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Should I buy a people mover?

2015 Kia Carnival

A cruel person might suggest that buying a people mover means your life is over, but those kind of heartless individuals - let's just call them young people - are the same ones who drip disdain on the very idea of parenting and refer to those who enjoy it as "breeders".

The scorn poured upon vehicles that prioritise family over style is strange. Logically, the fact that you need a people mover now means you were considered a catch by someone, some long years ago, and it's even possible that the sexy little coupe you used to drive might have made you that tiny bit more attractive.

It's just possible that owning a Porsche or a Ferrari will naturally lead to a people mover, the way a bottle of wine is a precursor to doing foolish things.

People movers can make your crowded life a lot more comfortable

If you've found yourself in the market for a big van, and we're guessing that means you have children rather than a staff of assistants, there are some disadvantages you'll just have to get used to.

But if you can bear the slings and arrows of a contemptuous public, people movers can make your crowded life a lot more comfortable.

With more people having fewer children and making do with seven-seat SUVs, your family vehicle will always stick out in the carpark.

The Good

Apart from announcing your virility, people movers are designed for one reason only: seating as many human beings as possible, and keeping them comfortable, and safe, until they're piled out again.

To fit all that flesh, people movers feature a high roofline, which is the point where any semblance of style saunters off. The upshot is a tall ceiling, which is great not only for headroom but legroom, as it affords a more upright seating position than any other car.

Sitting upright means you take up less horizontal space, leaving room for more seating and even a decent amount of luggage space. Hauling seven people and their holiday swag, however, necessitates a bit of real-life Tetris, and you'll still probably need a roof pod, a trailer or a Buddhist approach to packing.

  • 2014 Honda Odyssey VTi-L 2014 Honda Odyssey VTi-L
  • 2014 Honda Odyssey VTi-L 2014 Honda Odyssey VTi-L
  • 2014 Honda Odyssey VTi-L 2014 Honda Odyssey VTi-L
  • 2014 Honda Odyssey VTi-L 2014 Honda Odyssey VTi-L
  • 2014 Honda Odyssey VTi-L 2014 Honda Odyssey VTi-L
  • 2014 Honda Odyssey VTi-L 2014 Honda Odyssey VTi-L
  • 2014 Honda Odyssey VTi-L 2014 Honda Odyssey VTi-L
  • 2014 Honda Odyssey VTi-L 2014 Honda Odyssey VTi-L

A high ceiling also makes it easier to get in and out of your family bus, as do wide-opening and sliding doors. Amenities such as climate control and stereo speakers don't bypass rear-seat riders, either, as they do in some SUVs.

Even if your family isn't as big as the Brady Bunch, people movers can still be a sensible choice. Anyone who's ever been pestered by their kids about bringing their BFF on your next EFH (Enforced Family Holiday) will appreciate the freedom they offer.

The ability to fit you and yours, and theirs, in one vehicle means you don't need two cars, two drivers and two fuel bills.

The Bad

If looking cool and stylish is really important to you, it might be time to consider selling off your least favourite offspring. People movers have an absence of style so pronounced they make a Segway look good. Compared to a big, manly seven-seat SUV they look like Julia Gillard next to Tony Abbott. It's no wonder that's the way larger families are tending to go.

  • 2015 Mercedes-Benz V-Class 2015 Mercedes-Benz V-Class
  • 2015 Mercedes-Benz V-Class 2015 Mercedes-Benz V-Class
  • 2015 Mercedes-Benz V-Class 2015 Mercedes-Benz V-Class
  • 2015 Mercedes-Benz V-Class 2015 Mercedes-Benz V-Class

SUVs can do much the same job as people movers, and for comparative peanuts. An entry-level Toyota Tarago runs dangerously close to the $50,000 mark and the lushly fitted Mercedes V-Class costs an eye-watering $85,000.

Life is a bit cheaper over at Honda, where a base-spec Odyssey, which is a surprisingly fine way to travel, costs about $38,000, but you can get decent seven-seat SUVs for as little as $30,000.

SUVs have been able to carry more than the standard five passengers for decades now. Even so, they still can't carry quite as much as a people mover; it's usually a choice between seating seven and letting them bring any luggage at all.

That said, SUVs don't set off the same ominous "breeder" bells as a people mover.

Don't expect fantastic fuel economy

Van-based people movers can feel one step removed from a TNT truck; and that's because they are. The Hyundai iMax is surprisingly effortless to drive, but the ride in the rear seats can cause numbness below the waist.

Efforts from Volkswagen and even Mercedes are a little more cultured, but there's no getting away from their humble underpinnings. If it looks like a duck, you'll never make it glide like a swan.

People movers that use car-based chassis are a better bet for handling, as you'd expect, but none will hold a candle to a well-sorted station wagon.

Don't expect fantastic fuel economy, either; it takes a lot of juice to overcome bluff aerodynamics and the heavy payload of a well-fed family.

People movers can rate lower for safety, so it's worth checking out their ANCAP crash ratings.

Move in or move along?

In essence, all cars are built to move people, it's just that the ones called people movers really take the plural to extremes.

If it's a toss-up between people movers and what men don't like to call 'the snip', it's really a case of what's less painful. They might be about as cool as a solar flare, but if you've got a big family to carry you'll find some of them really can make your life instantly easier.

A people mover in your driveway means that a) you have a house with a driveway and b) you have a lot of children. And neither of those are bad things, no matter what the cruel people say.

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