If you’ve ever tried squeezing seven people into a so-called seven-seater SUV or MPV you’ll know that the third row is best left to small people and contortionists.
So, we thought we’d road test Citroen’s impressive SpaceTourer people carrier, but is it just a van with windows and extra seats or more like a supersized MPV?
The Citroen SpaceTourer battles it out in a specialised segment which appeals to big families and taxi drivers, plus businesses transporting staff and clients.
Up against everything from the Mercedes-Benz V-Series to the Volkswagen Caravelle and Ford Tourneo Custom, it’s also in direct competition with its close relatives the Peugeot Traveller and Toyota Proace Verso (they were all developed together).
You don’t have to be a genius to see that the SpaceTourer bears more than a passing resemblance to the Citroen Dispatch van on which it is based. And to be honest, that’s not such a bad thing because it’s about as good looking as a van can get.
Sporting Citroen’s corporate nose with its sweeping headlights, double chevron grille and large air intake, the SpaceTourer is modern and sophisticated. Yes, it has a boxy rear end, but subtle creases and rounded edges give it a stylish profile. There are also wide, sliding doors on each side, plus large tinted windows and a huge rear hatch for easy access.
Inside, its van origins are rather more obvious, especially up front, though Citroen’s done its best to make the dashboard looks as much like a car as possible with everything within easy reach. There’s a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment screen in the centre console (the Citroen Connect Nav system can even be controlled by voice recognition), plus heating controls.
Obviously there’s a high driving position, offering a commanding view of the road, plus there are plenty of storage spaces dotted around the cabin.
Priced from £33,575 (inc VAT), the Space Tourer is available in five trims – Feel, Flair and Rip Curl, plus Business and Business Lounge. You can also choose between three lengths (XS: 4.6m, M: 4.96m and XL: 5.3m) and it’s possible to fit in as many as nine people if you opt for the front bench seat.
The seating is flexible so that you can have three rows or even two rows facing each other. All the seats are removable (though they are on the heavy side), so it’s even possible to use it as a van if you’re in need of a load-lugger (it can carry up to 1,400kg).
Depending on the length chosen, boot volume (with five seats in place) varies from 1,978 to 2,932 litres.
It’s well equipped too. Standard equipment includes cruise control, parking sensors, a rear-view camera, ISOFIX child seat mountings, Hill Start Assist and LED daytime running lights.
Top-spec models come with goodies including leather seats, head-up display, adaptive cruise control, seat massager and other goodies.
The SpaceTourer is available with two BlueHDi turbo diesel engines (1.5 and 2.0-litre) with varying outputs, paired with manual gearboxes (or an automatic if you go for the most powerful engine option).
I tested the top-of-the-range Business Lounge, complete with a powerful 177bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine, eight-speed automatic transmission and lots of extras – weighing in just north of £40,000.
It’s no slow coach with a 0-62mph time of 11 seconds, while fuel economy is officially up to 47.1mpg and CO2 emissions are 159g/km. On long motorway runs, I found that an indicated 40mpg was more than possible.
Medium-sized, it was arranged with two rows of plush leather seats behind the driver with spacious seating for four.
Beside each comfy seat was a large binnacle with cub/bottle holders, plus an aircraft-style tray which could be pulled out and swivelled for each passenger’s use – ideal for eating food or for working on a laptop.
There’s also plenty of light thanks to the panoramic glass roof, split by a long panel housing air-conditioning and ventilation controls.
The sliding doors make access to the second row of seats especially easy. My SpaceTourer’s party trick enabled me to open one or both doors by simply pressing a button on the key fob.
It’s also possible to open the side doors with a simple movement of the foot, under the corner of the rear bumper.
On the road, there’s no getting away from the fact that the SpaceTourer is van-based. The driving position is familiar, the ride was surprisingly good, if a little bouncy on rougher roads, while cabin noise levels were pretty good, though not as refined as smaller car-like MPVs..
The diesel engine has plenty of torque and settles down nicely at cruising speeds. My vehicle also came with Citroen’s Grip Control system which aids traction. I didn’t get to try it in the wet, but having sampled it on Citroen’s cars, I suspect it’s a real bonus.
The automatic gearbox was smooth and I particularly liked the dinky little gear selector dial low down on the centre console.
Visibility is as good at it gets in this type of vehicle. Reversing into tight spots is helped no end by the excellent split-screen 180-degree reversing camera.
It’s easy to drive thanks to the electro-hydraulic power steering and a turning circle of (12.40m to 12.90), while its 1.90m height means it’s possible to access most car parks, shopping centres and airports.
Frankly, the Citroen SpaceTourer is as good as super-sized MPV gets. Yes, the ride could be softer and infotainment screen bigger, but overall, it does what it says on the tin. Stylish, spacious, versatile, comfortable and easy to drive, it would definitely be on my shortlist if I was in the market for a big people carrier.