All about People-movers
What is a people mover?
The term ‘people mover’ is a peculiarly Australian term for a multi-seat vehicle whose express purpose is to transport at least six people – but less than about 10.
It is believed to have been coined by Toyota in the early 1980s when it wanted to market its first passenger-car centric MPV, the Tarago.
In fact, the term ‘Tarago’ has entered the Australian lexicon as a generic term for MPV or people mover, and Toyota may eventually be in danger of losing the rights to this name.
People movers are known by many other names overseas, such as the MPV Multi Purpose Vehicle, minivan or (mini van or mini-van), minibus, mini carrier, mini utility vehicle or people carrier.
Confusingly, Mazda marketed a full-sized people mover known as the MPV from 1994 to 2006.
What makes a people mover different from other multi-seat vehicles?
People movers or MPVs are designed specifically and primarily to transport people.
So while a five-seater SUV with a third row back seat that folds into the floor like a Mitsubishi Outlander is technically also a people mover, it is not designed primarily to be a seven-seater people mover, but an SUV.
Similarly, ordering an MPV or people mover with AWD all-wheel drive does not make it an off-roader first-and-foremost.
To aid its role as a mover of people, people movers or MPVs usually have a few design traits in common – tall and upright styling of up to 1800mm in height (about 300mm taller than a regular passenger car) in order to facilitate entry and egress to all seating positions; a cargo area beyond the space used up by a second or third row of seats, so luggage or other items can be transported with their owners; and a boxy silhouette so the maximum number of people can fit inside safely and comfortably.
Do all people movers have the same seat layout?
No, there are many variations to how a carmaker might present its people mover’s seating arrangements.
Most popular is the seven-seater people mover with a 2+3+2 seating configuration from front to rear. This layout is typical of models such as the Honda Odyssey.
Then there is the 2+3+3 layout as you might find in a Toyota Tarago, or a 3+3+3 set-up.
Some vehicles even have a 3+3 arrangement that allows for shorter wheelbase MPVs or people movers (the 1999 Fiat Multipla springs to mind), although no modern examples of such vehicles are available in Australia.
Are there big differences in the engineering between people movers sold in Australia?
Basically, people movers or MPVs are either car-based or commercial van-based.
The car-based people movers are generally better to drive, more refined, and often easier on the eye. An example of this is the Mitsubishi Grandis, Chrysler Voyager or Toyota Tarago.
Commercial van-based people movers or MPVs, on the other hand, tend to be bigger, boxier and more utilitarian. These vary in size, from compact (Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Life) to quite square and stately (Mercedes-Benz Viano).
Most of the car-based People Movers or MPVs are front-wheel drive – since they are based on small or medium-sized passenger vehicles – while the larger commercial van ones tend to be rear-wheel drive, such as the Hyundai iMax.
Are there sub-categories of people mover?
You bet there are. But the way the FCAI Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries classifies people movers or MPVs is by price, rather than by size as is done in many other countries.
So, in Australia, there are the Sub-$55,000 People Movers and the ‘Over-$55,000 People Movers – with the former category comprising of more than 90 per cent of all sales.
This compares to the Mini MPV, Compact MPV and Large MPV categories in Europe.
The Mini MPV is comprised of light-car (or supermini, or B-segment) based models such as the Ford Fiesta-based Ford Fusion or Opel Corsa-derived Meriva, but this class is deemed too small for Australians.
The Compact MPV segment, on the other hand, is usually made up of C-segment or small-car based vehicles, such as the Renault Megane-derived Scenic, Citroen C4-based C4 Picasso and the Kia Rondo.
There were several other Compact MPV models available between 2001 and 2006, such as the Holden Zafira (derived from the Astra), Mazda Premacy (323) and Hyundai La Vita (Elantra), but all sold poorly.
However, the Kia Rondo’s arrival in Australia and its subsequent success may see the return of other Compact SUVs soon.
What are the best sellers in the people mover class?
The Kia Carnival and Toyota Tarago account for the lion’s share of people mover or MPV sales. The rest is divided up between the Honda Odyssey, Toyota Avensis Verso and Kia Rondo.
What engines and transmissions are found in people movers?
Petrol powers many of the popular people movers, in four-cylinder or V6 six-cylinder configurations.
However, diesels are also cutting sway with buyers, as the various four-cylinder and V6 turbo-diesel models prove.
Commercial van-based people movers or MPVs also tend to lean towards diesel.
Diesel works well in people movers or MPVs because they tend to produce more of the low-rev torque required to provide sufficient acceleration or overtaking oomph.
Furthermore, with a people mover or MPV needing to overcome big loads and blunt aerodynamics, diesel power provides a welcome respite from high fuel consumption bills.
Are there any environmental people movers?
Car-based people movers or MPVs are generally the most environmental because they are usually lighter, and often more compact.
Going diesel will save fuel and reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions but they emit more harmful NOX Nitrogen Oxide pollution.
There are no petrol-electric or any other combination of hybrid people movers available in Australia.
What are the advantages of choosing a people mover?
People movers or MPVs are an efficient way of transporting people who might otherwise have to rely on more than one vehicle to get around.
Most (and especially car-based) people movers are designed first and foremost to transport people, and so they offer packaging and safety tailored to that purpose.
People movers might be expensive to buy, but they tend to hold their value very well.
People movers or MPVs are often interesting in their design details, with many offering unusual or innovative interior solutions – and this makes a change from a humdrum wagon or SUV.
People movers can be more economical and environmental than a heavier SUV.
What are the disadvantages of choosing a people mover?
People movers or MPVs are not the sexiest cars on the roads.
Some commercial van-based people movers can seem a little rough, unrefined or coarse.
Some earlier commercial-van based people movers drove and felt inherently unstable due to their heavy duty, cargo-focused engineering and tall, upright designs.
People movers or MPVs – even car-based ones – are rarely as good as the vehicles that begat them in the driving dynamics department.
What are the best people movers?
In no particular order, the Toyota Tarago, Chrysler Voyager, Renault Grand Scenic, Mitsubishi Grandis, Volkswagen Multivan, Honda Odyssey and Citroen C4 Picasso are very good people movers and MPVs.
Are there people movers or mpvs made in Australia?
Sadly there are no dedicated people movers or MPVs made in Australia.
Japan, Korea, France, Germany, and North America are the source countries for most of our people movers.