The best MPVs have a lot going for them as tow cars. Roomy, cleverly designed interiors offer the ultimate in flexibility: you can cram the whole family – and a c couple of friends – inside to make use of every seat, or stow the seats away to enjoy van-like luggage capacity. Although generally lighter than an SUV, there are heavy cars and make sensible matches for a variety of family caravans.

FORD GALAXY

  • Our favourite 2.0 EcoBlue 190PS Titanium AWD Auto
  • Price £39,520
  • Kerbweight 2019kg
  • 85% match figure 1716kg
  • Legal towing limit 2000kg
  • Noseweight limit 90kg
Ford Galaxy

Most MPVs are front-wheel drive, but a handful have 4×4 versions. They might be niche models, but they can make superb tow cars, combining the practicality of an MPV with the traction of an SUV.

There’s no better example than the Ford Galaxy AWD. It weighs in at an SUV-like 2019kg and has a 2000kg legal towing limit, so there are very few tourers it can’t tow. With 295lb ft of torque, the 2.0-litre diesel engine is strong enough to cope with a big twin-axle caravan.

This is a stable tow car, as well as a heavy one. The Galaxy is solid and secure at 60mph. It takes a gusty crosswind to have the big Ford moving, and even then, any side-to-side motion is slight.

Comfortable ride

Leave the caravan on its pitch and the Galaxy is very rewarding to drive, by MPV standards. The steering is precise and for a two-tonne car, the Galaxy is more agile than you’d expect. The ride is comfortable, too.

As well as ticking the right boxes for the driver, passengers should also be happy. There’s enough room for adults (just about) in the third row, and head- and legroom in the second row are generous. The large windows let plenty of light into the cabin, and add to the impression of space.

The AWD is expensive for an SUV,, although in Titanium spec it dips under the £40,000 barrier, so won’t be liable to the car tax surcharge that pricier vehicles attract. With an official combined figure of 40.4mpg, fuel bills won’t be excessive.

Less powerful, front-wheel-drive versions are every bit as practical if you are on a tighter budget.

PEUGEOT 5008

  • Our favourite 2.0 Blue HDi 180 Allure EAT8
  • Price £35,705
  • Kerbweight 1615kg
  • 85% match figure 1373kg
  • Legal towing limit 1800kg
  • Noseweight limit 72kg
Peugeot 5008

Peugeot markets the 5008 as an SUV, but there’s no 4×4 version. Yes, the Advanced Grip Control system should make the most of the available traction when towing on wet grass, but we think it’s better to think of the 5008 as an MPV in SUV clothes.

There’s good and bad to the 5008’s halfway-house persona. High on the list of good points are the fuel economy and emissions, which ‘proper’ SUVs would struggle to match.

On the debit side, the 5008 isn’t especially heavy. Even the top-spec diesel has a kerbweight of just 1615kg (including 75kg for the driver that Peugeot doesn’t include in the published kerb weight). That gives a modest 85% match figure of 1373kg.

Stable and striking

If that’s enough to make the 5008 a sensible tow car for your van, the Peugeot has much to recommend it. The car will happily bowl along at 60mph, and feels stable in still air. The bow wave of an HGV can unsettle it, but not enough to be alarming.

It’s the cabin of the 5008 that really stands out. The striking design is a bit Marmite, and the small steering wheel takes a little getting use to – you look over it, rather than through, to see the instruments. But it makes a refreshing change.

There’s lots of storage space, and plenty of room in the second row. Seats six and seven are a bit of a squeeze, but should be fine for children. With the third now folded, there’s plenty of room for luggage.

Equipment levels are generous – Allure spec might be one up from the base model, but it comes with everything that you really need.

CITROËN GRAND C4 SPACETOURER

  • Our favourite Blue HDi 160 S&S Feel Plus EAT8
  • Price £33,560
  • Kerbweight 1615kg
  • 85% match figure 1373kg
  • Legal towing limit 1600kg
  • Noseweight limit 70kg
Citroën Grand C4 Spacetourer

The Grand C4 Spacetourer has been around for a while, but more than holds its own against newer models. Thin pillars make for a light, airy interior, and unlike in some seven-seaters, adults won’t need to contort like gymnasts to fit in the third row.

The second row consists of three individual chairs that slide and recline independently. Some models also have handy underfloor storage.

Up front, the driver and passenger have plenty of space, although the minimal dashboard won’t suit everyone. It’s a bit of a faff to use the touchscreen to change the air-con temperature, for example.

Petrol or diesel

With all of the seats upright, luggage space is quite tight, although the same can be said of almost all the Citroën’s rivals. With seats six and seven stashed, luggage space is a generous 632 litres, increasing to 793 litres with the middle row all the way forwards.

If you prefer petrol, the Grand C4 is available with a 130hp turbocharged engine, with either a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Diesel drivers can choose between Blue HDi diesels with either 130hp or 160hp.

Budget allowing, we’d plump for the more powerful of the two diesels. It’s the heaviest in the range, with a kerbweight of 1615kg (including 75kg) for the driver). With 295lb ft of pulling power, it also has 74lb ft more torque than the less powerful diesel.

That’s easily enough to pull a sensibly matched tourer. At speed, it’s a stable and secure tow car. The mid-spec Feel Plus strikes a balance between cost and specification, and will set you back £33,560.

