Buying guide: what makes a good seven-seat car?

Tyler Heatley

08 Nov 2021

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There are faster cars, more handsome cars, cheaper cars and certainly more interesting cars, but the humble seven-seater family wagon has its own merits. These cars are an essential for larger families that need a little extra space for growing children and their associated paraphernalia.


The likes of Volkswagen, Peugeot, Ford all make great mainstream seven-seaters, but more premium options from Audi, BMW, and Land Rover highlight that these people-movers and more than just boxes on wheels. Bulky cargo or an excess of people, these practical cars have you covered.


What makes a good seven-seat car?



Seven seats and legroom




Yeah, we’re guessing you saw this one coming. Obviously, the car needs enough seats for everyone hoping to grab a ride, but you need to think about who will be sitting in them.


Typically you don’t need to worry about the middle row as head and legroom should be about as good as any five-seat car. However, some models treat the final two seats as a bit of an afterthought. – Tyler Heatley


Small children should be fine in the rearmost seats, but you’ll usually find legroom to be the biggest restriction. Most cars market these posts as being for occasional use, meaning they will be no good for young adults. If you really do need generous space for all seven aboard, cars like the Land Rover Discovery excel in that department.


One of the biggest decisions will be picking a traditional MPV or an SUV. SUVs have the advantage when it comes to stylish design and an increased ride height, but MPVs tend to be the ultimate in practicality. An additional benefit of an MPV is that some models feature sliding doors – a lifesaver in confined car parks.



Flexible seating




Having seven seats at your disposal is a great asset for playing taxi, but you’ll also want to use your big car for other big car things. Folding all of the rear seats flat will reward you with a huge amount of cargo volume that should easily see the bulkiest of cargo head to the tip. Flat loading areas are a big asset, as too are low load lips.


Some seven-seaters treat the middle row of passengers to adjustable chairs, allowing for a reclining motion. Sliding these chairs forwards can boost boot space, or rewards for space to stretch out on longer journeys.


Another advantage to look out for is individual seats in the middle row. With each chair being treated separately, this allows for greater flexibility when configuring the cabin. Additionally, unique adjustment means that everyone can get comfy in their own way. Cars such as the Volvo XC90 and Citroen Spacetourer use this to great effect.



Sockets and storage




Lots of people often means lots of stuff, and so big door bins and plenty of cubbies are a must-have. Think of all the water bottles, toys and books that all need to find a home while on the move. Any parent will tell you that entertainment is key to a peaceful existence while travelling, so be sure you’re equipped.


Today’s kids are far less impressed with board games or books, with their entertainment primarily coming from electronics. It’s certainly worth seeking out a seven-seater with plenty of USB sockets to keep devices charged.



Ease of use




The scale of a seven-seat car is inevitable, but that doesn’t mean they have to be hard work to drive. Strong assets of a well-designed people mover include light steering to make town driving easier, and good visibility to help when manoeuvring.


Technology is your friend with parking sensors, cameras and some autonomous parking systems making those tight spaces a breeze. Some vehicles also feature the ability to deploy and stow seats electrically. Instead, of reaching in and wresting with a release lever, the prod of a button can make life much easier. The Land Rover Discovery can actually do this via a smartphone app.



Style




Gone are the days of seven-seater being dumpy MPVs. The SUV revolution has given this class a sense of style like never before. That said, even manufacturers sticking with the MPV form factor really make an effort in the design department these days.


Handsome seven-sears include the chic Peugeot 5008, Land Rover Discovery Sport, and Skoda Kodiaq.


Rear seat safety


Once upon a time, the rearmost seats were something of an afterthought - no longer. It's not just about air conditioning or infotainment for seats six and seven, but safety also. For seven-seaters to score top marks in crash testing today, safety tech is critical.


You should expect to see ISOFIX points for child's seats in the rearmost posts of many modern cars, but also a series of airbags. The latter point is worth checking as not every car has rear airbags.


Fuel efficient seven-seat cars


It goes without saying that larger cars use more fuel, but that doesn't mean they have to be gas guzzlers. Modern lower capacity engines produce more power than ever, and plug-in hybrid cars can use their electrification to reduce emissions as well as boost the economy.


Thinking of going electric? We're starting to see seven-seat EVs join the party with cars such as the Tesla Model X being a prominent frontrunner.


Top 10 seven-seat cars 2021


Peugeot 5008 SUV





Priced from: £29,585


A shining example of the MPV to SUV transformation, the 5008 went from dull to desirable overnight. Its stylish new looks have attracted many, and its generous space still ticks the boxes for the cabin. A versatile middle row with three individual seats allows for each to be reclined, adjusted, and stowed at your leisure. As with most seven-seat cars, the third row is best suited to children, but a pair of adults should be able to squeeze in for short trips.


A good range of petrol and diesel engines complement the 5008 package, however, there is no all-wheel drive option. Instead, Peugeot offers an advanced traction system called Grip Control.


