Car Buying Advice - Shop sMart for Used Cars


Want a used seven-seat mid-sized People Carrier? Motoring Correspondent Jonathan Crouch picks out three of the best late, low mileage options.

Jonathan CrouchJonathan Crouch

January 2017

If you’re buying a People Carrier, you probably want a mid-sized seven-seat one. You can see why this segment is so popular. Most people don’t want a really large Galaxy-sized MPV because they only use the third seating row occasionally. Nor are they very much attracted by the idea of seven seats in some sort of converted van. And an SUV with seven seats inside is pricier to run and to buy, plus it’s likely to feature practical compromises.

It all means that if you’re looking for family transport with three rows of seats inside, then this is the kind of car you’ll probably have your eye on. Vauxhall’s Zafira Tourer is one of the three key players in this segment, the two others being Renault’s Grand Scenic and Citroen Grand C4 Picasso. Let’s check these models out as late, low mileage used car buys.

This month’s affordable used car choice

Volvo V70
The Vauxhall Zafira Tourer 2012 to 2016

Vauxhall’s Zafira was one of the very first compact People carriers to offer buyers seven seats and the Griffin brand reaped the rewards of being one of the first to market with a car of this kind. By 2012 though, it was clear that something a little larger and most sophisticated was going to be required in this segment, hence the introduction of the brand’s Zafira Tourer MPV.

Inside, you get up to 1,860-litre of luggage pace and plusher models get a clever ‘Lounge Seating’ system for the middle row where three chairs morph into a couple of more luxurious ones. The engines are straightforward: either a 1.4-litre petrol turbo or 1.6 or 2.0-litre CDTi diesels.

Zafira Tourer prices start at around £7,000, that sum getting you one of the earliest 1.4-litre petrol models in base ‘Exclusiv’ trim; you’ll pay up to around £12,500 for a later 2016-era version of the same kind of car. We’d try and find a plusher ‘SRi’ or ‘SE’ model because for these, you won’t pay much more, the premium over ‘Exclusiv’ trim being only around £200. Many potential buyers though, will be looking for a diesel, probably the 2.0-litre CDTi variant, which was initially offered n either 130 or 165PS guises. For a 130PS model, you also need to bank on paying from around the £7,000 mark for an early 2012 ‘ES’ or ‘Exclusiv’ variant: you’ll pay around £800 more if you want the pokier 165PS engine – or around £1,800 more if you go for plusher ‘Tech Line’ trim that includes a navigation system. Our prime pick from the Zafira Tourer line-up though, would be the 1.6-litre CDTi diesel variant. This wasn’t introduced until late 2013 but it offered much improved efficiency over its 2.0-litre CDTi counterpart. Prices start from around £8,600 for a 2013 model, rising up to around £12,700 for a later ’16-era car. That’s in base ‘Exclusiv’ guise; you’ll pay around £1,300 more for better ‘Tech Line’ trim.

As for what to look form, well most of the Zafira Tourer owners from the 2012 to 2016 period that we came across seemed to be pretty happy with their cars on the evidence of our survey. However, inevitably, there were issues. One owner experienced a brake binding noise from the rear wheel when reversing. Another had a failure of the electronic handbrake. In ne instance, there was a gearbox that wouldn’t select reverse. And anther owner had a particulate filter that malfunctioned, destroying the catalytic converter.

We can across reports of squeaks from the clutch pedal and gearknob, plus rattles from the door trims and from behind the dashbard; look out for all these things on your testdrive. One owner claimed that on uneven roads, his rear boot door was banging about. Another reported a rattle from the dash at low revs. And anther had to replace the control module for the seat heating system. Otherwise, just check the usual things in MPVs; alloy wheels scratches and interior damage caused by unruly children.

Used Vauxhall Zafira cars for sale

Want a tip for something a little more spacious?

Renault Grand Scenic
Renault Grand Scenic

Renault was the first brand to properly meet the needs of compact MPV buyers wanting seven seats. The design in question was the French brand’s Grand Scenic model, a People Carrier we’re looking at here in the further facelifted second generation form that was sold between 2013 and 2016. In this guise, this dependable MPV continued to offer a smarter spin on a well established theme. Practical, safe, quiet, comfortable, efficient to run and relatively affordable, it still ticks a lot of boxes.

