Can a sports car be great because it goes fast, even if it is horribly uncomfortable? Will a luxury car be attractive because it has a premium badge and a lot of kit, despite costing a fortune to run? And has a supermini done its job by costing next to nothing, even if it seems to have been built from recycled tin cans?
By the standards of the rest of the segment, the recently-refreshed 2005 Grand Voyager still isn’t a very good MPV to drive about in.
The engine transmits an inordinate amount of noise into the cabin, has fuel consumption less than 30mpg, and doesn’t have any performance to speak of.
The driving position is still as archaic as it was, with its van-like steering wheel position, and a lot of the plastics in the cabin feel cheap and of poor quality.
The LX, the entry-level model in the range, comes with a lot of equipment as standard, but buttons on the dashboard appear to have fought each other for position and settled where they fell.
I found even the simplest operations, like switching off the rear interior lights, required lateral thinking of the best Krypton Factor champion. In the end, a funny knob near my right knee appeared to do the job, albeit temporarily.
So despite some subtle cosmetic changes, things on the surface don’t appear to have changed much.
But underneath it’s a different story...
From being an ageing American MPV that didn’t have much going for it compared to its more practical, stylish European competition, the Grand Voyager might well have snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, because its brilliant Stow-n-Go seating system makes up for all of its shortcomings.
To understand how Chrysler has turned this MPV around, you have to play with the seats. In the old version, taking them out was an extreme mental and physical feat. There are health and safety laws for lifting objects lighter than the rear bench seat.
Now, all you need to do is lift up hatches in the floor, pull three chords in a numbered order and the seats swallow- dive into a recess in the floor.
Do this for all the seats and you have a flat floor that turns the Voyager into a 4,700-litre volume van. It requires no effort, you don’t need a degree to do it, and if the seats are in place, the space they would fold into becomes 510-litres of storage space – the equivalent of most cars’ boots.
Engineers had to create an entirely new underbody and engineer a load floor for the second-row seats.
They also designed a new fuel tank, exhaust system, park brake cables, rear climate control lines, and modified the rear suspension.
As a practical, adaptable carrier of people, the Grand Voyager does more than anything else on the market. The question for potential drivers will be: Does its usefulness outweigh the shortcomings of the driving experience? MPV, by its very name, means multi-purpose, so you would have to say the big Chrysler is now a great car.
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £25,517
CO2 emissions (g/km): 225
BIK % of P11D in 2004: 35%
Graduated VED rate: £165
Insurance group : 15
Combined mpg: 28.9
CAP Monitor residual value: £10,300/40%
Depreciation 24.08 pence per mile x 60,000: £14,448
Maintenance 4.08 pence per mile x 60,000: £2,448
Fuel 14.23 pence per mile x 60,000: £8,538
Wholelife cost 42.39 pence per mile x 60,000: £25,434
Typical contract hire rate: £499
THREE RIVALS TO CONSIDER
THERE aren’t any MPVs at this price point that can match the Grand Voyager on engine size, so the other comparisons here are 2.2 litres or 2.0 litres.
All are automatic and come with seven seats, while the Mercedes-Benz, Renault and Chrysler are all long wheelbase versions.
The Grand Voyager and 807 are considerably better specified than the other two, while in the important Euro NCAP crash tests, the Espace and 807 get five stars, while the Grand Voyager and Viano have not been tested.
THE Renault and Peugeot are cheaper to service, maintain and repair than the Mercedes-Benz and Chrysler. In fact, the cheapest, the 807, is projected to cost £1,656 over 60,000 miles, while the dearest, the Chrysler Grand Voyager, would cost a whopping £2,448 over the same period, which is getting into the territory of what its costs to keep a luxury saloon on the road. Surely for a family MPV, that is too high?
WHILE some people would see having a 2.8-litre engine as a positive, and the Grand Voyager is the quickest to 60mph at 12 seconds – for whatever that is worth with cars like this – the engine size impacts on costs. Over 60,000 miles, a driver would use more than £1,500 less fuel in the most frugal, the 807. That’s a lot of nappies for a smidgeon more performance.
THE fantastically useful Stow-n-Go system has won over the residual value analysts. From being no more than average in the sector, the Grand Voyager’s predicted residual values are now much stronger, and with some decent front-end discounts, translates into a pence per mile depreciation of 24.08. Surprisingly, the Renault Grand Espace has the worse pence-per-mile depreciation, thanks to a high P11D price and the fact Renault doesn’t need to support it as much. It would lose £16,206 compared to the Viano’s £14,106.
THANKS to high pence-per-mile depreciation, the Grand Espace is the most expensive to run, and over 60,000 miles would cost £25,818.
The Grand Voyager is second-last here, costing £25,434, while the Viano and 807 are quite a bit cheaper, at £23,610 and £23,418 respectively. It goes to show just how expensive large MPVs are to run and why so many people opt for mini-MPVs instead.
EMISSIONS AND BIK TAX RATES
THE combination of weight, automatic gearboxes and the fact that none are Euro IV compliant makes these MPVs costly when it comes to benefit-in-kind tax, as all have high emissions. Only the Peugeot is in the anything but the highest tax band, and would cost a 40% taxpayer £3,097 in the 2005/2006 tax year. The most expensive is the Mercedes-Benz, which would cost £3,730, The Grand Voyager and Grand Espace are marginally cheaper than the Viano.
ALL these MPVs cost a lot of money and they are essentially one-trick ponies. They carry lots of stuff. Being cheap, being fun-to-drive, being sexy, is not their forte. On that basis, the one that carries the most stuff should be the winner. And that’s the Grand Voyager. It might be a one-trick pony, but it’s a very good trick.
WINNER: Chrysler Grand Voyager 2.8 LX auto