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Proof that you don't need to pilot a barge to tow the family along, these cars, both brand new and used, pack more than five seats in less than 4.4 metres.

31 Aug 2022

To a certain extent, size will always matter. 

Recent examples of kingpin MPVs like the Kia Carnival and the Hyundai Staria are both more than five metres in length and, consequently, pack the sort of space that means their third rows skew premium economy rather than budget. 

Stretching out in kingpin MPVs like the Kia Carnival is lovely, but compact people-movers arguably make more sense in Singapore's context
But excess also comes at the cost of manoeuvrability. On the often narrow, congested roads of Singapore - and especially when crawling through cramped MSCPs and one-way streets - one often wonders if gargantuan vehicles truly provide the most utility. 

That's where the following crop of significantly smaller people-movers comes in. Benchmarked against the Toyota Vios - the learner's car of choice - all of these models provide more than five proper seats while clocking in under the former's length of 4,425mm. 

Naturally, how easy a car is to drive goes way beyond just sheer length. But if parallel parking is to be taken as the ultimate bane of a motorist's life, the following new and pre-owned MPVs (and SUVs) promise to make life just that bit easier - especially for P-plate drivers, or those who simply cannot find confidence behind the wheel. 

In descending order - from short to shortest:

1. Daihatsu Terios 7 
Length: 4,410mm / Wheelbase: 2,685mm

Even after a wheelbase-extension for an extra bench of seats, the Terios 7's length remained manageable
Most of us will likely remember Daihatsu's Terios 7 as the larger twin to the widely lapped-up Toyota Rush/Daihatsu Terios. 

Built solely in Indonesia, stretching the SUV's wheelbase by another 85mm (to 2,685mm) meant that an extra bench could be chucked into the rear. But because the original Terios was so tiny to begin with, elongating the car's form actually worked from an aesthetic standpoint. In Singapore, the car also did away with the 4WD found on some of the five-seater models for rear-wheel drive only.

Although a differently-badged version of the SUV now exists in Singapore in the form of the current Perodua Aruz, it's also grown in length. We're cheating a little here, since the Terios 7 technically exceeds 4.4 metres - but its small size is impressive nevertheless. 

2. Honda Mobilio 
Length: 4,398mm / Wheelbase: 2,652mm

With Southeast-Asian markets mostly in mind, R&D for the Mobilio was led by Honda Asia Pacific
Largely led by the Bangkok-based, Honda R&D Asia Pacific team, the Mobilio was birthed out of an observation of population and income increases in the Indonesian market.

Efforts to turn the heat up slightly on an otherwise unexciting family car included a winged grille at the front and wraparound taillights at the rear. Local units were specced exclusively in an RS body kit too, complete with a roof spoiler and sporty-looking bumpers.

With a wheelbase of 2,652mm, and its length clocking in at just under 4.4 metres, the Mobilio doesn't have quite the same amount of space to match Honda's larger MPVs, but still does a solid job of people-hauling.

3. Volkswagen Touran (1T, second facelift) 
Length: 4,397mm / Wheelbase: 2,678mm

The drastic 2010 overhaul received by the first-gen Touran still holds up today - as does its pint-size
The post-wagon, pre-SUV boom of the early noughties saw Volkswagen adding a compact MPV into its lineup for the first time with the first generation Touran all the way back in 2003. 

Thereafter, the minivan went through two more updates, gaining a bit of length in its 2006 facelift (which also revolutionarily introduced Park Assist to VW's lineup), before settling on yet another significant refreshment - and reduced length once more - for 2010.

While the Touran may never be described as exciting to look at, it remains one of the best MPVs to drive and serves up a surprising amount of room in row three thanks to its shape. We'd argue it has the most pleasant interior too, despite being older than a few names on this list.

4. Honda Crossroad
Length: 4,285mm / Wheelbase: 2,700mm

Transcending categories, the Crossroad was an SUV, MPV and compact car bundled altogether
The Crossroad may not look the part, given its Lego brick-likeness and chunky fenders, but at 4,285mm, is just 1mm shy of the length of the Mk8 Volkswagen Golf, a hatchback. 

Honda says the model was meant to transcend 'existing categories' - with the design of an SUV, three-row seating and seven-seater capacity of a minivan, yet also footprint of a compact car. And to a large extent, it did.

Due to the unrestrained employment of a 'square motif' of its design (check out the way the rear door frames appear to seamlessly connect with the D-pillars), the car is able to ferry seven people around in relative comfort. With sufficient grunt too - the model got the same 1.8/2.0-litre engines found under the Stream's bonnet.

5. Honda Edix
Length: 4,285mm / Wheelbase: 2,680mm 

Although only six can ride on-board, the Edix's layout means boot space is never infringed upon
The Edix (or FR-V) is perhaps the most special entry in this list for the very simple reason that it doesn't have three rows. Rather, due its above-average width, the hatchback manages to squeeze a third middle seat between the driver and front passenger - much like one would find in a van or lorry. 

Versatility in the Edix is great - flip that middle seat down for an armrest if you've just fought with your front passenger and want some personal space - and driving the car is surprisingly enjoyable, thanks to its wide stance.

It also has one party trick that no other car here manages: Boot space remains the same, regardless of whether you're adding that extra passenger or not - although this naturally also means you can ferry only six, rather than seven, at full capacity. (In fact, the article's title specifically says 'six/seven-seaters' for the Edix's inclusion.)

