There comes a time in every parent’s life when a big car begins to look very appealing. Even if you have spent the previous decades of your life driving sporty, nippy numbers or impressing your mates doing doughnuts in a local car park, once you have hauled a heavy toddler out of a saloon car a few times, suddenly the whole MPV/SUV/people carrier thing makes sense.
This issue becomes greater with every extra child you have. Add in the possibility that you are also transporting other people’s children (on the school run, to weekend events or if you work as a childminder) or other members of the family, and before you know it, a seven-seater is not a luxury, but a necessity.
So what are the choices? Seven seater vehicles in the UK fall into three (very) broad categories. There are sports utility vehicles (SUVs), multi-purpose vehicles (MPVs) and ‘standard’ four wheel drive/4×4 vehicles. However, there is some overlap. Some SUVs and MPVs are also 4×4. MPVs tend to be aimed at families, while SUVs have added credibility as a ‘lifestyle’ vehicle, purchased not only by families but also by freewheeling pensioners who have taken up surfing, mountain climbers in the north of Scotland, and so on. Four-by-fours were originally aimed at rugged, countryside types who like roaring across muddy fields full of boulders, but these vehicles are also great for transporting children through suburban roads. It is difficult to draw clear distinctions between some of the vehicles in this class.
The good news is that if you are looking to buy a large vehicle, the current market offers some great options. Although the SUV is probably the most fashionable choice, do not overlook MPVs. Most MPVs have the option of folding down some of the seats, which means that they may offer more versatile space for luggage. SUVs usually have higher seats, including the driver’s seat, which particularly appeals to some, but check out the space options before buying. Some SUVs do not offer a huge amount of storage space, particularly if all seating is fixed. However others offer space in abundance, such as the Mercedes GL 7 seater 4×4, which can easily accommodate 7 passengers and still have room for luggage.
Which is right for you?
If you have children who need lifting in and out of the car, or if you expect to transport elderly friends or relatives in the vehicle, ensure that access is appropriate. Some vehicles have seats into which it is difficult to fix a child seat, and some are so far off the ground that older people or those with mobility issues cannot get in or out unaided.
Most seven seaters on the UK market are diesels, but if you are not going to use the vehicle very frequently it may be cost-effective to buy a petrol MPV. This will probably be cheaper and (depending on the level of use) may be comparable in terms of cost to a diesel. The prices of brand new seven seaters vary considerably (particularly since the Dacia Duster entered the market, as Auto Express recently explained; but do check out the secondhand market, where there are often bargains to be found.