Vehicle Comparisons

BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer

BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer

BMW's 2 Series Gran Tourer is a seven-seat compact MPV that offers a classier, more interesting alternative to a conventional Grand C-MAX or Grand Scenic-style People Carrier. Here's the improved version. This appealing spin on ordinary family motoring will probably attract a ready audience amongst people who maybe never thought they'd be buying from this Munich maker. They won't be getting 'the ultimate driving machine' because that's not what they need. Getting instead what may very well be 'the ultimate small people carrier' though, will suit them very well indeed.

It probably won't come as any great surprise that the 2 Series Gran Tourer features most of the same engines that the 2 Series Active Tourer uses. They're all cleverly spun off the same modular base, the opener being the 140hp 1.5-litre three-cylinder 218i, which will scuttle to 62mph in 9.5 seconds. Graduate to the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engine in the 220i and you're looking at 192hp, which translates to 62mph disappearing in less than eight seconds. There's a trio of diesels, starting with the 116hp 216d, while the 150hp 218d is the best seller. At the top of the range is the 220d xDrive version, sending its 190hp to the front or to all four wheels, depending on whether or not you pay extra for the xDrive option. It's just as quick to 62mph as the 220i.

Power on mainstream variants is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox; as an option, BMW offers a seven-speed Steptronic transmission for the three-cylinder engines, while the four-cylinder motors can be coupled with an eight-speed Steptronic transmission (standard in the BMW 220d xDrive Gran Tourer). The 10-millimetre-lower M Sport suspension is standard on the M Sport trim and also available as a separate option. As an alternative, drivers can choose a chassis with Dynamic Damper Control: using the Driving Experience Control switch, two different damping settings are available.

On to design and practicality. BMW has tried to liven up the look of this revised version a little with a larger front kidney grille, redesigned front fog lamps, smarter wheel designs and twin tail pipes on all four cylinder variants. Otherwise, it's as you were. The longer wheelbase of the 2 Series Gran Tourer affords a little more elegance of line to its profile. All in, it's 214mm longer than the five-seat car and actually sits 53mm higher. The longer wheelbase of 2,780mm provides a decent slug of interior space and the elevated roofline affords respectable headroom in the back as well as making the car easier to get in and out of. Three child seats can be mounted in the second row, and a further two can be fitted in the third row.

The second row seat slides fore and aft by 130mm, depending on whether you're prioritising legroom or luggage space. The backrest also reclines a few degrees. If maximum stowage space is required, the 40:20:40-split rear seat backrest can be remotely unlocked by pressing a button in the boot, then folded down to create an almost level cargo floor. The front passenger backrest can also be lowered to allow long objects up to 2.6m in length to be transported. The tailgate can be opened and closed automatically by push button operation or, optionally, via one of those sensors that has you hopping about waving your foot under the bumper.

Ultimately, this car is all about the democratisation of premium quality. Why should you be denied a prestige badge just because you've a growing family and need seven seats? With a 2 Series Gran Tourer, you don't have to be. OK, it's probably not the BMW you ideally wanted back in your college years but today, it may well be the one you actually need. Certainly if compromises have to be made to suit changes in your life, then this car represents a remarkably pleasant way of making them, creating an MPV you could want from the kind of one you might merely need. There's something to be said for that. Life happens - but there's no reason why you can't better enjoy the journey.

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Volkswagen Touran

Volkswagen Touran

Volkswagen's improved third generation Touran is designed to compete with the best that the compact 7-seater MPV class can offer. Underpinnings from a Golf hatch bring with them highly efficient engines that complement neat design and general quality that can't be bettered in the Scenic and C-MAX sector.

As the demand for MPVs has grown, so has the demand that they drive more like 'normal' cars. The Touran has always been relatively good dynamically but more will be expected of this model, which is longer, wider, lighter than its predecessors and comes equipped with a range of petrol and diesel engines that are more powerful.

Buyers get a choice of five Euro6 engine variants - two petrol and three diesel. All are four-cylinder direct injection units with turbocharging. The 1.2-litre and 1.4-litre petrol TSI powerplants develop 110PS and 150PS respectively. The diesel engine range starts with a 1.6-litre 115PS unit, plus there's a 2.0-litre powerplant with 150PS and 190PS options. The fastest diesel comes only with a DSG auto gearbox and this auto transmission is optional with other engines beyond the entry-level 1.2-litre petrol unit.

Volkswagen hopes these refined engines will make this Touran one of the most agile MPVs on the market. In the driver's seat, the steering column has been pitched at a slightly flatter angle to the dash and the steering wheel is more upright for a sportier feel. The dash panel has also been redesigned with a more driver-oriented layout.

