Which of these three stylish compact MPVs has the best blend of performance, practicality and panache?
TWO decades ago, the thought of buying an MPV was a depressing one for car lovers.
Most models were bland and boxy-looking, with space and practicality being the main priorities. And in terms of performance and handling, these boxes on wheels were as about as exciting to drive as they were to look at.
These three compact MPVs, however, not only boast snazzy styling, but pretty decent performance, too.
The newest contender in our market is the Toyota Prius+. Replacing the popular Wish model, the Prius+ offers a versatile cabin (it’s the only seven- seater here) and an efficient petrol-electric drivetrain.
With standard 20-inch wheels and a relatively masculine design, the Renault Scenic tries to look more like an SUV than an MPV. It will aim to sway buyers with its well-equipped and lounge-like interior.
The oldest model in this shootout is the Volkswagen Golf SV. But thanks to a recent facelift, the Golf SV doesn’t look a day older than when it first arrived a few years ago. And although passenger space is similar to the previous model’s, there are new amenities to help it stay current.
Which of these MPVs will prove the most tempting to potential buyers with a $120,000 budget? Continue reading and find out.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
Volkswagen’s turbocharged 1.4-litre 4-cylinder with 123hp and 200Nm is the most refined and responsive engine in this story.
Golf SV’s 7-speed dual- clutch gearbox isn’t as seamless as the Scenic’s, but its gearchanges are the speediest of the three.
RIDE & HANDLING
Golf SV is the nimblest of the group, oftentimes feeling no larger than the Golf hatchback it’s based on.
Most practical cockpit has the largest doorbins and offers the most supportive seats, too. Overall visibility here is the best, thanks to the low dashboard and standard blind spot monitor.
Analogue cluster is the most “low-tech” of the group, but is the most user- friendly because the settings are the easiest to access and tweak.
Roomiest backseat of the trio easily accommodates 1.8m tall occupants with headroom to spare. The centre armrest here is also more supportive than the one in the Scenic’s.
Golf SV’s 500-litre capacity (rear seats up) has the lowest loading point, so it’s the most ideal for heavy items. It’s also the only space with separate compartments for loose items.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
Renault’s 1.5-litre 4-cylinder turbo-diesel with 110hp and 260Nm has the meatiest low- end performance.
Scenic’s 7-speed dual-clutch transmission has the sportiest manual override function, as the -/+ points are in the “correct” positions.
RIDE & HANDLING
Scenic’s ride quality is surprisingly good considering its relatively large wheels. Its composed handling adds to the driver’s confidence, too.
Most flexible cockpit is the only one with a sliding centre console, which can accommodate six phablets and a few power banks. Chunky steering wheel has the most positive feel, but the unintuitive cruise control layout continues to be a bugbear.
Snazziest instrument panel of the three is also the most customisable, with four layouts and five colour schemes to suit the driver’s mood.
Shortest backrests of the group make this space more ideal for kids than adults. That said, the Scenic’s unique folding backrests make turning this space into a cargo hold the easiest.
Scenic’s 572-litre boot (rear seats up) is the most convenient, thanks to the remote- folding seats that make it easier to expand the capacity.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
Toyota’s 1.8-litre inline-4 petrol-electric hybrid with 98hp and 142Nm is the least powerful, but by far most efficient drivetrain.
Toyota’s CVT is relatively smooth, but its “rubber band” feel and lack of a manual override function discourages spirited driving.
RIDE & HANDLING
Prius+ has the most pliant and cosseting ride, making it ideal for families who love going on road trips.
First-time MPV owners will appreciate the low seat height, which makes ingress/ egress here the easiest. Overall practicality, however, is the lowest as the storage points are woefully small.
Centrally positioned display can be a novelty for kids, who will enjoy watching the power flow animation. The screen could be bigger, though.
Best for accommodating three adults as it’s the sole contender with a flat floor. And as the only MPV with an extra pair of seats, the Prius+ is the most versatile, too.
Prius+’s 232-litre boot (rearmost seats up) expands to over 500 litres when said seats are folded, but the substantial wheel arch intrusion still means this space is better suited to smaller pieces of luggage.
THE SCENIC HAS THE MOST PANACHE, THE PRIUS+ IS THE MOST VERSATILE AND HAS THE BEST RIDE QUALITY, WHILE THE GOLF SV HAS THE NIMBLEST HANDLING.
Prius+ fob (left) is so light and compact you’ll forget that it’s in your pocket, Scenic’s card-type device (middle) has the most functions; buttons on the Golf SV’s key (right) are the largest and nicest to press.
We thought that this would be a straight comparison, but as it turned out, these three compact MPVs are clearly aimed at three different types of drivers.
The seven-seater Toyota Prius+ has to be the top choice for families with three or more kids. The Prius+ and its extra pair of seats is also the most versatile, because when not in use, said seats can be folded to expand the available boot space.
And with its proven petrol-electric drivetrain, the Prius+ has the clear advantage when it comes to economy and running costs, too.
For all its flexibility, the Prius+ surprisingly isn’t very practical, for its storage points are rather small. And despite Toyota’s powerful air-con, we’re pretty sure backseat passengers would appreciate some rear air-con vents.
We love the Renault Scenic’s design and as petrolheads, definitely like the look of its 20-inch wheels, too.
The Scenic’s meaty low-end performance is also something we enjoyed, because it’s perfectly suited to city driving conditions.
We also love the Scenic’s cool cockpit, with its customisable instrument panel and sliding centre console. But we were less impressed with the rear bench’s short backrests and the boot’s relatively high loading point.
The most well-rounded MPV in this story is the Volkswagen Golf SV.
It may not have the versatility of the Prius+ or the stylishness of the Scenic, but the Golf SV delivers where it counts.
This VW’s cockpit accords the driver the best all-round visibility. Its infotainment system is the most intuitive and its backseat is the roomiest in this segment.
Performance-wise, the Golf SV is also the most appealing MPV in the story. Keen drivers with a $120k budget should definitely consider this contender.
PHOTOS TAN MENG CHOON
ART DIRECTION MICHAEL CHIAN