What Car? Car of the Year awards 2011 - MPV contenders

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  • 17 categories of awards
  • All the winning models featured here
  • What Car? Car of the Year 2011 revealed

What Car? Awards 2012 website

Best buy less than £16,000
Citroën C3 Picasso 1.6 VTi VTR+
List price £14,845
Target Price £12,531


Once upon a time, owning an MPV meant swapping desirable styling for practicality.

Not any longer – and nothing typifies this new breed of funky, fun and super-useful cars more than the Citroen C3 Picasso.

While the good looks are there for all to see, it combines these with hidden depths of practicality and usability that are startling at this price – and especially so after you’ve haggled for a generous discount.

The cabin is light and airy, thanks to the narrow front pillars and a windscreen that stretches up and into the roof. That also means visibility is great from all the seats.

Inside, there’s plenty of space, including several handy hidden storage areas, and the rear seats slide or fold when you need to adjust boot space. The materials are good, too.

Our pick of the range is the smooth, refined 1.6 VTi petrol engine. By opting for VTR+ spec, you get air-con and six airbags as standard.

Alternatives include the Nissan Note and new Hyundai ix20, but neither match the Citroën’s blend of looks, practicality and value.

Citroen C3 Picasso review

Performance
0-62mph 10.9sec Top speed 113mph
Running costs
Economy 40.9mpg CO2 159g/km
Insurance group13

Best buy £16,000-£22,000
Peugeot 5008 1.6 HDi 112 Sport
List price £20,945
Target Price 19,637


There are two closely matched contenders for this category win – and it should be no surprise just how close the fight is, given that the Peugeot 5008 and recently face-lifted Citroën Grand C4 Picasso share most of their mechanicals and a clever seating system.

The Peugeot has a classier and more stylish cabin, and it feels airy and spacious, even without the Citroën’s large windscreen and ‘walk-through’ space between the front seats.

The 5008 is also better to drive, rolls less in bends and offers far more steering feel. The suspension is a bit hard for our liking, but the trade-off is superior body control that stops its contents being tossed about and which, unusually for an MPV, lets you have some fun behind the wheel when the time is right.

In terms of practicality it’s a tie, because both cars have the same seven-seat layout and a system for moving those seats about that allows you to swap effortlessly between more passenger and load space.

Our favourite engine is also the same for both – a 110bhp diesel that offers enough power and economy.

Peugeot 5008 review

Performance
0-62mph 12.9sec Top speed 114mph
Running costs
Economy 53.3mpg CO2 139g/km
Insurance group16

Best buy more than £22,000
Seat Alhambra 2.0 TDI 140 Ecomotive S
List price £24,055
Target Price £23,555


When you're buying an MPV it’s easy to think that big is best, but the truth is that the way space is put to use is just as important. The Seat Alhambra gives you the best of both world’s – huge capacity and lots of practicality.

It has genuine space for seven adults and even a decent amount for their luggage; fold the rear five seats and there’s an enormous load area to play with.

The cabin is as usable as you could wish for, with every switch well placed, the materials plush in places and hard-wearing in others, and the seats all comfortable and supportive.

The only must-have option is the electric rear sliding doors, at £780.

Slim pillars at each corner make parking and manoeuvring such a large vehicle surprisingly easy, while nimble handling gives the car a verve that goes against expectations for such a large vehicle.

Chief rival is the VW Sharan, which is essentially the same car as the Alhambra.

The Seat undercuts the VW on price, which makes up for its slightly worse retained value.

Seat Alhambra review

Performance
0-62mph 10.9sec Top speed 127mph
Running costs
Economy 50.4mpg CO2 146g/km
Insurance group18

Tester's view
‘In reality, most so-called multi-purpose vehicles have to do just one job: shift a lot of people – and their stuff – as easily as possible. It’s not surprising, then, that so many families end up buying one, especially as many of today’s models combine practicality with comfort, and excellent refinement and handling.

‘With my toddler to transport, I’ve found raised seating to be a useful MPV feature – there’s no need to bend down to put him in his seat, and he gets a good view out. Nowadays, even small MPVs allow you to change the position of the rear seats to suit occupants.

‘What also makes MPVs so appealing is that you get 4x4-like space and versatility, but with much more palatable buying and running costs.’
Alex Newby Deputy editor
Alex.Newby@whatcar.com

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What Car? Car of the Year awards 2011 - MPV winner

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