What we were looking for
The best MPVs must cope with any load, whether it's excitable children or an antique wardrobe. Sensible running costs and top-notch safety are also essential.
Citroen Grand C4 Picasso 1.6 HDi SX
List price £17,795
Target Price £16,909
MPVs must have the ability to make life easy, because when your car is packed with screaming kids you don't need other sources of stress.
The Grand C4 Picasso fulfils this brief like no other MPV, thanks to ingenious design and great attention to detail.
The huge up-and-over windscreen floods the entire cabin with light, the nifty extendable visors will stop you getting dazzled, and the super-skinny windscreen pillars give you an unrivalled view of the road ahead.
You'll also find countless storage spaces tucked away all over the cabin to take care of the family's clutter.
It's the clever, user-friendly seating that really sets the Grand C4 Picasso apart, though. The middle row has three separate chairs that slide, recline and fold individually, with enough space for three tall adults to travel comfortably.
When the two rearmost seats are needed, it's quick and easy to raise them out of the boot floor. The space available means these are best reserved for children, but the seating position is still comfortable.
The boot is a modest 208 litres with all the seats in place, but that grows to a much handier 576 litres with the third row packed away, plus you get a van-like 1951 litres with the car in two-seat mode.
Easy folding seats
Folding the chairs flat into the floor couldn't be easier: the catches are simple and instinctive, and moving the various folding sections takes no strength whatsoever.
On the road, there's no doubt that the Grand C4 Picasso puts comfort before agility. Yet the slick ride is complemented by impressive all-round refinement, making the Citroen's cabin a relaxing place to travel in.
Our favourite 1.6-litre diesel engine gives competitive performance and good flexibility, so whatever your load or speed, it responds eagerly. Go for the slick EGS paddleshift gearbox, too - it reduces carbon dioxide emissions and improves fuel economy from 47.9mpg to 49.6mpg.
All Grand C4 Picassos come with electric front windows, cruise control and remote central locking, but entry-level LX versions miss out on items like air-conditioning and a CD player. Our chosen SX trim ticks these boxes.
Importantly for an MPV, the Grand C4 Picasso is also one of the safest cars in its class. All versions come with an electronic stability programme, seven airbags and a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating.
Kia Carens 2.0 CRDi SR 7st
List price £12,995
Target Price £11,988
Ford S-Max 2.0 TDCi Zetec
List price £20,495
Target Price £18,925