But far from being the dull boxes of the old days modern MPVs are a darned sight more interesting. Car manufacturers have realised making an MPV desirable in its own right is a good thing and actually achievable. Citroen’s C4 Picasso is the latest example.
Presented here in seven-seat Grand Picasso form (five-seat version also available) it gets off to a flying start by virtue of its looks.
It’s a sleek and spacious form with some eye-catching details, notably the full-length silver roof rails that curve neatly to the rear. At the front are slim and elegant LED lights while at the rear even more interesting 3D-effect lights that wrap neatly into the tailgate.
And why shouldn’t MPVs look attractive? The Grand Picasso’s kerb appeal draws you in, and once you’ve stepped inside there’s more. Citroen has worked hard to make the interior more than just the place to sit; it claims the largest glazed area in the class and once inside it’s hard to doubt it.
Much has also been made of the ‘lounge’ feel to the cabin. Front occupants can have massage seats while the front passenger a motorised footrest to give them the fully-reclined airline style experience – although taller occupants will find a lack of foot room in this position.
But there’s a strong sense of style, with different textures and trims. Nice though the cloth seats are the leather option is not only more hardy but boosts the luxury feel.
Citroen has also torn up the rule book for the driver and rather than conventional instruments the Grand Picasso has a fully-digital display mounted centrally in the dashboard.
Ergonomically speaking that’s the best place for them but it also adds to the feeling of space. The screens are 7 and 12 inches with the former operating as touchscreen control to many functions, giving the dashboard a clean and uncluttered feel although you do need to spend a little time to find your way around.
It’s easier to get lost in the cabin though. The Grand Picasso has 645-litres of boot space in its five-seat configuration, an increase of 69 litres over the outgoing model. That can be boosted to 790 litres if you slide the second row of seats forward. And should you feel the need to play van driver, fold the seats down and there’s 2,181 litres of space to fill.
All that is good news, but the Grand Picasso still needs to drive like a car rather than a minibus. Happily the driving experience is impressive.
The Grand Picasso is based on Citroen’s new EMP2 platform, just like the regular-sized Picasso - meaning a stiff structure. As well as boosting safety it helps the ride and handling; the Grand Picasso feels more nimble and stable than size and shape would suggest, and the ride quality is also impressive.
The worst urban warts do make themselves known but won’t disturb your passengers. Noise levels are also well managed, and with air vents dotted throughout everyone can stay comfortable. It’s clearly capable of being loaded with people and luggage and travelling big distances with ease.
You’ll get a long way on a tank of fuel too. The new BlueHDi 150 engine fitted uses a new design of exhaust to reduce emissions and fuel consumption to impressively-low levels; 110g/km of CO2 when fitted with the manual gearbox. The automatic makes life even easier for the driver and only adds another 7g/km.
There’s no shortage of options in the seven-seat MPV market, but right now the Grand Picasso manages to offer as much practicality and usability as its key rivals with a hefty dose of style and luxury to boot.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Citroen C4 Grand Picasso BlueHDi 150 Exclusive £25,000(approx.)
Engine: 2.0-litre diesel unit producing 150bhp and 273lb.ft of torque
Transmission: Six-speed manual gearbox driving the front wheels
Performance: Top speed 130mph, 0-62mph in 9.8 seconds
Economy: 67.2mpg combined
Emissions: 110g/km of CO2