Read our Peugeot 5008 review



BMW X7




Priced from: £74,265


Get past its controversial grille and you’ll find the new BMW X7 to be a very cosseting way to transport seven. Its enormous interior has the fit and finish you’d come to expect of a flagship BMW, and the technology to match. Tick the right option boxes and all occupants can be air-conditioned, but even as standard it gets wi-fi, heated front seats, leather, and much more. That said, the X7 starts at £74,265 so you would expect good equipment levels for all that cash.


Despite its sheer scale, the X7 handles pretty well. Accurate steering, good body control, and ample grip actually allow for an enthusiastic drive – a real rarity in this class.



Citroen Grand C4 Spacetourer




Priced from: £27,000


We think there’s a strong argument that since the Picasso’s inception at the millennium, Citroen has led the MPV field. The latest car, now called Grand C4 Spacetourer, is best described as a living room on wheels with acres of space for the whole family. There’s also an even more premium feel to the interior materials than ever before in top-of-the-range models.


If you need to carry seven and some luggage economically, the Citroen Picasso – sorry, Grand C4 Spacetourer – still remains a frontrunner.



Skoda Kodiaq SE




Priced from: £27,125


Considering that the Skoda Kodiaq is the Czech manufacturer’s first seven-seater, it smashed the ball right out of the park. The Kodiaq delivers on all of those Skoda-isms we’ve come to love the brand for. Clever solutions to everyday problems, good build quality, and value for money.


As you’d expect, there’s a sensible selection of petrol and diesel offerings to suit all, but there’s a black sheep in this family. A high-performance VRS model is offered and is powered by a 2.0-litre diesel engine. 236bhp and space for seven? Yes, please!



Land Defender 110




Priced from £45,315


This reborn icon has enjoyed huge popularity right from its launch. While the old Defender was loved as a characterful and capable 4x4, this modern incarnation adds an extra layer of civility that makes it the perfect go-anywhere family car. Being a true Defender, its off-roading credentials are class-leading even in its most basic form.


A longer wheelbase 110 has the option to seat seven with good levels of room for all. Its boxy shape means that space has been optimised and leaves some room for pages even with the rearmost posts in place.


As well as pure petrol or diesel, the Defender can be had with a mild-hybrid system. However, this is only an option for top-spec Defender X models starting at over £80k.


Read our new 2021 Land Rover Defender V8 review



Audi Q7




Priced from £55,675


If you want to transport seven in style, the Audi Q7 provides that luxury touch that many others do not. Taking the form of a large SUV, it has all of the trendy appeal of this breed, not to mention that Audi badge kudos. It’s a bold car that makes a statement on the outside but bathes occupants in rich material inside.


The Q7 can be had as a petrol or diesel model, plug-in hybrid, not to mention the potent SQ7. The latter features 500bhp and a colossal 770Nm of torque. With a 0-62mph sprint of just 4.1 seconds, you’ll drop the kids off in no time.


Read our Audi Q7 road test report



Seat Tarraco




Priced from: £29,155


As sister to the Skoda Kodiaq, the pair share a platform and some engine options. The Seat is a touch more costly than the Skoda, but some may prefer its more stylised appearance. Unlike its Volkswagen Group sibling, the Seat comes standard with seven seats and is quite well equipped for its price point.


Attractive PCP deals make the Tarraco a good value option, and the desire to drive a marque with a bit of Latin heritage, as opposed to the usual humdrum, may appeal. It handles pretty well for a sizeable SUV, too.



Tesla Model X




Priced from: £87,190


Easily the fastest and most technologically advanced SUV on this list, the seven-seat variant of the Model X is a real spaceship. Open those signature Falcon Wing doors to reveal a spacious cabin filled with gadgets. A huge 17-inch infotainment display dominates the console, although the material quality that surrounds it is far from class-leading.


Being an all-electric car, the Tesla Model X is a zero-emission vehicle. The Long Range variant can cover up to 314 miles on a single charge, while the £101,000 Performance model will crack 0-60mph in just 4.4 seconds.



Volvo XC90




Priced from: £54,275


The Volvo XC90 has been a firm SUV favourite since its inception, but the latest model goes toe-to-toe with the Land Rover Discovery in the premium arena. While the Disco wins the off-roading battle, the cabin of the seven-seat Volvo can’t be matched. A beautiful minimalist design is forged from high-quality materials for a truly zen-like feel to this interior.


Boot space is amongst the best in class and beats the Discovery, however, the Land Rover claims victory in terms of space in the third row. The XC90 is currently one of the few SUVs out there with a plug-in hybrid option and seven seats.



Kia Sorento




Priced from: £38,845


Back for another generation, Kia’s largest SUV will happily accommodate seven with some room to spare. This battle bus looks particularly sharp and sports the very latest design language from Kia. There’s some great tech on board with things like blindspot cameras at your disposal.


Just like many of its competitors, petrol, diesel and a hybrid option are on the menu. A big draw for any potential Kia owner is the marque’s industry-leading 7-year 100,000-mile warranty.


Read New 2021 Kia Sorento review


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Tyler Heatley

08 Nov 2021