A PSA Peugeot-Citroen and Fiat partnership spawned three new vehicles based on a shared platform at the end of 2002, while the new Renault Espace (and Grand Espace) arrived a few months later.
While these are better to drive than most other large MPVs to date, their proportions still make them rather challenging compared to conventional cars.
Diesel would be the fuel of choice for the vast majority of MPV drivers, offering good mid-range performance with little compromise in fuel economy, and automatic transmission would also help make these behemoths easier to command.
But there are few diesel automatics in the MPV sector. The car we test here, the Peugeot 807 2.0 HDi GLX auto, uses the PSA 110bhp 2.0-litre common rail diesel and was launched with a four-speed auto after the 807 hit the market.
In our running cost comparison we pitch it against its twin from Citroen, the C8, while two of the old guard are brought in for benchmarking purposes – diesel auto versions of the Ford Galaxy and Volkswagen Sharan.
Diesel auto variants of the new Espace only come with the 150bhp 2.2 dCi and 180bhp 3.0 dCi V6 engines, putting them way out of our price range.
So why is there such a lack of diesel auto combinations in the sector and what makes the 807 worth a look? The first part of the question is difficult to answer, but we can only speculate that most customers are happy driving manual versions, and in this type of vehicle where packaging is a priority, a potentially bulky automatic transmission bolted on to the engine could cause headaches for engineers.
The second is also difficult as there are hundreds of Citroens and Fiats driving around that are very similar to the Peugeot under the skin.
About 50% of 807 sales go to fleet customers and the latest generation of large MPVs are among the safest cars on the road according to the Euro NCAP crash tests.
You also get electric sliding rear passenger doors, electronic climate control, four electric windows, electrically operated and folding door mirrors, a CD player, alloy wheels and swivelling front seats for your £23,000.
The automatic transmission offers a four-speed sequential manual change should the driver feel in the mood, but the 807 isn't the type of car to thrash around B-roads.
However, it is comfortable, roomy, classy-looking and incredibly practical.
The electric sliding rear passenger doors will keep children of all ages amused and the dashboard design, although shared with its partner manufacturers, offers a pleasing view from the front and features hidden storage compartments.
With 110bhp on offer in a large seven seater, the performance was never going to be great and the automatic transmission also dents performance. 0-62mph in 15.1 seconds seems an awfully long time from the driving seat, and according to the official figures the 807 will run out of steam at 104mph.
So the 807 is an immensely versatile machine, if a little slow, but what would be the deal-breaker to make you choose the Peugeot over the C8 or Fiat Ulysse or indeed one of the other MPVs with this engine/ transmission combination? Our running costs tables provide the answer.
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £22,797
CO2 emissions (g/km): 210
BIK % of P11D in 2004: 31%
Graduated VED rate: £165
Insurance group: 11
Combined mpg: 35.3
CAP Monitor residual value: £7,550/33%
Depreciation 22.99 pence per mile x 60,000: £13,794
Maintenance 2.54 pence per mile x 60,000: £1,524
Fuel 10.96 pence per mile x 60,000: £6,576
Wholelife cost 36.49 pence per mile x 60,000: £21,894
Typical contract hire rate: £454 per month
All figures based on 3yrs/60,000 miles. Monthly rental quote from HSBC Vehicle Finance
At a glance
Three rivals to consider
THE Peugeot 807 is higher than the Citroen C8 on P11d price, but seems to be a bargain compared to older competition.
The Ford Galaxy is getting on a bit and is smaller than the 807 and is a little more expensive at the front end, while a comparable Volkswagen Sharan (sharing its engine and transmission with the Ford) is £500 further adrift.
However, the gap between the Citroen C8 and Volkswagen Sharan is a little over £1,000 and it's still all to play for.
THIS makes for interesting reading and highlights the difference between the costs of servicing and parts at different manufacturers. The Peugeot is essentially the same vehicle as the Citroen and the Ford is more or less the same as the Volkswagen.
However, the Peugeot has a three-year/60,000-mile SMR bill of £1,524 – £72 lower than that of the C8, while the Ford's bill of £1,398 is £140 lower than the Volkswagen.
SLIGHT differences in specification can affect fuel consumption but the figures here illustrate that the £6 advantage the Peugeot has over the Citroen over 60,000 miles is academic.
Meanwhile the smaller, lighter Ford and Volkswagen fare better, giving the Sharan a £162 advantage over the Peugeot 807 based on the vehicles' official combined fuel consumption ratings. The Galaxy is also likely to be marginally cheaper on fuel than the Peugeot.
FAMILIARITY has its price, with the Ford Galaxy putting in the worst performance for depreciation. The 1.27ppm difference between the Galaxy and 807 gives the Peugeot a £762 advantage.
The 807 also has a clear £400-plus advantage over the Citroen, with perhaps heavier discounting at the front end penalising the C8 at de-fleeting time. The Sharan just wins the depreciation battle, losing £13,600 over three years/60,000 miles: £186 less than the Peugeot 807.
THE Peugeot just loses out in wholelife costs to the Volkswagen Sharan. Although a £312 advantage over three years/60,000 miles is not a resounding victory for the Volkswagen, it is impressive considering its age.
What is perhaps more surprising is the difference of £504 between the Peugeot 807 and the Citroen C8, when the two vehicles share all but some exterior design details and a few specification differences.
The Galaxy sits in fourth place, £42 behind the Citroen C8.
Emissions and Bik Tax Rates
NO Brownie Points here for Euro IV compliance as the challenge to reduce nitrous oxide emissions and particulates (although the Peugeot and Citroen both have particulate traps) in vehicles as large as these will take time and money on the part of the manufacturers.
There is a small advantage for the Citroen thanks to its lower P11d price with a 40% tax-payer contributing £233 per month to the Inland Revenue coffers. The bill for the Peugeot would be £236 per month, with the Galaxy on £238 and the Sharan on £244.
THE Sharan wins the running costs battle, but the MPV sector has moved on since the Volkswagen was launched and the additional features of the Peugeot 807 are enough to give it a victory overall. It also scores a handsome win over the Citroen C8, with which it shares its design and most of its components.