It’s a telling sign that seven-seat family cars, sometimes referred to as people carriers or MPVs, are in demand. Auto Trader, the largest of the used car classified websites, recently revealed that the Citroën Grand C4 Picasso, a seven-seat family car, is its fastest-selling used car. On average, used examples are bought within 15 days of being advertised, compared with an average of 55 days for other cars.
Drivers who are searching for the ultimate practical family car are attracted to MPVs – multi-purpose vehicles – because they’re more practical than their house. Good ones feature bottle holders and storage compartments, climate control for all three rows of seats, handy picnic tables that come to the rescue on that rainy day at the seaside and seats that tumble out of the way to make way for the raw materials demanded by the latest DIY project.
Here, then, are three of the best used seven seat people carriers that drivers should consider buying.
Best used seven-seat family cars: Citroën Grand C4 Picasso offers value for money
The current Grand C4 Picasso went on sale in early 2014, and the most affordable models for sale on Citroën’s approved used car website cost from £13,000. That’s good value for money when you consider it would buy a February, 2014 1.6 E-HDI 115 VTR+ model with just 11,250 miles on the clock. It should drive and feel as good models that cost £20,550 if bought new. Bear in mind too that the car’s original warranty would give its new owner peace of mind until February, 2017.
Best used seven-seat family cars: Citroën Grand C4 Picasso is stylish and practical
As people carriers go, the Grand C4 Picasso looks pretty sleek, with a body design that looks as soft and rounded as a bar of soap. It’s much the same story inside, where it appears uncluttered and simple – although the infotainment system, which manages the navigation, audio and climate systems, is a touch-screen affair that can be somewhat distracting for drivers to use.
You get three rows of seats in the Grand C4 Picasso, and the rearmost two chairs are even tolerable for adults to use so long as they’re not forced to endure hundreds of miles. When not needed, they can be folded flush into the floor, giving a huge, 793-litre boot. If your pushchair and dog can’t fit into that, you’d better buy a lorry.
Best used seven-seat family cars: Citroën Grand C4 Picasso is relaxing to drive
Capable of as much as 70mpg (if you drive with the delicate touch of a ballerina), the Grand C4 Picasso’s 1.6-litre (115) diesel engine has plenty of pulling power low in the rev range, and probably delivers enough performance for most needs. The car is quiet at speed and the supple suspension offers the comfort of a king-size bed. In other words, this is a relaxing thing to drive. With thin windscreen pillars and deep windows in the doors, you get a great view of the world around you and parking is an easier chore than you might have expected.
Best used seven-seat family cars: Seat Alhambra is winner of the space race
If you have three children or more, you’ll know that space, above all else, is a prized commodity in a family car. The Alhambra is almost as big as a bus, and if you haven’t tried a large people carrier like this before, trust us, it really does make life easier and less stressful for everyone on board.
Its winning features are the back doors, which slide open on rails and make it so much easier to climb in and out or put little ones in their child seat. There are three rows of seats and the rearmost seats are comfortable enough for adults to use on a long journey, so long as the middle-row seats are slid forward a touch. Even with them in use the boot holds 267-litres of luggage. Fold them down and there is a whopping 809-litres of cargo capacity.
Some cars may have been specified with handy features such as a pair of integrated booster seat outer chairs for the middle row, a panoramic sunroof or adjustable suspension. Ask the dealer exactly which extras are fitted to the car they’re selling.
Best used seven-seat family cars: Seat Alhambra is well built and surprisingly affordable
If you search Seat’s used car locator you’ll be in for a pleasant surprise. A new Alhambra costs from £25,630 for the entry-level, 2.0 TDI S trim, but an approved used equivalent from a Seat dealer costs from just £14,000. Admittedly, that typically buys a car dating back to 2011 with about 40,000 miles under its wheels. It won’t feel box fresh, and you’ll only benefit from a one-year warranty (which could be extended) but what cash-conscious parents wouldn’t want to save over £11,000? Take a test drive and you’ll probably agree.
Best used seven-seat family cars: Seat Alhambra is calm and capable to drive
There are people carriers that feel better to drive, notably the Ford S-Max, reviewed below, but the Alhambra turns in a solid performance. It feels calm and capable, is steady when fully laden and refined on a long trip. All are qualities that make it the ideal family car to take on a holiday to the south of France, for example.
The 2-litre TDI diesel engine pulls well from low in the rev range and can return as much as 50mpg. If you want to feel really relaxed at the wheel, search for models fitted with DSG, an automatic gearbox.
Best used seven-seat family cars: Ford S-Max is best to drive
You’d expect the Ford S-Max to be a spacious, practical family car but you may not have thought it would be all that good to drive. Well, it is. The S-Max is the best MPV to drive, because it manages to shrink around the driver and feel like a car half its size. It responds eagerly to a driver’s commands and has an agility on a winding road that’s at odds with its seven-seat capability. The pick of the engine range for most drivers is the diesel 2-litre TDCI, which is frugal (a combined average of 52.3mpg on later models), pulls enthusiastically and copes with the weight of a fully-laden S-Max. An automatic gearbox is available if you want it.
Best used seven-seat family cars: Ford S-Max offers 5+2 seating
Even Ford admits that the seating arrangement in the S-Max is geared up for seating five in comfort, and another two passengers in, well, modest discomfort. However, the rear-most row of seats is handy to have, even if space is tight, the seats are upright and access is something of an obstacle course. The boot is big, with 285-litres of luggage capacity which grows to 854-litres in five-seat configuration. However, Ford’s figures are measured to the roofline, so this isn’t as spacious as it may appear.
The rest of the interior is packed with storage compartments and it all feels surprisingly well made; Ford was really raising its game around the time of the introduction of the S-Max, in 2006.
The best used seven-seat family cars: Ford S-Max prices
Browse the Ford approved used car website and you’ll find S-Max 2.0 TDCI models start from about £13,000 for a relatively low mileage (32,000), 2010 model in plush Titanium spec. If you’d prefer a younger car, we found a 2012 62-reg 2.0 TDCI Zetec with 13,000 miles on the clock £14,987.
Used car buying guide: Small SUVs for under £12,000