For those of you who remember Car’s now lost Forum pages, we make no apologies if we sometimes revive themes from them.
THE COMPACT MPV
One day you wake up and notice how much everything has changed. Did they do it whilst you were asleep? Likely not, you just weren’t paying attention. So it is with automotive design – changes happen, genres appear and a simple history is confected. But often the actual genesis is more complex, and credit, or otherwise, is given to the wrong people.
What are the true Missing Links, the first examples when anything from a particular styling cue to a complete identifiable type of vehicle, were first seen? Renault is generally credited with getting in here first with the Megane Scenic, only to apparently lose interest and let the crown slip away to Citroen. But, just as the Espace seems to get credit for kicking off the full-sized MPV category, overshadowing less stylish conceptual predecessors such as the Toyota Space Cruiser and the Chrysler Voyager, so does its smaller Renault sibling let us forget what went before.
The 1981 Nissan Prairie (or Multi or Stanza Wagon) was a great idea with good headroom, fine visibility and easy access due to sliding rear doors and no B pillar. Unfortunately body flex was quite the problem you might imagine and the interior was a no-joy area. But it was there 15 years before the Scenic and over 30 years before the Ford B-Max