Know how much you can spend on a car but haven’t made up your mind which one to buy? Each month, we recommend two sensible options plus a left-field choice.

In our 2020 Performance Shootout, we used a Mercedes-Benz V-Class as a support vehicle and its fantastic showing got us thinking: which MPVs can you get on the used market? Here are three for under R800 000 each...

Sensible: Mercedes-Benz V220d/Bluetec

0-100 km/h: 13,84 seconds
Top speed: 195 km/h
Power: 120 kW
Torque: 380 N.m
CO2: 149 g/km
Fuel consumption: 6,84 L/100 km

Not your average people mover, the Mercedes-Benz V-Class is popular among hotels, tour companies and well-to-do families thanks to all its luxury bells and whistles including swivelling and sliding seats, and foldable tables. If you want to change the seating configuration, however, call for some assistance as the chairs are heavy.

The engines can be a bit gruff when accelerating but copes well with a load. A variety of powertrain options are offered, all turbodiesel with the same capacity of 2,1 litres. Models 200d, 220d and 250d have power outputs of 100, 120 and 140 kW respectively.

Rear-wheel drive delivers more grip on gravel inclines that is particularly useful when loaded but expect a rather harsh ride owing to the V-Class’ commercial-van roots and some rattles and squeaks escaping from the plethora of interior panels.

Fuel consumption appears frugal based on claimed figures, with our index revealing 6,84 L/100 km for the V220d. Our test route result proved heavier, at 8,60 L/100 km, and this is much more realistic.

Make sure all the electrics are working. There is plenty of wiring in all directions, more if the side doors are electrically operated. As with all diesels, at some stage you will have to inspect and clean the EGR valve. These almost always get clogged up after years of use.

A decent maintenance plan gives you six years (or five on newer models) and 100 000 km of dealer assistance, which is just as well because these Benzes do not come cheap.

Space: 7 seats, 416/2 576 L
Safety: 6 airbags, ABS with EBD, stability control
Cost of four tyres: R10 428
Road Test: February 2016 (V220 Bluetec)

Sensible: Volkswagen Caravelle 2,0 BiTDI

0-100 km/h: 13,76 seconds
Top speed: 188 km/h
Power: 132 kW
Torque: 420 N.m
CO2: 232 g/km
Fuel consumption: 10,56 L/100 km

As with the V-Class, this Volkswagen T6’s range is varied, starting with the budget Kombis, then the Caravelle with more spec and power, right to the flagship Caravelle Highline with its 2,0-litre twin-turbo engine tested in 2016.

If you remove the rear seats, you are rewarded with more utility space than the others (this action is also much easier than in the V-Class) but the boot in full-seater guise is not as generous. One special feature that stems from a long line of Kombi/Microbuses is the ability to move from the front seats to the rear; great for family trips and holidays. The second row of seats can swivel, too, needing only a lever pull to do so.

Some models have 4Motion all-wheel drive. This used to be known as Synchro in older model ranges. Unlike those beloved Synchros, on the 4Motion and others the full-size steel spare wheel is placed under the rear body.

This four-wheel-drive setup and an equally intricate dual-clutch transmission make the vehicle a lot more complex. The result is a van which is a joy to drive anywhere, anytime, thanks to the readily available power and quick shifts, but bear in mind the maintenance costs will increase with age and mileage.

A five-year full maintenance plan was part of the package but, unfortunately, the distance limit is 60 000 km so chances are that it is close to, or has expired.

Space: 7 seats, 240/2 840 L
Safety: 6 airbags, ABS with EBD, stability control
Cost of four tyres: R12 175

Road Test: February 2016 (2,0 BiTDI Highline 4Motion DSG)

Left-field: Kia Sedona 2,2 CRDi

0-100 km/h: 10,17 seconds
Top speed: 190 km/h
Power: 147 kW
Torque: 440 N.m
CO2: 208 g/km
Fuel consumption: 9,48 L/100 km

The Kia Sedona is much less like a van and much more SUV-cum-station-wagon in packaging, hence its billing here as left-field. While easier to drive briskly than the others, there is naturally less versatile space in the rear due to the lower roofline.

In 2019, this model was facelifted and the name revised to Grand Sedona. Interesting differences between these three carriers all tested in 2016 (the Kia won that comparative test quite comfortably) were one was rear-wheel drive, one all-wheel drive and the Kia front only. Front-wheel drive adds some space but this means it could struggle with traction of poor road surfaces.

This 2,2-litre turbodiesel engine has been around for some time and that’s a good thing, as it is well suited to comfortable, user-friendly, reliable motoring. While having the most power of the three, the Kia has a significantly lower kerb weight, so fuel consumption benefits.

The infotainment system on the pre-facelift model is a let-down; a minor criticism in a classy package such as this. Rear-seat stowage design is clever, however. The seats disappear into a bathtub-sized recess and free up a huge trunk space of 400 litres. The space-saver spare wheel is located under the centre body.

The five-year maintenance package lasts for 100 000 km. Thanks to much keener pricing, you can opt for a newer vehicle giving a few more years of included servicing.

Space: 7 seats, 400/1 984 L
Safety: 6 airbags, ABS with EBD, stability control
Cost of four tyres: R10 512
Road Test: February 2016 (2,2 CRDi SXL)

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