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Compact multi-purpose vehicle is a car classification used in Europe to describe versions of small family 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.
Concept cars that included many aspects of the "compact MPV" approach to space efficiency in a small footprint include American Motors' 1977 "Concept 80 AM Van", 1978 Lancia Megagamma, and 1982 Lada X-1.
The first production vehicle to be described by that term was the Renault Scénic, which was voted Car of the year in Europe on its launch in 1996. In Japan, the 1982 Nissan Prairie was introduced featuring many features now associated with the MPV format, along with the Mitsubishi Space Runner in 1991.
Some later models include the Citroën Xsara Picasso, Citroën C4 Picasso, Ford C-Max, Vauxhall Zafira (A and B), Peugeot 5008, SEAT Altea, Mercedes-Benz B-Class, BMW 2 Series Active Tourer, Škoda Roomster, Kia Carens and Volkswagen Touran. Examples from Japanese manufacturers were the Toyota Gaia, Nissan Lafesta, and the Mitsubishi RVR. Some models have an extended version, for example the Citroën Grand C4 Picasso, Ford Grand C-Max, BMW 2-Series Gran Tourer, and Renault Grand Scénic.
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. As of 2016, the only compact MPV sold widely in the United States is the Ford C-Max.
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 passenger seats — examples include the Citroën C4 Grand Picasso, the Renault Grand Scénic and the Volkswagen Golf Plus, Touran.
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 Peugeot 3008 combines the roominess of a MPV to a high ground-clearance or all-wheel-drive Hybrid4 capability.
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