If you are looking for a family bus with seating for seven, space for luggage, and car-like dynamics and refinement, then your list of choices will never be more varied then it is now with these four contenders.
The Mazda 5, Peugeot 5008, Proton Exora Bold, and Volkswagen Cross Touran are among the latest MPVs to step into what is arguably the most dominant and vibrant segment for MPVs in Malaysia.
The four MPVs are big on space for the family, flexible seating for cargo, and small engines as to not squeeze the average family travel budget.
But beyond those traits, these MPVs are as different as chalk and cheese.
All of the four vehicles come with seven foldable seats, including middle row seats that collapse to maximise cargo space.
The Exora may be the largest in terms of overall size, measuring in at 4,592mm in length and 1,809mm in width, but surprisingly, it didn’t feel like it was the most spacious.
By comparison, the Mazda 5 and the Peugeot 5008 felt more roomy, and even the Cross Touran – which is the smallest of the four with a length of 4,406mm and a width of 1,799 – felt like it offered about the same amount of space as what the Exora offered.
The 5008 and the 5 also had a better access to the third row seats, with handy mechanisms in place to make the manoeuvre a less painstaking task.
We also have to mention that the Mazda 5 is the only one that comes with automated sliding doors, which is a welcomed convenience for those who often find themselves with their hands full and need to herd children in and out of the vehicle.
Hands down, the most comfortable interior award goes to the 5008.
It must be said that when it comes to interior design, few can top the French.
With leather on the seats, a glass panel incorporated into the roof (which sadly can’t be opened), a heads up display, and its cosy interior ambience makes it our firm favourite in this respect.
A close second, though, was the Mazda even with its simple elegance, while the Cross Touran’s interior lived up to its German roots by offering a sensible cabin, and firm and supportive seats.
A point goes to the Proton Exora, however, as it is the only one that offers an air-conditioning vent for the third row – despite being the cheapest vehicle of the four.
On board entertainment
We agree that this not the most important of factors to consider, but a good entertainment system certainly helps on those long drives as it keeps the younger occupants occupied.
Because of the shape and size of MPVs, audiophiles have a penchant for converting them entertainment centres on wheels, if done correctly you could make it almost as good as a home theatre system.
Some manufacturers give you the basic set, whereas others try to hard with too many speakers and gadgets, while a few get it just right.
All four MPVs offer great media packages, with USB ports, CD and DVD players, and everything in between. Some come with extra screens; the 5008 and the Exora, for example, have a screen in the middle for DVDs to keep the kids busy.
No matter how many speakers you have, at the end of the day the quality of the music played back to your ears in the most important. Unfortunately, the Exora is at the bottom of the hierarchy where this is concerned. Its sound system barely manages to tick the box for what can be installed in car, though not properly integrated to optimise its quality.
The 5 had a clearer system, but the lack of speakers on the dashboard made it sounded like music was emitting from beneath your legs (not a pleasurable sensation for everybody).
In the end, our winner in this category a tossup between the 5008 and the Cross Touran.
The 5008 provides a thumping good sound system, while Cross Touran’s would appeal to those preferring a mellow-toned approach to enjoying music.
To set the record straight, we weren’t on the lookout for an MPV that could take corners like a McLaren F1, but good handling is a definite plus in a vehicle that is tasked to lug big families from point A to B because this can go a long way in boosting the driver’s confidence and the occupants’ safety.
Additionally, the ride has to be comfortable enough for the whole family. It’s a hard balance to hit, but if you quickly jump from one driver seat to another you'll notice the sportiest of the four is the CroassTouran which drives more like a car thanks to the short wheelbase.
The Exora felt like a bus compared to the other three and the 5 felt okay, but the best balance between comfort and ease of driving is easily the 5008’s to claim.
Last but not least, we took a close look at the engines of the MPVs. The manufacturers have to supply enough “oomph” to make moving a full house easy, but also be frugal in the long run.
The Mazda 5 had the largest capacity with its 2-litre engine, but it wasn’t the most powerful. With the only naturally aspirated engine among the four, it manages 142hp.
Nobody two decades ago would have believed that the solution for adding a bit of excitement and improving fuel efficiency of the family bus was by means of turbocharging.
The Exora finally gets the engine it deserves with the turbocharged 1.6-litre CFE engine, which churns out 138hp and 205Nm of torque.
Volkswagen’s Cross Touran might pack a tiny 1.4-litre engine, but thanks to the complicated method of twincharging (putting together a turbocharger and supercharger), this tough looking MPV makes do with 138hp and 220Nm of torque.
Topping the power charts here is the Peugeot 5008 1.6-litre direct-injection turbocharged engine that delivers 156hp and 240Nm of torque.
Not only is it powerful, but it is refined and is arguably one of the greatest engines for its displacement of the modern age.
After a long discussion between our panel of testers, coming in at last place – but in many ways, not the least – is the Proton Exora.
A good try it may be by the local manufacturer, but still some room for improvement, especially in the drivetrain and interior feel department.
Its attractive pricing and air conditioning system make this the ideal budget buy here.
Our third pick would be the Mazda 5; the Nagare flow design on the sides was a bit too much for us, and the engine felt dated in this company to modern turbocharged downsized engines.
In second place is the Volkswagen Cross Touran. It drives very well and has a firm feel to it, but that is also its downfall. It drives too much like a car, all sharp and sporty, and this doesn’t make it feel like a true blue MPV.
That leaves one MPV at the top spot, and that’s the Peugeot 5008. It gets our vote because it is an MPV that comes with the complete balance of performance, comfort, styling and space.
Specifications of the Proton Exora Bold Premium
Engine: 1,561cc 4-cylinder turbocharged CFE
Max power: 138hp (103kW) @ 5,000rpm
Max torque: 205Nm @ 2,000 – 4,000rpm
Transmission: CVT, front-wheel drive
Acceleration (0-100km/h): 13.3 seconds
Fuel consumption (at 90km/h): 7.8L/100km
Safety features: Dual airbags, ABS with EBD
Price: RM84,491 OTR without insurance
Specifications of the Peugeot 5008
Engine: 1,598cc 4-cylinder direct-injection turbocharged
Max power: 156hp (115kW) @ 6,000rpm
Max torque: 240Nm @ 1,400rpm – 4,000rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Acceleration (0-100km/h): 10.8 seconds
Fuel consumption (EU combined drive cycle): 7.9L/100km
CO2 emissions (EU combined drive cycle): 169g/km
Safety features: Six airbags, electronic stability program (ESP), ABS and EBD with EBA, anti-skid regulation (ASR), dynamic stability control (DSC), ISOFIX child seat mounting point
Price: RM159,888 OTR with insurance
Specifications of the Volkswagen Cross Touran
Engine: 1,390cc 4-cylinder direct-injection twincharged
Max power: 138hp (103kW) @ 5,600rpm
Max torque: 220Nm @ 1,250 – 4,500rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch, front-wheel drive
Acceleration (0-100km/h): 9.8 seconds
Fuel consumption (EU combined drive cycle): 7.1L/100km
CO2 emissions (EU combined drive cycle): 164g/km
Safety features: Six airbags, ABS with EBD, electronic stabilisation program (ESP), anti-slip regulation (ASR), electronic differential lock (EDL), engine drag torque control (EDTC), LED daytime running lights
Price: RM167,608 OTR without insurance
Specifications of the Mazda 5
Engine: 1,999cc 4-cylinder MZR
Max power: 142hp (106kW) @ 6,500rpm
Max torque: 180Nm @ 4,500rpm
Transmission: 5-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Safety features: Six airbags, ABS with EBD, traction control and stability control
Price: RM153,020 OTR without insurance