During the 80s and 90s, you couldn’t go far without seeing a Mitsubishi L300 Sport Pack, Nissan Homy or Mazda Bongo Brawny on our roads. Catering to the needs of motorists who needed a vehicle with the capacity of a coach, they were usually carrying around large families but although these vans – because that’s really what they were – offered extra space, they never provided passengers with all the creature comforts of a car. They still had all the characteristics of a van, including the brakes, handling and, most of all, appearance.
The Toyota Previa
Mitsubishi, Mazda and Toyota were just some of the manufacturers who quickly spotted a gap in the market for a vehicle that would suit larger families looking for capacity and comfort.
So was born the multi-purpose vehicle (MPV). Their popularity hasn’t waned and, a couple of decades on, they offer excellent safety and comfort for Kiwi drivers with lots of passengers.
One size rarely fits all, and it’s the same for MPVs. They’re available in a variety of sizes so, if you’re buying one, you do still have to think about how often you’ll be using it, for what and for how many people.
Small and medium models tend to focus on space for occupants, and sometimes luggage isn’t taken into account. If you’re a regular holiday-goer with two or more children under 5, a small MPV isn’t going to leave you with much storage once everyone is buckled up. Smaller MPVs however, such as the Nissan Lafesta or the Honda Edix, are well suited to those who have merely outgrown a sedan, and usually their price can be only marginally more expensive, if not the same.
The Toyota Previa and Mazda MPV are mid-size and large MPVs, offering good comfort and space for growing families. The larger vehicles in this category will often adopt innovative door configurations that slide and sometimes they’re even power-assisted, so getting in and out is easy for all.
Sometimes they’ll incorporate an elaborate seat folding system as well, offering the capacity of a van without compromising comfort. If you have young children, some models also include ISOFIX points – the international standard for attachment points for child safety seats – making installation easy. Some wider models will accommodate three infant seats across the back seat.
Comfort counts, too
As well as being practical vehicles, MPVs often come loaded with family-friendly features such as good entertainment systems, USB connectivity, DVD/media players and more cup holders than you’ll ever need.
The Honda Odyssey is a great vehicle that provides plenty of comfort for backseat passengers. Its two captain seats in the second row include built-in leg and arm rests, which look like they’ve come straight out of furniture shop, and other models come equipped with swivelling seats. Venting and climate control in the rear compartments is another neat benefit in some models, with the aim of maximising comfort.