Which of these seven-seater turbo-diesel MPVs does the most convincing job of moving families and motivating drivers?
WHEN you need efficiency and lots of low-end torque, nothing does the job better than a diesel engine.
That’s why a diesel- powered MPV (multi-purpose vehicle) is more ideal than a petrol-powered one, especially when it has a full complement of passengers and their belongings.
The newest contender in this segment is the Renault Grand Scenic. It looks sportier than a typical MPV with its “windswept” windows and standard 20-inch wheels, which are the biggest on any MPV today. Apart from its sleek design, the Grand Scenic also promises a roomier cabin and more amenities than before.
The other “Grand” in this contest is the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso. Its futuristic looks and advanced cockpit have clearly endeared it to buyers, for it is the most popular model in the Citroen range. With a smoother automatic transmission replacing the clunky automated manual gearbox, this other French player is likely to be more compelling than ever.
Taking on these two Gallic competitors is a lone German – the Volkswagen Touran. Compared to the previous model, the current Touran is less boxy, more roomy and more powerful than before. But will it be good enough to tempt buyers away from other Leng Kee Road showrooms?
Now, which of these MPVs pleases families as much as it motivates drivers? Read on and find out.
RENAULT GRAND SCENIC 1.5
Renault’s 1.5-litre turbo-diesel 4-pot with 110bhp and 260Nm is the most refined engine of the trio.
Most driver-friendly and practical space offers the most commanding driving position and numerous storage points for loose items. The movable centre bin adds flexibility, too.
Grand Scenic’s seats are, disappointingly, the least cushy, but parents who use gadgets to keep their kids entertained will appreciate the two USB ports and 12-volt outlet for recharging devices.
Comfy for small children only, as access is the trickiest, while the space itself is the most compact of the three MPVs.
Grand Scenic’s 165-litre boot (all seats up) has the tallest loading height, making it better for lighter items. The remote-folding seats make this the most convenient load hauler.
CITROEN GRAND C4 PICASSO 1.6
Citroen’s 1.6-litre turbo-diesel 4-pot produces the most power and torque in this test – 120bhp and 300Nm.
Most comfortable for road trips as it has the softest front seats, complete with massage functions, plus the widest footrest and the most expansive windscreen. The infotainment system is the least intuitive, though.
Grand Picasso has the best legroom thanks to the flat floor, while the tray tables, which have integral LED lights for reading, are the most useful. The Citroen’s B-pillar air-con vents have fan speed controls, unlike those in the Grand Scenic.
Longest wheelbase makes ingress/egress the easiest. The soft cushions and extra pair of air-convents make this area the most comfortable, too.
Touran’s 137-litre boot (all seats up) is the most flexible, as it has the most anchoring points and properly partitioned underfloor storage, which stops items from sliding into the passenger compartment.
VOLKSWAGEN TOURAN 1.6
Volkswagen’s 1.6-litre turbo-diesel 4-pot with 116bhp and 250Nm feels the most enthusiastic and delivers the quickest century sprint.
Great for newbie MPV drivers as the Touran is the most car-like of the three MPVs, with the lowest dashboard and the most logical controls. But the smaller storage points make this place less practical than its rivals.
Touran is the most family-friendly as it has the largest doorbins, and the seats here are the most comfortable. But the low placement of the air-convents means it’ll take longer to cool the rear cabin.
Most spacious, with enough legroom for occupants up to 1.7m tall. The narrow seatbacks, however, are meant for people of average build.
Grand C4 Picasso’s 233-litre boot (all seats up) is the best for hauling heavy and bulky cargo, as it has the largest aperture and lowest loading height. There is a detachable/ rechargeable torchlight for emergencies.
If you want the least van-like MPV, then you’ll find the Renault Grand Scenic the most appealing. With its high driving position, the Grand Scenic feels more like a sports utility vehicle (SUV) than an MPV.
The Renault’s other strengths include its practical cabin and nifty remote seat-folding function. Reconfiguring the cabin’s layout couldn’t be easier.
The seats, however, can only be pulled upright manually. But if you can live with this and the fact that the third row has the least amount of space, then the Grand Scenic could be the torquey MPV for you.
Unlike the Renault, the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso doesn’t attempt to hide its generous dimensions or its purpose as a people-mover.
Aside from being the most spacious, it is also the most comfortable of the group – even the third row has air-con vents. And although there’s no remote folding function, pulling the seatbacks upright requires the least effort.
The Grand C4 Picasso’s only drawback is its relatively relaxed performance. But this won’t be a problem for family men who prioritise comfort and spaciousness above all else.
If you need an MPV but have never driven one before, look no further than the Volkswagen Touran. Compared to its predecessor, this latest model is even more driver-friendly, with its idiot-proof dashboard.
Other strong points include a responsive engine and smooth dual-clutch gearbox. Keen drivers will appreciate the relatively swift acceleration, which should make school and office runs less of a chore.
The Touran’s only downsides are its small boot (with all seven seats up) and big price tag. At press time, the torquey VW family transporter costs $6.9k and $10.9k more than the Renault Grand Scenic and Citroen Grand C4 Picasso respectively.
PHOTOS TAN MENG CHOON
ART DIRECTION SEAN LEE