6. Honda Freed (second generation) 
Length: 4,266mm / Wheelbase: 2,740mm

The current Freed builds upon the tall body and low floor formula with a more approachable exterior
Following up on the runaway success of the first generation, the Honda Freed returned in 2016 not just with a cleaned-up suit but also better utility to boot.

While retaining its tall body and low floor, the car's wider-opening sliding doors and lowered step-in height now allow for easier ingress and egress, while its cabin is slightly more spacious than before. 

The current Freed is also more widely available in a fuel-sipping Hybrid variant, but if you've been keeping up with the news, local authorised Honda agent, Kah Motor, recently announced that it would start selling the compact MPV solely with its naturally aspirated 1.5-litre engine.

7. Toyota Sienta (second generation)
Length: 4,235mm / Wheelbase: 2,750mm

Despite its vastly different 'trekking shoe'-inspired design, this Sienta retains all of its predecessors strengths on the inside 
Eschewing a cutesy disposition for a more van-like silhouette, the second generation Sienta may look worlds apart from its predecessor with its 'trekking shoe'-inspired design, but retains its best qualities: Sliding doors, fuel economy (and economy, period), and of course, a scarcely believable amount of interior space. 

Improvements to the cabin include stadium-style seating, and its third row was crucially made more inhabitable with seat widths expanded by 70mm. Elsewhere, the new Sienta also lowered its entry height via the dual sliding doors by a sizeable 55mm to make boarding and alighting easier.

8. Suzuki APV 
Length: 4,230mm / Wheelbase: 2,625mm

Commercial vehicle leanings make the APV look imposing, but the car is just over 4.2 metres long
There are no two ways about the fact that the Suzuki APV (All-Purpose Vehicle) was built purely with function in mind. 

The MPV's narrow and towering profile immediately betrays its commercial vehicle-leanings; the Carry is supposedly a close cousin, and the APV itself does in fact do duty as a pick-up or panelled van in certain regions. Furthermore, with its level of ground clearance, you'll feel like you're to stepping up, rather than into the driver's seat.

But its interior reaps all of its benefits, comfortably fitting seven to eight adults in a space that's just over 4.2 metres long, and 1.65 metres wide. 

9. Honda Freed (first generation
Length: 4,215mm / Wheelbase: 2,740mm

Wedge-shaped, highly compact, but also highly practical: The first-generation Freed 
Many were unconvinced by the Freed's 'minivan' claim when it was first unveiled in 2006. After all, how on earth would seven people fit in that wedged-shaped block on wheels? 

How the Freed proved them wrong.

Thanks to the car's unmistakeable 'triangle & square form', the height of its cabin provided commendable headroom regardless of where one was seated. Getting right into the rear was also a cinch with its tumble-forward second-row seats, and the car proved quite the versatile cargo-carrier too with its low floor and fold-up seats for the third row.

While the second generation Freed arguably offers more interior space now, its first iteration is still to be respected for kicking the space-maximising formula into motion.

10. Toyota Sienta (first generation)
Length: 4,100mm / Wheelbase: 2,700mm

The cutesy charm and pioneering status of the original Sienta are arguably immutable, even today
Predating even the Freed with its 2003 debut, the first-generation Sienta still serves as a true testament to the insanity of Japanese engineering. Even more so today - where cars are bigger than ever - the car's diminutive proportions accentuate its hatchback-like exterior; the only giveaways for its MPV-identity are its dual sliding doors. 

And because of its pioneering status, the XP80 Sienta arguably possesses more charm than its immediate successor.

Introduced here were the individual third row seats that folded forwards under the second row - for an entirely unobstructed loading bay once the tailgate was lifted. Furthermore, its low beltline and boxy shape helped to lighten the cabin and alleviate the struggle of third row residency.

Slap on rounded head lights and horizontal taillights integrated into the D-pillars, and the visual identity of the car remains distinct today. So distinct, in fact, that we suspect Toyota returned to it to find inspiration for the recently unveiled third generation car. 

We weigh in on the options

The Edix's 3+3 layout is virtually unheard of these days, with the exception of the Defender 90
If novelty and uniqueness are higher up on one's priority list, the discontinued Edix and Crossroad are both quite special for different reasons. 

On the one hand, the Edix's 3+3 layout is virtually unheard of these days - perhaps found only on the Land Rover Defender 90 now - and as mentioned, comes with load-lugging benefits. Meanwhile, the Crossroad, although not a proper off-roader like the Defender, will no doubt appeal to some buyers with its 'Baby Hummer' exterior.

Nonetheless, if running costs and function are ultimately king, just go ahead and get the current generation Sienta or Freed - especially in their Hybrid variants. Ubiquity and lacklustre performance be damned, few can truly dispute the magic of sliding doors, the widespread availability of spare parts and, of course, fuel efficiency.

Hunting for something manageable to haul the entire family around in? Check out our Used Cars and New Cars listings for what's currently available!

Here are a few other articles that may be of interest! 

These cheap and easy-to-drive cars are perfect for new drivers

Here are the eight lightweight cars that you can still buy brand new 

Who says the newest is always the greatest? Here are five cars whose previous versions are favoured more than the current one

A car parking guide for new drivers in Singapore

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