MPV RIP: why people carriers are disappearing from price lists

Published: 26 April 2022

► An elegy to the humble people carrier
► Citroen’s MPV the latest to get P45
► SUVs 1, people carriers 0

So farewell then, Citroen C4 SpaceTourer. You weren’t a car to get the heart racing, but you were solid, sensible family transport – a gift to those who wanted space but not an SUV.

Citroen’s decision not to replace its MPV is indicative of the trend sweeping the industry: people carriers are out, SUVs and crossovers are in. Most brands are quietly discontinuing multi-purpose vehicles, the van-like genre of car swollen unpretentiously to provide multiple rows of seating without the on-tiptoe hike of a faux-by-four.

Citroen sold almost 4.5 million MPVs in the past 30 years – but it’s now quitting the trad people carrier, leaving customers to pick from the C5 Aircross and C5 X SUVs or its all-electric ë-Berlingo and ë-SpaceTourer.

Citroen Grand C4 Picasso review: what all the fuss was about

The decline of the MPV: SUVs overtook them a decade ago

A quick glance at European sales figures over the past decade explains the decline. The top navy blue segment of this graph is the share of SUV sales across Europe, according to ACEA, the EU’s automotive trade body – and it inexorably grows, overtaking the humble family MPV (orange) in 2012 and never looking back.

Decline of the MPV people carrier

European sales of people carriers peaked at 1.7 million in 2009, falling to just over a million – 1,015,269 – in 2019 immediately before the pandemic. Covid accelerated the drop to 680,831 in 2020. The direction of travel is plain to see. 

Meanwhile, SUV sales in Europe grew fivefold over the same period. It’s hard to argue with market forces, but remember how product planners are able to massage such trends by controlling supply levels and discounting. Just because a car features in the price list doesn’t mean a salesman will be incentivised to sell it to you…

We’ll miss your practical ways

The SpaceTourer and Picassos before it were fine MPVs. Folding and sliding seats, huge glazing areas and cubby holes galore to stash your stuff made family life a doddle. All while not teetering around on a lofty SUV stance.

Minivans are still popular in Asia and other markets, but it seems most buyers in Europe are lapping up the crossovers which now offer these family-friendly features and third row of seats. It seems those who appreciate choice in the automotive firmament should be careful what they wish for.

By Tim Pollard

Group digital editorial director, motoring news magnet

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