In the 1960s, the average brood peaked at just over 2.7, according to the Office for National Statistics, and the pattern of decline is continuing.
So it is ironic that the popularity of seven-seat vehicles, principally designed for carrying large families, should be inversely related to that statistical trend, and these are the three newest to offer seven seats for those families stubbornly bucking the nation’s lethargy for a large litter.
In the virile fleet industry, these vehicles are even more popular than with the nation at large – in some cases up to two-thirds of certain mini-MPVs sold go to fleets. So it is essential for the fleet manager, who may have a number of these on his or her books, to pick the right one.
The new Renault Grand Scenic, Toyota Corolla Verso and Volkswagen Touran are three or the best seven-seat variants. By far the biggest cost to manage is depreciation and here the Volkswagen scores a good win. Although it is helped by a lower front end price, it still delivers a strong performance.
At 15.69 pence per mile, the Touran would lose £9,414 over the three year/60,000 period, which is substantially less than either the Grand Scenic or the Corolla Verso. The Renault loses the most of the three, at 18.62ppm, which ends up at £11,172. The Toyota, with a solid reputation for reliability and consistent running, comes in second with a figure of 17.24ppm, or £10,344.
Volkswagen first, Toyota second and Renault third: it’s a pattern that is repeated in nearly all vehicle sectors for residual values, illustrating the varying levels of faith that secondhand buyers have in each brand, and as a result, CAP puts the Touran here 8% higher than the Grand Scenic.
With servicing, maintenance and repair, things are much closer with the cheapest the Corolla Verso at 2.04 and the most expensive the Touran at 2.25. Over the 60,000 miles, that equates to a difference of £126.
Fuel costs are more widely spread. The most fuel-efficient is the Renault, which has a pence-per-mile figure of 8.44, which means a total fuel bill over 60,000 miles of £5,064. Its combined fuel economy figure is 48.7mpg. The next best is the Touran, at 47.1mpg and 8.73ppm, which results in an extra £174 of fuel. The Corolla Verso, with its 2.0-litre engine is the least efficient at 45.6mpg and 9.02ppm. That makes it £348 more expensive than the Renault.
The combination of all three cost areas puts the Touran first, and by a decent margin. In total it comes in at 26.67ppm, the Corolla Verso is second at 28.30ppm and the Grand Scenic is third at 29.18ppm.
Over 60,000 miles, that gives the Touran a total cost of £16,002, which is £978 less than the Corolla Verso and a hefty £1,506 less than the Grand Scenic.
For drivers, the story remains the same, principally because the Volkswagen, rated at 162g/km, is the only vehicle here that is Euro IV-compliant and therefore avoids the 3% BIK surcharge. As a result, it is in the lowest benefit-in-kind tax band of the three, at 18%, while the Renault, which has low emissions of 154g/km, is 19% and the 165g/km Toyota is 22%.
For a 22% tax-payer, that means a bill in this tax year of £674 for the Touran, £741 for the Grand Scenic and £863 for the Corolla Verso, which is quite a difference, and reinforces the running cost advantage of the Touran.
However, part of the reason the Touran does so well is that this is just about the ceiling for the Touran with the 1.9 TDI engine, whereas the more powerful Grand Scenic and Corolla Verso can be chosen with significantly longer standard equipment lists further up the range.
The Touran competes with higher-spec rivals by having an extensive options list. Choosing the 2.0 TDI Touran to compete with the others on price would give it a significant power advantage but hurt its fuel consumption.
So an easy victory for the Touran then? Not necessarily – can it match the others for equipment, driving pleasure and practicality? SM
Renault Grand Scenic
THE Grand Scenic is the latest in a long line of MPVs from Renault and is styled similarly to the larger Espace. Style and sophistication is Renault's approach here
Delivered price, standard car (P11d value): £17,737
CO2 emissions (g/km): 154
BIK % of P11D in 2004/05: 19%
Graduated VED rate: £135
Insurance group: 7
Combined mpg: 48.7
CAP Monitor residual value: £5,750/32%
Depreciation (18.62 pence per mile x 60,000): £11,172
Maintenance (2.12 pence per mile x 60,000): £1,272
Fuel (8.44 pence per mile x 60,000): £5,064
Wholelife cost (29.18 pence per mile x 60,000): £17,508
Typical contract hire rate: £327 per month
Toyota Corolla Verso
THE Corolla Verso is the newest of the three cars here and aims to attract drivers by a combination of seven seats as standard, hi-tech gadgets and peerless reliability
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £17,822
CO2 emissions (g/km): 165
BIK % of P11D in 2004/05: 22%
Graduated VED rate: £135
Insurance group: 6
Combined mpg: 45.6
CAP Monitor residual value: £6,400/36%
Depreciation (17.24 pence per mile x 60,000): £10,344
Maintenance (2.04 pence per mile x 60,000): £1,224
Fuel (9.02 pence per mile x 60,000): £5,412
Wholelife cost (28.30 pence per mile x 60,000): £16,980
Typical contract hire rate: £349 per month
BASED on the Golf, the Touran is aimed at drivers wanting as practical an MPV as possible, with few frills but solid, dependable running. It might not be flash, but it does the job
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £17,027
CO2 emissions (g/km): 162
BIK % of P11D in 2004/05: 18%
Graduated VED rate: £135
Insurance group: 6
Combined mpg: 47.1
CAP Monitor residual value: £6,800/40%
Depreciation (15.69 pence per mile x 60,000): £9,414
Maintenance (2.25 pence per mile x 60,000): £1,350
Fuel (8.73 pence per mile x 60,000): £5,238
Wholelife cost (26.67 pence per mile x 60,000): £16,002
Typical contract hire rate: £332 per month
THE Volkswagen Touran seems to embrace the ‘no-frills’ school of getting up to seven people from A to B.
