Cars are for transportation. That’s all they’ve ever been used for since we moved from horse-drawn carriages to motorised automobiles. Yes, there are luxurious cars, fast cars and beautiful cars but, ultimately, they all do the same job – taking people and luggage from one place to another.
In order to achieve this, versatility is a must. Most ‘normal’ family cars come with a bench layout for the rear seats. While this still makes that car very practical, a more practical solution can be to have three individual seats.
Three individual rear seats allow you to fit three full-sized adults in comfort or three child seats at once. For big families, this could mean the difference between being forced into a seven-seater or a car that’s just the right size.
Citroen C4 Picasso
The Citroen C4 Picasso is probably one of the best looking, reasonably priced cars on the market. This translates into the cabin where the minimalist dashboard brings an almost designer feel to proceedings.
All models come as standard with Bluetooth, DAB digital radio, air-conditioning, a panoramic windscreen, cruise control and a seven-inch touch-screen.
The C4 Picasso boasts class leading levels of boot space with 537 litres with the seats in place and 1,851 with them folded down. The boot itself doesn’t have a load lip which aids in the placing and removal of heavy objects, and it has a completely flat floor.
On the inside – much like the C4 Picasso – it has a minimalist dashboard housing a tablet-like touch-screen which dominates the experience. There are swathes of leather and wood everywhere which makes the cabin feel extremely luxurious. It’s not quite Audi good, but it acquires that same Scandinavian feel that every Volvo car has, and that’s fine by us.
The XC90, like its predecessor is a seven-seater, and with the rear-most seats in place, it can still hold 451 litres and 1,951 litres with the second and third row of seats folded down.
Even though the Ford S-Max was first launched in 2006, it’s still one of those cars which blends both driving enjoyment and family practicality in such a way as to raise the question “why would I buy any other car?”
All cars get dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth and parking sensors front and rear. The higher spec Titanium and Titanium X trims adds things such as DAB digital radio, a touch screen sat nav, leather seats and lower suspension.
The S-Max is a seven seater, although third row seats are only really spacious enough for children. Each seat in the second row can slide forwards or backwards independently much like the front seats and they can also recline if needed.
It does, however, improve practicality, making the Prius a genuine seven-seater and the second row now houses three individual seats which can all move forward and backwards as well as recline. The footwell is completely flat improving space for the middle passenger.
With the third row seats in place, the boot space is only 200 litres but there’s 505 litres with them folded. With all the seats folded there’s a capacious 1,750 litres available.
The Peugeot 5008 had a midlife face-lift in 2014 and it’s all the better for it. The sharper, cleaner looks make the 5008 a much more attractive car.
Everything else about the 5008 is unchanged so you still get a stylish interior, a range of economical engines, a smooth ride and a respectable Euro NCAP safety rating. All models come with Bluetooth as well as traction control and ESC (electronic stability control).
The 5008 is a genuine seven-seater but, even with all the seats in place, you get 679 litres of boot space. With all the seats folded, you get a van-like 2,506 litres of space.
Like the other cars here, the second row of seats can individually recline and slide forwards or backwards to suit everyone’s needs.
The Renault Scenic has always been a byword for practical family motoring for many, many years but, with hot new competition coming from all flanks, it looks like the Scenic could be under threat.
It’s still a great car though – everyone travelling in the Scenic will be comfortable thanks to the acres of cabin space and the car’s comfortable and refined ride. There’s lots of standard equipment including Bluetooth, air-conditioning, cruise-control and USB connectivity.
Boot space is commendable, holding 522 litres with the rear seats in place and 1,837 litres if the seats are completely removed. Again, like the other cars here, the rear seats can slide forwards and backwards independently as well as having the ability to recline.
SEAT’s Alhambra is an extremely practical car – thanks to its versatile seats, it not only provides genuine space for adults to sit in comfort but it provides vast amounts of boot space. With all the three rows of seats in place, there’s only 267 litres available but, fold the third row down, and there’s 809 litres. Fold the second row and you get a whopping 2,297 litres.
For such a large vehicle, it’s pleasant to drive with well-controlled body roll and the refinement and ride comfort is sublime.
It’s well equipped too. It’s the cheapest model here offered with tri-zone climate control and Bluetooth plus full length curtain air bags. Spend a little extra and you can get things like satellite navigation, leather upholstery, heated seats and a panoramic sunroof.
All models come with sliding doors making getting into the vehicle easier when wedged in tight parking areas.
Vauxhall Zafira Tourer
Like the Citroen C4 Picasso, the Vauxhall Zafira Tourer is a striking car indeed. The ‘face’ takes inspiration from the futuristic Ampera but the cabin is conventional Vauxhall with a similar design found in most of its cars.
The Zafira Tourer is a seven-seater but the rear-most seats are best left for short journeys if you plan on carrying adults back there. Unlike the original Zafira, this Tourer model gets independent seating rather than a conventional bench set up and so lets you individually recline or slide any seat you want.
It’s also a very economical machine with the most frugal engine – the 1.6-litre CDTi ecoFlex returns nearly 70mpg on average. The boot is very commodious and, with all the seats down, there’s a flat load bay to help transport large objects.
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