Is there a good looking MPV out there?
There are times in one’s motoring life when you must face reality and be sensible. We may want to drive sportscars and have fun but family life can put the brakes on that dream pretty quickly.
Kids are great to have but boy do they soften your cough when it comes to enjoyable motoring. I went from a brilliant mark one MX-5 two seat convertible to a four door saloon when child number one came along. Of course I was overjoyed to have a person in the world who would call me dad, but all of a sudden my mindset shifted. Now every road user was a maniac and the annoying baby on board sticker that I used to joke about made sense. Little people are so precious and sadly a sportscar is utterly useless as a family car.
In the States the Minivan class inspired the European MPV class. Renault’s Espace was the first popular multi purpose vehicle, a car designed to carry people and their stuff first and foremost.
Apart from a sloping front end it looked simply like a box on wheels. When number two child came along a few years later car space became more of an issue in the Sheridan household and the ‘should we get an MPV?’ question was dodged as you can manage two kids and their stuff in a hatchback or saloon car quit easily. By the time our third child arrived we had to completely throw in the towel and get an MPV. My better half at the time had a four seat convertible and we decided it had to go and in its place a seven seat MPV took its place in the driveway.
Multi purpose vehicles are brutally honest machines. They are built from the inside out. Interior space is prioritised – as is ease of access and boot space. The downside with functional interiors is that you ultimately end up with a tall boxy exterior. Parents have to shift their car ownership expectations and get their kicks in a different way. Soon we became very smug about being able to carry the entire house contents in our boxy MPV. What any MPV lacks in cool styling is made up for in sheer practicality. Various MPVs have featured in our household and these ugly yet loved beasts have delivered many a brilliant European road trip holiday. When you eventually sign off on pulling all nighters and finally settle down and act your age (I’m not sure I’ve ever acted my age!) you shift expectations and find yourself enjoying activities you had once joked about like going on family camping holidays.
One of the more memorable MPV trips we took was from Ireland to Italy. We covered over 4,000 kilometres and broke the trip up with a few overnight stays at Keycamp (now Eurocamp) sites along the route. We took a Citroen C8 with its seven seats and electric sliding side doors – we were kings of the road. We fitted it out with our portable DVD player and screens for the kids, an electric cooler box that was great for picnicking and we even had a transformer that could take a domestic three pin plug. Space was filled with all the duvets and pillows from home plus bicycles and toys – that’s the joy of living with MPV… who needs the wind in your hair as you hook up a few tight turns in a sportscar? (Me!) But seriously with a family you can see the appeal and necessity of simple transport that does what you need it to do. MPV motoring will always be the most practical form of transportation and I’ll give you an example of why it is brilliant – on our return from Italy we found ourselves stuck in stationary traffic in lane three on the M25 for an hour. While BMW drivers were in shirtsleeves were shaking their empty Evian water bottles and feeling peckish my lot were having a delicious chilled picnic and watching a movie. I was even able to change my youngest’s nappy on a mini surfboard… in lane three!
Today MPVs are still niche machines and their thunder is being stolen by large SUVs that offer seven seats and are more trendy. SUVs, however fashionable, are compromised by their high floor/ground clearance and passenger access is never as easy as in an MPV.
Are there any good looking MPVs? There are some very well designed ones, the big selling Citroen C4 Picasso is striking and the cockpit is really futuristic and a great place to be.
The new Renault Scenic is another good looker. Styled by Laurens Van Den Acker who can do no wrong at the minute. He was the man behind Mazda’s styling revolution before going to Renault where his whole styling theme is making the French brand cool again.
Okay so it is clear MPVs can never be thrilling to drive and you will never take one out simply for a drive but for a short period in your driving life it will be a loyal friend. My advice is have a history of driving sportscars under your belt before you settle down and get an MPV.
That way when you return to something flashy in later life when the kids have grown you won’t be slagged about having a midlife crisis!!!