S.V . Robinson concludes his lament for the MPV.
I have spent 4/5ths of my life growing up with the MPV. Over 40 years, we have seen some memorable cars. In the main, they have stood out for either their styling (the pioneering, TGV-aping Espace, the ovoid Xsara Picasso, the lovably grotesque Multipla, to name a few), or the innovation of their packaging – the latter really being the point and purpose of the genre.
We have had MPVs which have front seats that can turn around to face passengers in the rear to create a mobile meeting space. Rear seats which can fold, tumble, be removed entirely, or disappear into the rear floor. There have been five seaters which enable the middle rear perch to fold away, providing greater elbow stretching room for the remaining pair of passengers. We have had at least two six-seaters which have put three at the front and three at the back.
Storage cubbies have been found in the floor, in the roof, in seat-backs, in the doors, on top of dashboards and under boot floors (obviously!). We have even had pointless foldaway, plastic shopping trollies come as part of the packaging (I’ll have whatever they were imbibing at the time, thanks).
And then of course, a multitude of door configurations: normal hinged, reverse-opening hinged, sliding, central-pillar-less sliding, and even gull-wing opening (is the Model X an MPV or a SUV? – I have always thought it swung both ways).
In short, lots of clever innovation in order to differentiate MPVs one from another. In the world of SUVs, innovation usually focuses around the size and shape of the grille. OK, that’s unfair, I suppose they do come in five or seven-seater forms. As an aside – having mentioned seven-seater SUV’s – am I alone in thinking the latest Discovery is more than a little redolent of the original Ssangyong Rodius?
And yet, MPVs are so out of fashion that Renault decided that its latest Espace and Scenic models needed to be MPVs with an SUV twist (sales still seem to be poor, in the UK at least). Furthermore, it seems obvious to me that Vauxhall/ Opel and Citroen caught the joint-development of their replacements for the Meriva and C3 Picasso mid-flight and redesigned them as small SUVs. The resultant Crossland X is a truly confused and awkward looking thing, clearly unsure of its own genre. The C3 Aircross is, to my eyes, a more confident outcome, but is less cohesive and satisfying than its predecessor.
Finally, I noted today that Citroen is even trying to position its latest Berlingo as an SUV in XTR form, so desperately does it feel the need to avoid using the letters M-P-V. And, let’s not give even a second glance to any Ford hatch or estate given the Active treatment, shall we?
So what can we take out of all of this? It seems that clever is no longer smart in the eyes of the buying public. Instead, the masses increasingly want over-sized, overweight boys(?) toys. Is this progress, or just another indicator of mankind’s descent into chaos and ruin? Please discuss.