The arrival of the second or third baby is a nerve-wracking time. Sure, you reckon you’ve seen it all before, but seeing it all again with the older brood to make things even more fun, not to mention complicated. And there’s all that stuff. Travel cots, playpens, bouncers, buggies… You name it, you need to get it in the car. And then there are the weekend trips with the grandparents to factor in, before you know it you’re looking at seven seaters.
It’s definitely time to forget the family car advice for first-time parents. The second (or third, fourth even) time around you know about the pitfalls of high boot lines and how much you appreciated the Isofix advice. Now, seven-seaters come in two distinct varieties; SUVs and MPVs. The latter is about as desirable as bunions these days, so they’re a dying breed.
If you have three young children and need multiple booster seats and/or child seats, it’s worth giving MPVs serious thought. They often have three individual seats that slide independently of each other and have Isofix fittings for every seat, which is the holy grail of easy and safe motoring if you have many little ones.
It’s very rare, but not unheard of, for a seven-seater to have Isofix in the third row of seats. The sixth and seventh seats typically fold up out of the boot floor and are designed more for occasional trips to football practice rather than constant use.
So here is One Woman Owner’s pick of the best used seven-seaters, to suit your budget and lifestyle.
Seven Seaters Under £5000…
Our pick: 2.0 TDCi manual Titanium
Try not to let the dreaded ‘MPV’ category put you off, because if there’s any MPV that manages to evade the beige image, it’s this one. The Ford S-Max was a revolution for making functional, roomy seven-seaters fun to drive and good to look at. It was comfortable but surprisingly entertaining, and is plenty fast enough in our preferred 2.0 TDCi variant, too.
Plus, this thing is hard to fault for practicality. Only bigger MPVs or SUVs like the Ford Galaxy, Seat Alhambra or later Land Rover Discovery models have better space in the back. Critically, the Ford has usable boot space even with all seven seats in use, so you can get a lightweight buggy and some bags in as well as the grandparents and all the kids.
When you don’t need the third road of seats, you have a huge, well-shaped boot that’ll take all the Bugaboo accessories and football kits you could want. Fold down the middle row of seats (which is made up of three sliding and reclining seats, all with Isofix fittings) and it rivals a van.
The automatic gearbox is a bit slow and clunky in this generation of S-Max, but it’ll do the job if you don’t want a manual, while Titanium is the best trim. Sat-nav was an expensive option even on Titanium, and looks seriously dated these days so don’t pay any extra to get it. Go for lower mileage over high spec – these turbodiesel engines do suffer some common issues at higher mileage.
Our pick: 1.6 HDi manual Exclusive
The Peugeot 5008 morphed from an MPV to an SUV with the new generation in 2017, but the estate-car like MPV was a great seven-seater and is a good value used buy. It doesn’t have the fun handling and vast roominess of the Ford S-Max – in particular, there’s quite a bit less space behind the third row of seats if you’ve got a full complement of passengers.
There are still three individual sliding seats with Isofix fittings in the middle, and the outer ones spring forward easily to give good access to the seats in the back. Plus, in five seat mode the huge boot that’ll take a medium-sized dog crate and a chunky off-road buggy, or if you drop the middle row you’ll get a couple of adult bikes in fairly easily if you take the front wheels off. T
The manual 1.6 HDi is a good bet for value and efficiency, and as long as you avoid sparsely equipped Access trim, you get the essential comforts. We favour Exclusive as it gets a comfier driver’s seat, climate control and cruise control, as well as auto lights and wipers, and rear parking sensors.
Seven Seaters Under £10,000…
Our pick: 2.2 CRDi automatic KX-2
The Kia Sorento is a big, cushy diesel SUV that’s practical and pleasant to drive. The occasional seats in the back are just that – occasional. But despite the high floor that can have your knees around your ears in the rearmost seats, kids will be fine on the school run, and those seats fold flat to leave a big boot. The diesel engine’s a bit noisy and you’ll probably only see real-world economy of around 30-35mpg in this hefty SUV, whether you go for the manual or the more recommendable automatic.
Even so, the Sorento has a good reputation for reliability, an interior that wears heavy family use well, and all the space and ruggedness you could wish for. Plus, the all-season security of the four-wheel drive will appeal to a lot of family motorists, and this is a good towing wagon as well if you’ve got a caravan to consider. It does only have two sets of Isofix fittings in the middle row, mind. KX-2 gets loads of equipment including heated leather seats, but sat-nav was optional. KX-3 has everything you could wish for but does cost more. We’d got for lower mileage KX-2.
Citroen Grand C4 Picasso
Our pick: e-HDi 115 Exclusive+
I know you wanted the Audi Q7. And you can get one at this price, but only with a lot of miles and years under its wheels, so you’re investing a lot in a car that’s got rather limited life left in it… Which is why we favour this. The Citroen Grand C4 Picasso is not an SUV, but it’s a great MPV.
Vast, spacious enough even for adults to sit in the back, with brilliant visibility and it even looks pretty cool… if you can get over the fact that it’s not an SUV. Plus, the 1.6 diesel engine is very economical, although it’s better enjoyed with the manual gearbox (the auto is very slow to respond and can be annoying), and at this price you can get a car with low miles and masses of equipment.
Of course, there are three individual sliding and folding seats in the middle row, complete with three sets of Isofix – even the front passenger seat folds flat, plus there’s a huge boot with two decent seats that fold up and down easily. Go for Exclusive+ trim, which is easy to get at this price, and you get everything you could want including part-leather, sat-nav, climate control and parking sensors.
Seven Seaters Under £15,000…
Our pick: 3.0 TDI SE
Okay, at this price the big but loveable Audi is a good bet but go for lower mileage if you can. You can still get more equipment in a younger and newer car if you look to less prestige brands, but the Q7 has a fair reputation for reliable, an image to make your neighbours envious and the sort of presence on the road that makes you feel smug and superior.
The 3.0 TDI V6 diesel engine is a joy to use, and of course the seven-seat interior is room and practical. A ‘proper’ MPV will offer more space in the rearmost seats, but you’ll still get younger kids in the fold-up seats easily enough, the boot is huge in five-seat mode, and you have Audi’s permanent Quattro four-wheel drive for peace of mind. SE is a good bet for balance of equipment and cost, as it’s cheaper than S Line and still gets heated, electrically controlled leather seats, climate control and cruise control amongst a host of other stuff.
While running costs for the big Audi, including tyres, servicing and economy of circa 30mpg in everyday use, will be more expensive than ‘budget’ alternatives like the Kia Sorento, the Audi holds onto its value far better than less premium rivals so you’ll get a good price if or when you choose to sell it on.
Our pick: 2.4 D5 SE Lux
The big Volvo has similar kudos to the Audi Q7 in its prestige brand and brash looks. At this price you can get a circa 2011-2012 car with low mileage, full service history and loads of equipment. SE Lux is hard to beat as it gets everything you could want including heated leather seats, climate and cruise control and parking sensors.
Don’t worry too much about finding a car with nav, as it’s looking very dated now and was always a tricky system to use. You’re better off with an App on your phone or an aftermarket portable sat-nav.
Ultimately, the Volvo’s a great family car, with a fraction more space in the rear seats than you get in the Q7. It’s not economical, so expect 25mpg in everyday use, and other running costs can be quite high, too, but it’s a realiable and safe car, with a plush image and presence that’ll cater for everything from muddy dogs to trips to the tip and family ski holidays.