Vehicle Comparisons

Peugeot Traveller

Peugeot Traveller

This Peugeot Traveller might be fundamentally based on the marque's medium-sized Expert van but it's undeniably sophisticated as well as being light, airy, and seriously spacious, with room for up to 9 people. If anything, its commercial vehicle roots serve as a strength, the voluminous interior, tough build and uncomplicated design proving ideal for family buyers who'll happily shoulder the slight ride and refinement issues.

Engine choice in a Traveller model is pretty straightforward, provided you've a clear idea of the kind of work you want it to do. Sensibly, all the Euro6 units on offer are diesels and if your needs are mainly based around lighter people carrying duties and short distance urban work, then the entry-level 95bhp 1.6-litre BlueHDi unit may well be quite sufficient: this engine's also offered with 115bhp. For heavier payloads and longer journeys however, you'll be needing the 2.0-litre BlueHDi model which gives you a lot more pulling power and is available with 150 or 180bhp, the most powerful unit mated to the brand's efficient EAT6 auto transmission.

A key factor behind the success of this vehicle's Expert Tepee predecessor was the way it remained compact and wieldy in the manner of smaller, more car-like MPVs from the class below. This model should retain much of that same usability around town and will certainly ride much better thanks to more sophisticated suspension and a stiff EMP2 platform. Special wishbone filtering is provided to dampen the impacts from our country's terrible tarmac and the variable stiffness springs and shock absorbers should deliver decent levels of comfort whether the vehicle is loaded or unloaded. Peugeot also claims that refinement is much improved this time round. As before, there's the option of a Grip Control traction system. We also like the 'Driving time warning system' which flashes up a dash warning after two hours of uninterrupted driving at speeds of 40mph and above.

This Traveller certainly looks much more of a car-like thing than its Expert Tepee predecessor with its sharply angled windscreen and smart frontal treatment. Under the skin, this MPV utilises the acclaimed 'Efficient Modular Platform 2' (EMP2) as the basis to combine its relatively compact exterior dimensions with maximum roominess. Inside, his model can offer up to 9 spacious seats with 1,500 litres of boot space - or up to 4,900-litres of luggage space if you take out the removable seats.

Available in three defined lengths, ranging from 4.60m to 5.30m, the Traveller's height of 1.90m is low enough to guarantee entry into covered car parks - a relatively rare attribute in this segment. The 'M' and 'XL' length versions of 4.95m and 5.30m will be the variants chosen by most buyers, but even the shortest 4.60m-long 'XS' version can comfortably accommodate up to 9 people in all seats. There's also a top 'Business Plus VIP variant which provides its rear-seat passengers with a 'four face-to-face' seat configuration, each occupant treated to their own individual leather armchair. There's also a multi-function roof with tri-zone climate control and soft air diffusion, plus mood lighting for even greater luxury. Across the range, most models get hands-free electric sliding side doors which can be activated with a wave of the foot.

Bridging the gap between Peugeot's passenger car range and the marque's light commercial vehicle line-up, the Traveller has a big job on to convince the public of its large MPV credentials. In the past, seasoned industry observers had a well-practiced sneer held in reserve for any commercial vehicle that tried to pass itself off as a passenger car, but times have changed. Modern light vans have reached levels of sophistication that aren't a million miles away from the passenger car average and we've seen in the smaller van-based MPV sector that there is an eager market for affordable, utilitarian people carriers.

The Peugeot Traveller takes the voluminous interior of its commercial vehicle progenitor and does enough to make it presentable and comfortable for business or family usage. It also borrows the Expert van's mix and match range structure, giving excellent flexibility for customers to specify the vehicle in the way they want. With rugged build, competent driving dynamics, strong economy and attractive prices, it seems well-suited to its target markets and as a result, could well be worth a look for larger families.

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Mercedes-Benz V-Class

Mercedes-Benz V-Class

The Mercedes-Benz V-Class is one of the very biggest and plushest MPVs you can buy. Yes, it has commercial roots, but in this improved form, they're very well disguised, with both interior and exterior styling and finish having progressed considerably. If you want to carry seven or eight people and all their luggage - and do so with a bit of class, then this vehicle's worth a look.

The key change made to this revised V-Class model is the switch beneath the bonnet from the aging 'OM651-series' 2.1-litre diesel to the much more up-to-date 'OM654-series' 2.0-litre diesel that already features across most of the rest of the Mercedes line-up. There's also a fresh gearbox across the range, as the old seven-speed transmission is replaced by a nine-speed automatic. The 2.0-litre, four-cylinder powerplant is offered in a couple of states of tune. The V250d has 188hp and 440Nm of torque - which is enough for a 0-62mph time of 9.5 seconds and a top speed of 127mph. The more potent V300d has 236hp and 500Nm of torque, although it can deliver 30Nm of 'over-torque' beyond this figure for short periods; it can manage the 0-62mph dash in 7.9 seconds and goes on to a top speed of 137mph.

In our market, we can't have the four-wheel-drive variants on offer in mainland Europe. But Mercedes has tried hard to optimise the ride and handling package that its biggest People Carrier can offer. Hence the standard 'Agility Select' system that allows you to tweak throttle response, gearchange timings and feedback from the 'Direct Steer' speed-sensitive steering to suit the way you want your V-Class to respond. Plus there's 'Agility Control' adaptive suspension, a set-up able to tweak the damping to suit road conditions. Ultimately, all these efforts aren't really enough to make the dynamic experience on offer here in any way rewarding, but the overall compromise is decently impressive by the moderate standards of the super-sized MPV class.

