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The pros and cons of van-based MPVs

If you've got a big family, a van-based people carrier could make your life a lot easier. Just make sure you consider the downsides, too...

Ford Tourneo Custom front

If you need to move your family, lots of luggage and don't want everyone to feel like a sardine, then you might consider a van-based MPV as your next car.

Such vehicles are based on commercial vans, and that means they tend to have a boxy shape, a huge boot, and enough seats to carry your family in comfort. In fact, some have up to nine seats on board, and still have space left over for your suitcases.

Van-based MPVs aren't for everyone, though, so to help you decide if one is right for you, we're looking at the pros and cons of owning one.

Citroën e-Berlingo 2022 front cornering

Lifestyle vans – Day-to-day life

For many larger families, one day to the next, travelling light isn't an option; a trip to the shops can often entail child seats, a pushchair or two, mobile devices, space for coats, space for new coats bought when shopping, plus a stop at the supermarket on the way home. Most cars simply won't cope with all that on a regular basis, and the prospect of an offspring-induced meltdown is never more than a heartbeat away.

That’s where a van-based MPV comes in. Vans are designed from the get-go to be big and boxy, so they can carry a whole load of stuff. And if you buy one whose mission is to carry people, rather than products, it'll offer plenty of easily configurable seating, with a decent-sized boot thrown in too. What's more, everyone on board is kept a decent distance apart, so peace and love can prevail.

That's all made possible thanks to van-based MPVs tending to be on the large side, but that could also prove a hindrance day to day, particularly if it's your only car.  You may find it difficult to park in the sort of spaces you're likely to find in supermarket car parks or around town, and while they're big and practical, no van-based MPV will give you the sort of driving enjoyment you'll get in a smaller car.

Ford Tourneo Custom

Lifestyle vans – Outdoors life

Van-based MPVs often have roof rails, or at least the facility to carry a whole load of extra stuff on a roof rack. That means you can keep all of the camping/activity equipment that generally gets dirty, on the outside of the vehicle, while you and your clothing stay warm, clean and dry inside.

However, while a van-based MPV is handy and practical by design, you might be better off going for a large or family sized SUV, which give you many of the same practicality benefits but are, on the whole, much better to drive.

Vauxhall campervan interior

Is there a downside?

As we've mentioned, if you're used to driving a family hatchback, you may find a van-based MPV to be rather cumbersome.

That can make them less than relaxing on country roads, and downright laborious in a multi-storey car park. And it's worth noting that some won't fit under car park height restrictors in the first place.

Secondly, those hefty dimensions also mean they're quite tricky to park on the street. You may have a parking space outside your house, but a van-based MPV might be a quart into a pint pot.

Mercedes EQV 2021 rear seats

Another thing to consider is that a van-based MPV will be more expensive to run on a daily basis than a smaller MPV or family car, especially when it comes to fuel consumption. Modern hybrid and electric setups can mitigate this, but not entirely. 

It really is worth working out whether you need all that space and flexibility all the time, or if an SUV or family car would be more suitable day to day, allowing you to free up funds to hire a larger vehicle when the opportunity arises to get away from it all.

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