This isn’t to say that the SE trimmed Touran felt like a budget car, but its list price advantage over the other two vehicles disappears when you add options found on the standard equipment lists of the Toyota and Renault.
It comes with alloy wheels, cruise control, air conditioning, various safety systems to prevent the car from skidding off the road, electric windows and six airbags. Quite generous, it would seem.
However, the Toyota adds a driver’s knee airbag to the safety count, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, rain-sensing windscreen wipers and a leather steering wheel with audio controls, while the Renault can also boast most of these as standard.
It is probably the most voluminous of the three, however, with a maximum luggage capacity slightly less than the 1,989 litres quoted for the five-seat version. In the seven-seat version, the third row of seats folds flat and the middle row can be removed.
As in the five-seat model, the removable seats are light and easy to take out of the car. The interior feels a little more utilitarian than the other two cars and would appear familiar to anyone who has driven a new Golf.
The Touran has light controls and is easy to drive. Its power and torque deficit compared with the other two cars is partially negated by its six-speed transmission, making it feel livelier than it actually is and helping disguise the fact that it takes nearly a second longer to reach 62mph from rest than the other two.
The pumpe duse engine also makes more noise than the Grand Scenic’s 1.9 dCi. SH
THE Corolla Verso underwent a revision this summer which was aimed at putting it on the mini-MPV map and included a move to seven seats as well as improvements in appearance.
One of the advantages of moving to seven seats is that the Corolla Verso would have a bigger impact on the seven seat small MPV market – there are fewer seven-seat models than five-seaters.
Toyota’s trick with the new Corolla Verso was not to mess about with taking seats in and out but to fold the second and third row flat, providing a fully flat loading area.
The trouble is that with the middle row of seats effectively taking up space in the luggage area, it results in a maximum luggage volume of 1,563 litres, adequate for most people, but not as much as its removable-seat rivals.
Nine airbags are standard, but the T3 does without the hi-tech reversing camera and unique Cornering Assist Monitor that looks both ways into forthcoming streets, optional on T-Spirit models only. The Corolla Verso feels most like driving a car. It retains a hydraulic power steering system, while the other two have electric set-ups, offering a more progressive and precise feel.
It is the only car here with a five-speed transmission – Volkswagen and Renault preferring six gears – but it works well enough. The amount of torque offered by a modern turbodiesel engine often means you shouldn’t need to change gear so much, despite the keenness of some manufacturers to offer six-speed gearboxes. Despite being less powerful and having less torque than the Grand Scenic, the Corolla Verso beats the Renault from 0-62mph by a tenth of a second, presumably because it is reached with fewer gearchanges. SH
RENAULT’S strategy with the latest Scenic seems to have paid off. Rather than having a one-size-fits-all MPV, it is able to offer two cars in the same family, one designed to carry five and the other, at 230mm longer, seven.
The Grand Scenic has two extra individual seats that fold away into the floor, while the middle row remains removable.
It also offers an unrivalled 200 litres of luggage space with the third row in place – nearly as much as a mainstream supermini.
While the Touran and the Corolla Verso feel derived from the Golf and Corolla, the Grand Scenic feels more like a scaled down Espace. Presumably there is much more to be gained from the halo effect of this iconic vehicle than just being an additional member of the seven-strong Megane family. Like the Espace there is a central blue LED instrument panel, an automatic parking brake while in Expression trim, Renault adds automatic headlamps and rear side window blinds over the Corolla Verso and Touran, although the Grand Scenic does without alloy wheels.
While the Touran seems to have been designed to be the most efficient way of transporting a family of up to seven and the Corolla Verso appears to offer clever solutions to the living with the conflicting demands of families and luggage, the Grand Scenic seems to be a road-going extension of the home.
The automatic parking brake means the area between the front seats is free of clutter and the centre console design wouldn’t look out of place on an expensive home hi-fi system. Like its rivals there are extra storage areas, but the Grand Scenic seems to be the most thoroughly developed. SH
WHILE it might come across as a bit dreary to some, you can’t ignore the Touran’s handsome cost advantage over the other two and it is an efficient seven seater. Despite its slightly higher cost, we would give second place to the Grand Scenic because it is more practical than the Corolla Verso – a key consideration for those who need a small MPV. It also has a little more panache. The Toyota takes third place, but it is still a capable and high quality alternative.