Like its predecessor the Viano, this V-Class is based on a van, Mercedes' Vito LCV model, though that said, it's a lot more car-like these days. Especially in this revised form where there's a revised front bumper and a smarter diamond structure in the radiator grille. Overall, while a commercial vehicle with windows can only be styled so far, you have to say that this latest V isn't a bad looking thing for a big box. The headlights are fashionably smeared back, the grille looks agreeably assertive and even the slab sides have had some swage lines and shape built into them. You don't buy a V-Class for its sexy styling though. You buy it for its space and solidity. As ever, there's a choice of three body lengths - 'Standard length', 'Long' and 'Extra Long': we'd suggest you go large, not least because you have to have the 'Extra Long' version to be able to seat up to eight people rather than merely seven folk.

Whatever variant you go for, you'll be impressed by the way that Mercedes has clearly worked at improving the look and feel of the cabin, with fine Nappa leather finishes available and a simple but extremely elegant dashboard that has more than a hint of S-Class about it. In this regard at least, it's like no van you've ever seen before. This revised model features air vents in the more sporty 'turbine look' familiar from the A-Class, plus the dials have been re-styled in the instrument cluster.

As standard, this MPV will be offered with three rows with six seats, but seven-seat and eight-seat layouts will be available across the various lengths of vehicle. In addition to this functionality, Mercedes now offers the possibility of 'luxury seats' in the second row. These are like the items in the S-Class, so they will be able to recline fully as well as offering back massage and ventilation.

And in summary? Well this V-Class may occupy something of a forgotten backwater in the Mercedes product range but it's still a model that makes a lot of sense. In fact, assuming that you can't face budget-brand transport and don't want something that's very obviously a minibus, we'd argue that there aren't too many options to V-Class motoring if you need to transport up to eight people in the kind of style to which they'd doubtless quickly like to become accustomed.

With its rare combination of spacious seating and generous luggage capacity, this Mercedes is a paragon of practicality, beautifully bridging the gap between MPV and minibus. What it all boils down to is that if you want a car, buy a car. If though, you need a People Carrier, buy one that can really do the business. The V-Class is part of a small but very select breed of models answering that calling. Go on: go large.

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Volkswagen Caravelle

Volkswagen Caravelle

The commercial vehicle origins of the sixth generation Volkswagen Caravelle endow it with more interior space than most large MPVs but it masks its links to the Transporter van very well inside where quality is high. With ample space for seven adults and luggage, strong common-rail diesel engines and a classy feel, there isn't much else that can do what a Caravelle can.

You'll want to know whether it drives like a car-like MPV or a van-like minibus, so let's get that out of the way right up-front. The on-road experience is somewhere between the two, though your reaction might be more positive than that if you're not up to speed with just how dynamically adept the latest generation of large vans really are. This feeling you get at the wheel of this one varies a little of course depending on whether it's fully loaded with passengers, a state in which both ride and composure are much improved.

If there's no one in your Caravelle but you, you're probably more likely to notice the vague power steering and the slightly lumpy low-speed ride. And of course the high-sided shape and 2.5-tonne kerb weight don't take particularly kindly to sharp high speed cornering antics. Better of course to settle back and use this vehicle as intended, wafting around on the potent wave of torque delivered by the common rail four cylinder 2.0 TDI diesel engines. There are two on offer here, base models being powered by a single turbo 150PS unit that gets this sizeable chunk of German real estate to 62mph in 12.9s en route to 113mph. Ideally though, you want to opt for the pokier 204PS BiTDI twin-turbo version of this unit. At low engine speeds, the largest of the two BiTDI blowers delivers steady charge but go a bit faster and there's a second smaller turbocharger, ready to cut in and give additional boost. At first glance, the stats don't seem much affected (the 0-62mph time improves to 9.8s and the top speed to 126mph) but what's more important is the jump in pulling power. When towing: all Caravelles can tow a braked trailer of up to 2,500kgs. The figures quoted are for manual models but most buyers tend to prefer to specify the optional seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox.

The sixth generation Caravelle gets the smarter nose section inroduced with the T6 Transporter van and, as before, is available in either short or long wheelbase bodystyles. All the excitement though, is inside. At 4,892mm long and 1,904mm wide in short wheelbase form, the Caravelle was never going to be anything but roomy. The seating layout is comprised of two arm-chairs in the front and two more behind with a three-seater bench in the back row. Unlike many seven-seater MPVs, there's also a usable luggage area behind the third row and it can be made more usable by sliding the rear bench forward on its runners. The front and second row seating is also mounted on a system of runners in the Caravelle's floor so these chairs can be moved around to tweak the layout. The front seats can even be rotated 180 degrees to face backwards, creating a kind of living room layout around the multi-function table that's mounted on its own rail in the centre of the cabin. If you get tired, the back seats fold down into a bed.

Adaptability is not in short supply then, but how well does it all work? It's theoretically possible to lift all of the furniture out of the Caravelle but you'll need biceps the size of breadbins: it's not light. Sliding the chairs around is quite straightforward, although you might need to think ahead before embarking on a rearrangement as the multi-function table can get in the way. The build quality impresses and even in standard trim, the Caravelle doesn't feel like a commercial vehicle. The switchgear and instruments will be familiar to VW passenger car owners and there's an abundance of storage options around the vehicle.

Whether you see it as a posh minibus, an executive MPV or some kind of lifestyle vehicle in the mould of VW's classic Camper vans, the Volkswagen Caravelle's unique selling point is space. There just aren't many vehicles that can seat seven in this kind of comfort and take a significant amount of luggage along for the ride. The pricing will deter some but buyers are getting a big hunk of vehicle for their money and there aren't too many alternatives with similar qualities.

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