And luggage capacity? Well, as you might expect, if you’re travelling seven-up, there isn’t much – just 208-litres. Still, that’ll be enough on your annual holiday if you also buy into the optional roofbox your Renault dealer will be happy to sell you. For the other fifty months of the year, the space on offer here will doubtless be quite sufficient. After all, once you use the easy one-touch motion to fold the rearmost chairs flat into the floor though, this area can be increased to 564-litres. That’s easily enough for, say, a couple of bags of golf clubs and a baby buggy, but if you want more yet still need to carry five passengers, you can slide the second seating row forward to create up to 702-litres of space.

Going further still requires you to fold the second seating row up against those at the front – sadly, they won’t fold flat into the floor. That’ll bring you to 1,863-litres – but you can go further still. If you’ve space in the garage and you’re strong enough of back, you can remove the three chairs completely, to free up a massive 2063-litre space with a load length of around 2.5m. Such a performance is this process though that you’ve really got to want that extra couple of hundred litres of room. At least really long items can be catered for without seat-removal antics thanks to a front passenger seat that can be specified to fold forward for the carriage of really long items.

And what to look for? Well the good thing about buying a vehicle that's well into its model cycle is that all the major problems have been thoroughly ironed out. Ensure all seats, the rear load space cover and the storage bin lids are present and correct and look for the usual family interior damage. Check that all the electrics and air conditioning work properly. The engines have all proven tough and the 1.6 diesel and 1.2-litre petrol engines are highly regarded by journalists but almost completely overlooked by the buying public.

As for other issues, well one owner complained of an air conditioning fan failing. Another found some water ingress in the passenger compartment footwell. There were reports of some cars struggling to start in damp weather and one we came across was noisy on tickover. One had a fraying fanbelt and another made a whistling noise in line with rising engine speed. Look out for all these things when inspecting and driving used examples. Otherwise, ensure that the rear load space cover and the storage bin lids are present and correct and look for the usual family interior damage. Check that all the electrics and air conditioning work properly.

Used Renault Grand Scenic cars for sale

And if you your used MPV needs to have a trendier look...

Citroen Grand C4 Picasso
The Citroen Grand C4 Picasso

For a more stylish-looking mid-sized seven-seat MPV, what about the second generation version of Citroen’s Grand C4 Picasso, a car first introduced in 2013? This lighter, more efficient French contender takes care of the basics of space, safety and cost-effectiveness with ease, but where this model really excels is in the other things: style, technology and a very emotive feel. It's a bit special.

It looks quite futuristic for a car of this kind – both inside and out. And there are really innovative touches on top models where the dashboard is dominated by twin screens. Most new cars have some sort of central infotainment screen these days like this Citroen’s tablet-style 7-inch display but more unusual is the snazzily futuristic 12 inch panoramic HD panel up top which, in true Picasso style, is offset to the centre of the fascia and replaces a conventional set of dialled instrument gauges.

With the hatch raised, you’ll be able to access a cargo area that can be one of the very biggest in the class – though not, it must be said, when all seven seats are in use. That’s a seating layout that’ll leave you just 165-litres of stowage space to play with. That won’t matter too much to most likely buyers though, given that much of the time, they’ll be using this car with the third row seats folded into the floor. Here again, the lengthier MK1 model Ford S-MAX offers more space – but only because it’s a significantly lengthier car.

Otherwise, no other compact seven-seat MPV can match what is, after all, the widest cargo area in the segment, stretching 1.17m between the wheelarches. As a result, with the sliding middle bench pushed right back, there’s 632-litres on offer. Push it forward and that figure rises to 793-litres: to give you a bit of perspective, that’s 91-litres more than a similarly-configured MK2 Renault Grand Scenic and nearly double the amount of space you’d get in, say, a Kia Carens or a Toyota Verso with five seats in use. So no, not all compact seven-seat MPVs are the same. It’ll really pay you to do your homework when it comes to practicality.

As for the things to watch for when buying used, most buyers of the second generation Grand C4 Picasso model that we surveyed were very satisfied but inevitably, there were a few issues with some cars. One owner had a problem with the electronic handbrake that stuck on and stranded him. Others complained about starting problems, electric window squeaking and an engine management light that kept coming on in the dash binnacle. One owner had a problem with a drive belt that came off the runners. Look out for all these things when you check out used stock.

Used Citroen Grand C4 Picasso cars for sale