Saturday 3 December 2016

Choosing your model for those babies on board

Seven-seat cars were seen as distress purchases but now promise much more than simple practicality

Published 24/01/2016 | 02:30

The Ford Grand C-Max may not be the most stylish, but the accessible rear seats are a boon
The Ford Grand C-Max may not be the most stylish, but the accessible rear seats are a boon
The BMW Gran Tourer looks well inside but is rather pricey
The Volkswagen Touran is practical, good to drive and feels really well built

For many people, buying an MPV is a rite of passage, that time in life when the last vestiges of youth's frivolity dissipate in favour of night feeds and school runs. But as a parent of two young boys and a few dogs in tow, I have to admit the charms of a seven-seater are hard to ignore. The good news is that MPVs are no longer just about space; driving dynamics and kerb appeal are just as important. We look at three new options recently launched to suit a range of budgets.

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Ford Grand C-Max

Ford brought credible dynamics to the MPV sector and the new C-Max is no exception. Revamped in 2015, the C-Max offers seating for five while the more expensive and larger Grand C-Max comes with seven seats.

The Grand C-Max is not the most stylish of seven-seaters but the rear sliding doors makes access to the rear seats particularly easy. Storage space ranges from 65 to 755 litres, depending on seating and can extend to 1715 with just the front seats in place.

Inside, the Focus-style dashboard is a welcome addition and has a stack of high-tech options. While the quality has improved throughout, both the Touran and Gran Tourer feel a little more luxurious. Ford's voice-activated connectivity system, Sync, is also now available.

On the road, the Grand C-Max does not disappoint, the steering is sharp, the ride is smooth and it corners with almost as much composure as a hatchback. Ford has improved the refinement and this is particularly noticeable at high speeds.

Available in two trim levels - Zetec and Titanium - and with three engine options, the pick of the bunch is the 120PS 1.5-litre TDCi diesel engine that replaces the old 1.6-litre unit. There's also a 100bhp 1.0 Ecoboost petrol and a 2.0TDCi 150bhp diesel, available as both manual and automatic.

Prices for the all-new Grand C-Max start at €28,455 for a 1.0L Ecoboost Zetec, rising to €35,000 for the 2.0TDCi Automatic Titanium version.

Standard equipment includes 16ins alloys, front fogs, air conditioning, privacy glass, leather steering wheel, rear parking sensors and electric folding mirrors. Upgrading to Titanium will get you 17ins alloys, cruise control, chrome detailing, LED daytime running lights, climate control, keyless start, auto lights and wipers and roof rails.

The Grand C-Max is well priced and offers a lot for the money, although the overall quality inside is not quite on a par with rivals and boot space is tiny with all seven seats in use. Overall, it is good to drive and economical and the sliding doors are particularly useful for families with very young kids.

BMW Gran Tourer

Billed as the "first premium compact model to offer up to seven seats," the Gran Tourer is BMW's new family ferry, with driving dynamics to merit the badge and large enough to haul a small hockey team.

BMW now offers two people carriers, the five-seat Active Tourer, which is designed to appeal to young families who want a little more space, while the Gran Tourer is all about those crucial seven seats. At 214mm longer than the Active Tourer, there is decent space for three kids in the standard arrangement, each with individual isofix mountings and the optional third row can also accommodate two child seats.

There is also a huge amount of cubby holes and storage areas and a host of family features, including folding tables at the rear of the front seats.

On the road, it offers a more rewarding drive than many rivals, so if driving dynamics is high on your list, the Gran Tourer may be a pricey option but it will be a tempting alternative. Engines range from the entry-level, three-cylinder 216d diesel to the top of-the-range 220d with four-wheel drive. In between are a 218i and 220i petrol and 218d diesel.

Prices for the Gran Tourer start at €36,750, which is almost €4,000 more than for the Active Tourer. The range-topping 220d xDrive M Sport is €51,660. The standard specification includes intelligent emergency call, Bluetooth, collision warning with city braking function and BMW's iDrive infotainment system. In addition to the standard SE version, the new BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer is available in Sport, Luxury and M Sport.

If you're moving to an MPV from something more sporty, then this could be the car that makes the switch just a little bit easier. The Gran Tourer is stylish inside and out and good to drive but is pricey compared to rivals.

Volkswagen Touran

Longer, wider and lighter than the model it replaces, the Touran has always been a good choice for families. The new model brings a boost to the styling and quality.

The front two rows of seats are particularly spacious and all three seats in the middle row have an Isofix anchor point. There are two more so you can fit five child seats.

While the third row is only really suitable for small children, the seating arrangement is particularly good and all the rear seats can be folded completely flat with ease.

On the road, it feels just like a large Golf, with good driving dynamics. There is a choice of a 1.2 TSI petrol with 110bhp or, in diesel, a 1.6 TDI 110bhp or 2.0 TDI 150bhp and three trim levels to choose from: Trendline, Comfortline and Highline.

Prices start at €29,725 for 1.2 TSI petrol. The base Trendline model comes with air conditioning, a 5ins touchscreen infotainment system, start/stop technology, daytime running lights, active engine hood, connectivity package including Bluetooth and forward collision warning system. Comfortline adds 16ins alloys, front fogs, park distance control, 6.5ins Composition audio system with CD player and cruise control.

The top-of-the-range Highline models come with velour seats, adaptive cruise control, three-zone climate control, sports suspension and 17ins alloys. For 161 models there's a special offer upgrade pack for €161 on Comfortline and Highline models, which includes a panoramic sunroof, Parallel Park Assistant and auto-dimming headlight.

The new Touran is very practical, good to drive and feels really well built. It is probably the best compromise of the three, it feels more solid inside than the C-Max but is not as good to drive as the Gran Tourer. It is however, well priced and equipped and is the most spacious.

Sunday Independent

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