Car hunter: Flexible seven-seat people carriers

25 Oct, 2012 11:00am Chris Ebbs

Our reader has £8,000 to spend on a capable seven-seater

Dear Chris,
I need a seven-seat car to ferry the family around, but I’d like removable seats, as I also carry music equipment. My budget is £8,000. Any ideas?
James Doherty, E-mail 

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The best buys:

Great value buy: Kia Sedona

Kia Sedona

For: Sliding rear doors, roomy interior
Against: High costs, poor build quality

This variation of the Kia Sedona dates from before the brand's recent range revamp, and it shows. The plastics feel cheap in places, while build quality is nowhere near what we’ve come to expect from the company these days.

It does tick all your boxes, however. The seven-seat layout is very good, with the two rearmost seats folding completely flat. The three seats in the middle row can be removed individually, so it’s very easy to adapt the Kia’s cabin depending on passengers and luggage.

Your budget will buy you a relatively new Sedona in decent condition. We found an 08-plate car with 53,000 miles on the clock for £7,999. The most common version at this price is the 2.9-litre automatic. While it performs well, running costs are high. CO2 emissions of 224g/km mean £275 tax, and it’ll only return 31mpg fuel economy.

The quality choice: Volkswagen Touran

Volkswagen Touran

For: Build quality, economical diesel
Against: Dull looks, higher used prices

The VW Touran somehow manages to be one of the dullest models in what’s already an unexciting class. Yet it’s still an accomplished car: the combination of economical diesel engines and decent build quality makes it one of the top people carriers you can buy.

Stronger resale values mean you’re limited to older cars than you would be with the Kia. A 56-plate Touran 2.0 TDI SE with 68,000 miles on the clock can be bought for £7,995. Despite its age, it’ll cost less to run than the Sedona: claimed fuel economy is 47mpg and it emits only 159g/km of CO2, so annual road tax will be £170.

As with the Kia, the Volkswagen's third row of seats folds flat and the middle-row seats can be taken out individually. Head and legroom in the rearmost seats isn’t great, but there’s still space for a few adults, plus plenty of storage areas.

Fine all-rounder: Vauxhall Zafira

Vauxhall Zafira

For: Low used price, van-like bootspace
Against: Lacks storage, noisy engines

The Vauxhall Zafira doesn’t have a fully removable middle row of seats like the other cars here, but a clever sliding system plus a third row that folds flat means it’s still highly flexible and entirely suitable for your needs.

The Zafira is a common sight on UK roads, so its resale values aren’t as strong as the Touran’s. That’s good news for used buyers, however: you’ll be able to buy a newer car with your budget. We found an 09-plate 1.9-litre CDTi Exclusiv with 32,000 miles on the clock for only £8,000.

Despite being a family car, the Vauxhall is somewhat disappointing when it comes to storage space in the cabin. It’s nowhere near as useful as the Touran in this respect, and build quality isn’t quite up to VW standards, either. But fit and finish are better than in the Sedona and running costs are on par with the VW’s.