PEUGEOT TRAVELLER

  • Our favourite Blue HDi 180 Allure Long EAT8
  • Price £46,505
  • Kerbweight 1845kg
  • 85% match figure 1588kg
  • Legal towing limit 2300kg
  • Noseweight limit 92kg
Peugeot Traveller

The old ‘van-with-windows’ jibe could be levelled at the Peugeot Traveller. But if you need room for seven on a regular basis, an MPV based on a commercial vehicle can make a lot of sense.

In fact, the Peugeot goes one better, with room for up to eight. Wherever you sit, there’s adult-friendly head- and legroom, so even sitting in the third row isn’t drawing the short straw.

The Traveller is available in two lengths. Go for the ‘Long’ model and you have lots of luggage space, even when every seat is occupied. The ‘Standard’ version is also surprisingly roomy for bags.

Plenty of heft

There’s a choice of diesel engines with 120hp, 130hp or 177hp. In a vehicle of this size and weight, we’d plump for the most powerful engine. Whichever specification or length you choose, Travellers with this engine all weigh close to two tonnes.

Such heft means plenty of family caravans can be matched to the Traveller, and you can expect it to tow them well.

When we tested the big Peugeot in 2017, we found it stable at the motorway limit, although it did start to move around a little in a strong crosswind.

The Traveller isn’t cheap, but it is well equipped. Allure spec includes DAB radio, sat nav, 17-inch alloys, a reversing camera, dual-zone climate control and that coveted rarity – a full-size spare wheel.

Many seven-seaters cost a lot less, and you could have an SUV with a prestige badge for similar money. But any family with several teenage children will find the Traveller’s space a revelation.

VOLKSWAGEN SHARAN

  • Our favourite 2.0 TDI 177PS SE Nav DSG
  • Price £39,795
  • Kerbweight 1865kg
  • 85% match figure 1585kg
  • Legal towing limit 2200kg
  • Noseweight limit 100kg
Volkwsagen Sharan

Volkswagen does have a seven-seat SUV in the Tiguan Allspace, but it can’t match the space and practicality of the Sharan MPV.

The Sharan’s size and boxy shape mean there’s lots of space inside. Even the third row isn’t too cramped and legroom can be improved if passengers sitting in the second row can be persuaded to slide their seats forward just a bit.

Access to the middle and rear seats is easy, thanks to the Sharan’s sliding rear doors. For an extra £680, you can have an electric motor to do the sliding.

There’s a useful 300 litres of boot space, even with seven seats upright, although that luggage capacity has been achieved in part by not having a spare wheel. You’ll just have to put your faith in a can of get-you-home gunk.

Huge boot space

Fold the back seats away and the boot is cavernous. With the middle row stashed too, there’s a massive 2297-litre capacity – more room than you’ll find in any estate car.

It’s not just that the Sharan is practical – it also drives well. Perhaps it’s not as nimble or comfortable as the Ford Galaxy, but it’s certainly not outclassed.

There’s a choice of 150hp petrol and diesel engines, and a 177hp diesel,. For regular towing, we’d pick the more powerful of the two diesels.

With a kerb weight of 1865kg, this model has an 85% match figure of 1585kg. It should comfortably haul a tourer of that weight. Price for the range start from £31,635. Our pick of the line-up, the 2.0 TDI 177PS SE Nav DSG, costs £39,795.

FORD S-MAX

  • Our favourite 2.0 EcoBlue 190hp SR-Line
  • Price £37,850
  • Kerbweight 1902kg
  • 85% match figure 1617kg
  • Legal towing limit 2000kg
  • Noseweight limit 90kg
Ford S-Max

If you need an MPV, but want a car that’s really fun to drive, the Ford S-Max is the one to choose. From the driver’s seat, it’s even better than the Galaxy, with sharp steering, agile handling and a ride that stays just the right side of firm.

It’s every bit as good at towing as regular-driving. As soon as you hitch up and hit the road, the S-Max feels like a car that’s going to take towing in its stride. Even in breezy weather, we’ve found that the S-Max hardly moves around while towing. Long journeys should be stress-free in the Ford.

Rather surprisingly, there are no longer any petrol engine options for S-Max buyers. Instead, there’s a choice between 150hp and 190hp diesel.

The more powerful of the two models is matched to an automatic gearbox, with a choice of front- or four-wheel-drive transmissions.

All-year touring

The 4×4 is the heaviest but also the most expensive model in the range. For four-season touring, it’s the one to go for, but otherwise you’ll still be very well served by the front-wheel-drive model.

If there’s any catch to choosing the S-Max, it’s that it’s not as practical as the Ford Galaxy or the Volkswagen Sharan. There’s less boot space than you’ll find in those cars, with all seven seats upright. Passengers in the third row sit low to the floor, knees pushed up, and don’t have much legroom.

However, in the middle and front seats, there’s more room, and the individual seats in the second row perform all the usual sliding and reclining tricks you’d expect of an MPV.

BUYING USED

Many of the cars on our list of top seven-seaters have been around for a few years, so there are plenty to choose from on the used car market. As a rule of thumb, MPVs don’t tend to hold their value as well as an SUV, which can make them particularly good value secondhand.

For example. we found a VW Sharan 2.0-litre TDI SCR 184PS SEL DSG, which has covered just 20,000 miles, for £21,500. Or how about a 17-plate Peugeot Traveller 2.0 Blue HDi Allure, with 72,000 miles, for £15,990? If the high mileage of 83,000 doesn’t put you off, a 17-plate Ford S-Max 2.0 TDCi 180hp Titanium for £13,985 is a lot of car for the money.

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