to the dullard that went before it, the new Carens has a modicum of style, excellent practicality and three engines: two 1.7-litre diesels and a 1.6-litre petrol. As a seven-seater, you wouldn’t expect this to be great to drive and you’d be right. But that said, there’s nothing in the comfortable and understated way it goes about its business that will offend drivers either.
Best £12,000 compact MPV – on a budget: Kia Carens practicality
The Carens has one of the longest wheelbases (the space between the wheels) of all the cars in its class. This yields a large amount of interior space. As with other seven seaters, there are two rows of seats in the back. Row three folds into the boot floor so is really only suitable for kids or adults on a short journey. The middle row of three seats all slide and fold independently. When both rows of seats are folded there’s a massive luggage area. All Carens models are well equipped and come with air-conditioning.
Best £12,000 compact MPV – on a budget: Kia Carens what’s on offer
As the Carens is such a new car, we didn’t find that many for sale. We did come across a 2013 13-reg 1.6 petrol engine model in mid-range 2 trim with 22,000 miles on the clock. The other model we found also had the less popular petrol engine, was 2013 63-reg, and had done just 7000 miles. However, it was in less desirable entry-level 1 trim.
Best £12,000 compact MPV – to drive: Ford Grand C-MAX overview
As with all its models, Ford has managed to engineer a car that is suitable for family duties but also guaranteed to put a smile on the driver’s face. But the Grand C-MAX is a lot more than just fun to drive. This seven-seater is practical, high quality, full of equipment yet efficient and cheap to run. There are four petrol and four diesel engines to choose from. Pick of the petrols is the 148bhp 1.6-litre EcoBoost. The diesel to go for is debatable. The 138bhp 2.0TDCi is the conservative choice, although the 113bhp 1.6-litre TDCi is an excellent compromise between power and economy. But it’s on the road that the Grand C-MAX really excels with well controlled body lean, responsive steering and a firm but comfortable ride.
Best £12,000 compact MPV – to drive: Ford Grand C-MAX practicality
The Grand C-MAX’s party piece is its sliding rear doors. These make it easy to get in and out of, especially for the very old or when putting in the very young. As with the other cars we’ve identified, the rear most seats are for kids only. For front and middle row passengers there’s plenty of leg and head room while rows two and three fold into the floor yielding a van-like amount of space inside. The boot is still a decent size, even when the third row of seats is up.
Best £12,000 compact MPV – to drive: Ford Grand C-MAX what’s on offer
Being a Ford there is no shortage of Grand C-MAX models around. We found a 2011 61-reg 2.0TDCi with the Powershift auto transmission and 20,000 miles. There was also a 2012 12-reg 1.6TDCi that had done 22,000 miles. Both were in mid-level Titanium trim.