For most families with three kids or more, a seven-seat car provides ample space for friends and family alike. Buyers have plenty of choice in this regard too with everything from practical MPVs such as the Dacia Jogger to big SUVs like the Toyota Highlander.
When it comes to needing even more space though, buyers’ choices are a bit limited. Legally, holders of a Category B driver’s licence in Ireland can’t carry more than eight passengers (plus themselves) without a minibus licence, so if a seven-seater won’t cut it for those impromptu road trips with your large family/team/coven you’ll either be forced to take two cars along or to go for one of the small number of eight- or nine-seat models on the Irish market.
Surprisingly, despite the small number of vehicles (eight, although five of those are basically the same car with a different badge) there’s actually plenty of choice when it comes to powertrains, with diesel, hybrid and fully-electric models from which to choose.
Nor, looks notwithstanding, should buyers expect the driving experience to be that of a rattly old van. None of these cars (with the possible exception of the Defender) feel like luxury saloons to drive, but actually they’re all really quite refined, practical, easy to manoeuvre and pleasant to live with, with enough equipment to keep families happy.
Citroën Spacetourer/Peugeot e-Traveller/Opel Zafira-e Life/Fiat Ulysse
Shameless badge-engineering or a canny way to save on development costs? You can decide yourself, but the Stellantis group (the conglomerate comprising Citroen, Peugeot, Opel, Fiat, Jeep, Alfa Romeo and others) really seems to be making the most out of its van-based MPVs, with the same basic shell and platform used to create five separate (though very similar) models. These days, the Citroen, Peugeot and Opel versions — named the Spacetourer, e-Traveller and Zafira-e Life, respectively — are electric-only and offer a very compelling package for either taxi drivers or families who want to cut down on their running costs without sacrificing practicality. A Fiat version, the Ulysse, is also on the way soon, but hasn’t gone on sale in Ireland at the time of writing.
It stands to reason that none of these represent thrilling driver’s cars, but with a 50kWh battery pack, 136hp and an official range between charges of just under 240km they don’t feel especially ponderous, although the lack of masking engine noise does make the otherwise well-screwed-together cabin feel a bit echoey.
All feature sliding side doors and the choice of long- or short-wheelbase versions, while starting prices between different brands range from around the €49,000 mark to just under €60,000. Although very similar, these vans aren’t absolutely identical in terms of spec and interior looks, so they’re worth checking out individually if you’re in the market.
Toyota Proace Verso
Look familiar? That’s because the Toyota Proace Verso is essentially the same vehicle as the Spacetourer/e-Traveller/Zafira-e except with a 140hp 2.0-litre diesel engine under the bonnet, making it ideal for those who want that extra space, but who can’t make the electric switch just yet.
Despite its high-up driving position, the Verso only really feels especially van-like to drive when hustled along a twisty road, but otherwise it’s a perfectly pleasant vehicle with tons of room inside and not that much less in the way of gadgetry than most other Toyota models. Fuel consumption of 7.1 litres/100km is strong too and, like its European cousins, it’s available in long- and short-wheelbase forms with seating for up to nine. Prices start from just over €64,000.
Renault Trafic Passenger
Hard as it might be to believe given the similar looks and value proposition, the Renault Trafic isn’t actually related to the Citroën Spacetourer or the Toyota Proace (though the model was related to the old Opel Vivaro/Fiat Talento). Most of what can be said about Stellantis’ van-based MPVs and the Toyota can also be said about the Renault though: it has loads of space, sliding doors, a decent level of equipment and a reasonably pleasant drive, though the Trafic’s interior is that bit nicer than rivals’.
Prices start from €60,000, and while long and short versions are available, all are nine-seaters with 2.0-litre diesel engines ranging from 110- to 170hp.
If you buy a Mercedes V-Class, you’ll look like you’re driving the airport shuttle for a luxury hotel, which could be a good or a bad thing depending on your perspective. Sadly, the electric version of the V-Class, the EQV, is only available as a seven-seater, so those in search of a plush van-based eight-seat MPV will have to make do with the V-Class, though that’s no great hardship.
Van-derived though it may be, the luxurious V-Class really does feel like a cut above its less expensive competitors in terms of kit and materials, and power comes courtesy of a fairly smooth 2.0-litre diesel engine developing either 165 -or 278hp sending power to the wheels through a nine-speed automatic transmission. That said, the V-Class is expensive, with Irish pricing starting from €120,600.
Land Rover Defender 130
And now for something completely different. Land Rover has created a new version of its Defender off-roader by extending the wheelbase giving it enough room for eight. In fact, had the firm opted to fit the front bench seat seen in other models, there’d be room for nine people inside. For those in need of more than seven seats and who don’t want to go down the van-based MPV route, the Defender 130 is the only option, though it’s a pretty desirable one.
A far cry from the royal and ancient Defender of old, the new model is just as capable off-road, with up-to-date modern styling and an interior packed with the latest tech. No, the majority of new Defenders won’t see as much as a mucky field, but as with all luxury Land Rovers it’s nice to know that they can keep on moving when the going gets tough. The eight-seater has all of the 4x4 nous of its shorter siblings, but with the ability to bring even more friends and family along for the ride. Supplying power is a mild-hybrid-assisted 3.0-litre six-cylinder diesel engine developing 249hp.
Attractive as the Defender is though, bear in mind that Land Rover really doesn’t have a very strong reputation for reliability and that Irish pricing starts from a cool €137,560.