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A compact MPV is a car classification used in Europe to describe multi-purpose vehicle versions of small family cars (sometimes also referred to as "compact cars"), fitting between the mini MPV and large MPV sub-segments. In Japan, the term "space wagon" is sometimes used to refer to this type of vehicle.
The first vehicle to be described by that term was the Renault Scénic, which was voted European Car of the Year on its launch in 1996. In Japan, the 1982 Nissan Prairie was introduced featuring many features now associated with the MPV format, and the 1978 Lancia Megagamma concept car also unveilled many aspects also identified as an approach to space effiency in a small footprint.
Some later models include the Citroën Xsara Picasso/Citroën C4 Picasso, Ford C-MAX/Grand C-MAX, Opel Zafira Tourer, SEAT Altea/XL, Skoda Roomster and Volkswagen Touran. Examples from Japanese manufacturers were the Toyota Gaia, Nissan Lafesta, and the Mitsubishi RVR.
Most compact MPVs have better "flexibility" than other body styles: for example, seats may be individually folded or even removed. Due to the multi-purpose architecture, the bonnet may be shorter and the passengers sit more upright than in regular cars, providing for a roomier interior.
Compact MPVs remain predominantly a European phenomenon, although they are also built and sold in many Latin American and Asian markets. Some compact MPVs are currently available in the United States and Canada, including the Mazda5, Dodge Journey (Fiat Freemont), and Kia Rondo.
Number of seats
Generally, compact MPVs are five and seven-seaters — the first and (if present) third rows with two seats and the middle row with three. The two rear seats are sometimes smaller than the others, enough for children or for short distances. In some cars, these seats can only carry a limited weight (less than an adult's weight). Some manufacturers offer the third row seating as an option, and a few offer two distinct models, one of them strictly five-seater, and the other with either fixed or removable additional sixth and seventh seat — examples include the Volkswagen Golf Plus, Touran and the Citroën C4 Grand Picasso.
Some compact MPVs referred to as six-seaters have three seats both in the front and rear row — examples are the Fiat Multipla and the Honda FR-V.
Many automakers are releasing modified compact MPVs with off-road accessories, either as a trim level or under a new nameplate. Examples of the first are the Renault Scénic Conquest and Seat Altea Freetrack, and of the latter the Volkswagen CrossGolf and CrossTouran. In some cases, a compact SUV is released with shared platform and structural and mechanical elements with a compact MPV: the Volkswagen Tiguan is such a case.
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