From the outside, this model is still unmistakeably a Touran but, due to its longer wheelbase, it now looks sleeker and sharper. At the front, the slim lower breather opening accentuates this MPV's width and low centre of gravity. Below the side windows is a contoured shoulder line starting above the front wheel arch which also emphasises its length. Long side windows add to what Volkswagen hopes is a light, sporty appearance.

This MK3 model Touran is the first MPV the brand has based upon its Modular Transverse Matrix chassis, which allows a larger wheelbase and extra room inside. You notice this in the 743-litre luggage bay - which can be increased to 1,980-litres with the seats folded: it's the biggest in its class, making this an ideal family MPV. The passenger aspect of the interior has been completely restyled. Its strongest selling point is the second row seats which can now be folded flat with the luggage compartment floor. That family-friendliness is added to by no fewer than 47 storage compartments.

The Touran has already established a strong following amongst growing families. All it really needed was a little more of a spark, both in way it looked and performed. This improved third generation version is about as far as Volkswagen is prepared to go in that direction, with sharper looks, even higher quality and a range of more efficient engines.

Will it be enough? Maybe not to shift this car's appeal too far from those who would have bought one anyway but it remains the quality choice at the upper end of the compact 7-seater MPV sector - and a surprisingly affordable one. It's not an avant garde option but it's a stylishly safe one - and there's a lot to be said for that.

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Ford Grand C-MAX

Ford Grand C-MAX

The Ford Grand C-MAX seven-seat compact MPV has been spruced up with sharper styling, more efficient engines and a whole host of clever technological highlights. The 1.5-litre diesel engine is sure to vanish out of showrooms fast, so you might need to move quickly there. What other options are there for those who relish a decent drive and need seven-seat practicality?

If asked what sort of MPV we'd recommend, we'd normally ask "do you like driving?" and if the answer came back positive, the answer has tended to be a Ford C-MAX - or the 7-seat 'Grand' version if you need the extra space. It seems simple but that right there is the big draw card of the Grand C-MAX. It's a car that operates in the distress purchase sector of the market, where it's needed rather than wanted, but still manages to bring an element of surprise and delight. The sheer joy of realising that MPV ownership needn't be boring is something to behold.

This time round with this improved MK1 model, Ford has paid particular attention to improving refinement. Noise, vibration and harshness have been improved through the use of thicker side glass and more absorbent seals around the tailgate and rear view mirror. The engine bay heat shield has been filled with acoustic damping material to reduce powertrain noise and diesel cars are equipped with extra acoustic seals to further reduce noise intrusion. A retuned dual mass flywheel helps to reduce shaking forces when the engine is under load, while revised engine mounts offer improved refinement during Auto-Start-Stop operation. The star of the engine line-up is the 120PS 1.5-litre TDCi diesel engine, seen for the first time in the C-MAX, replacing the old 1.6-litre unit. Power goes up by five per cent while emissions drop by six points. There are also the multi-award winning 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engines, offered once again in 100 and 125PS outputs. The big banger in the range is a revised 2.0-litre diesel.

The interior has been tidied up quite considerably, Ford moving away from its 'more buttons are better' school of interior design. There are now a good deal fewer controls and switches, while the new black satin trim and chrome detailing contributes to a cleaner look. Functions are simpler to use, such as the air-conditioning controls that now feature buttons that are easier to recognise and distinguish from each other. Practicality improves too, with a redesigned centre storage console. As before, there's a clever 2+3+2 seating layout and luggage space ranges from risible with all seven seats in place to up to 750+ litres in a five-seat layout. Fold all the seats down and there's over 1,700-litres to play with.

If you're in the market for a seven-seat MPV, you can't afford to leave the Ford Grand C-MAX off your shortlist. For many buyers, it'll be on a shortlist of one because they want a vehicle that can do the family duties but still feel reassuringly car-like to drive. That apparently simple requirement is beyond virtually every other rival and is the reason why the Grand C-MAX continues to rack up huge sales.

The updates to the latest car hinge around improving refinement on the road, building in more high-tech features and bringing us ever-more pragmatic engines. The running costs of this seven-seater now mirror what you'd have forked out for a Fiesta only a few years ago. The 1.5-litre diesel is probably going to be the biggest seller in the UK but don't overlook the 1.0-litre powerplant if you're a low-mileage driver. Until Volkswagen really brings its talents to bear on a seven-seat compact MPV, the Ford is still going to be the default pick.

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